I realized my non-horsey friends probably had no idea what I was talking about in my last post. So I had a breakthrough in connection…great! Now what does that mean… Connection is also called “on the bit”. This is the FEI’s (Federation Equestre Interanationale) definition of connection: “In all work, even at the halt, the horse must be “on the bit”. A horse is said to be “on the bit” when the neck is more or less raised and arched according to the stage of training and the extension or collection of the pace, accepting the bridle with a light and consistent soft submissive contact. The head should remain in a steady position, as a rule, slightly in front of the vertical, with a supple poll as the highest point of the neck, no resistance should be offered to the athlete”. Connection creates a beautiful arch in the neck.
For many months the total focus of our training was connection. If you were to listen to one of our lessons they would sound like this, “squeeze the outside rein, now wiggle the inside rein, more inside leg, squeeze the outside rein and on and on it went with no visible progress. For months. Finally, finally we achieved a reasonable amount of connection for our level. These days, when I squeeze the outside rein Savy softens in her jaw and lowers her poll, when I wiggle the inside rein she flexes to the inside. It’s a constantly conversation between Savy and I with our bodies; my hands, seat, and legs; her mouth, back and legs. When a horse is connected, it feels like they swell underneath you, like they suddenly got bigger. This is because they’re using their back and their muscles are flexing.
Connection isn’t just arching the neck, it’s called connection because the goal is to connect the front of the horse with the back of the horse. The purpose is to create energy with the hind end, and capture it with the mouth, to create suspension. A horse is “through” when their neck is arched, the nose is at the vertical (or near it) and the butt is really pushing the horse forward. It’s kind of like an accordion, contracting and expanding to make music.
In this picture Savy’s head is just about vertical, and she has a slight arch to her neck and she’s stretching over her back. But I think she could be more engaged and pushing more with her back legs.
In this picture Savy is more engaged, but her nose is too far in front of the vertical. I would like to combine the two pictures for our ideal frame.
This picture is of a Grand Prix horse, Grand Prix is the highest level of training a horse can achieve…connection is the base for all of the future training needed to get to this level…You can see this horse’s neck is arched and the nose is totally vertical, and the hind legs are completely underneath the horse.