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by Downunder Horsemanship

Training Tip: Balance Impulsion with Suppling

All riding maneuvers you do with your horse can be broken into two categories: impulsion exercises and suppling exercises. Impulsion exercises focus on getting the horse to move forward. These are the exercises like the Cruising Lesson, Follow the Fence, Controlled Cruising and Confused Loping that help to get the cobwebs out of the horse’s brain, get his feet moving somewhere and put miles under his feet.

Suppling exercises require the horse to move his body laterally and bend and soften his five body parts – his head and neck, poll, shoulders, ribcage and hindquarters. These are exercises such as Bending Transitions, Sidepassing, Two-Tracking, Shoulder In/Shoulder Out, etc., and include Figure 8 Around Trees.

Balancing impulsion exercises with suppling exercises helps to keep your horse mentally fit. Practicing too many suppling exercises without including any impulsion exercises can make a horse sour and cranky because he’ll feel like you’re never letting him go somewhere. You’re constantly bending him around in circles or moving his body from one side to the other. However, if you practice too many impulsion exercises without including enough suppling exercises, the horse will have a tendency to forget that you’re even on his back and will stop paying attention to your cues. Just as it’s important to balance sensitizing and desensitizing exercises on the ground, it’s equally important to balance impulsion and suppling exercises in the saddle.