Book Excerpt from: Faverot de Kerbrech’s ‘Methodical Dressage of the Riding Horse‘ PUBLISHED BY XENOPHON PRESS
LIGHTNESS AND THE RAMENER
Lightness. – The search for and the conservation of lightness must be the constant preoccupation of the rider.
“Lightness to the hand” means the quality of a horse that obeys the aids without leaning on the hand. The hand must not experience the sensation of weight more or less difficult to displace, nor a force that resists its action.
Lightness is recognized by the absence of resistance to the effect of the curb or the bridoon; the simple half-tension of one or of both reins must bring about the soft mobility of the lower jaw without movement of the horse’s head, without a markedly apparent opening of his mouth; and the horse’s tongue must make one of the bits flip above the other producing an occasional “argentine sound.” Let us add that this soft mobility of the jaw should continue for some noticeable time and should not cease abruptly.
Such are the conditions that together constitute true lightness. This set of conditions is for the rider the relevant and infallible indication of the perfect balance of his horse, as long as it is sustained without change.
The consequence of the complete relaxation of the jaw is the ramener, which is obtained of itself, the horse’s head taking, at the lightest indication of the reins, a position close to the vertical without his neck losing its self-carriage and steadiness.
At all times, whether in hand or mounted, when anything is to be asked of the horse, the rider must begin by making the horse light, by seeking the soft mobility of the jaw.
A horse cannot contract any part of himself in order to oppose the request of his rider without also contracting his jaw.
In obtaining lightness, the rider, by the very nature of the deed, makes existing resistances disappear. This favorable result continues as long as lightness persists.
Similarly, while a movement is executed or a gait is continued, the rider must frequently verify that the horse remains light.
How to ask for lightness. – Whether the rider is working in hand or mounted, there are two cases to examine when he asks for lightness.
1st-Consider that the horse is halted, standing calm and perfectly immobile.
The rider feels the mouth by gradually taking a half-tension on the reins, or one of the reins, in order to see if the jaw is flexible and mobile.
If the rider obtains lightness, but only the lightness that we have defined above, he must give (the reins, reduce the tension on the reins by relaxing the fingers): the horse is now in balance, he is ready to accept the action and position for any movement that might be demanded of him.
If the hand does not meet lightness as soon as it takes up a half-tension on the reins, the hand continues this half-tension while slightly increasing the intensity.
This “slow force” generally suffices to make the horse yield his jaw, especially if there is only a little laziness or inattention on the part of the horse.
We can say then, that this simple and mild effect constitutes the ordinary means of obtaining lightness. It is this effect that the rider must be able to access throughout the duration of all training.
READ MORE INFORMATION ABOUT: The Maneige Royal’ by Antoine de Pluvinel PUBLISHED BY XENOPHON PRESS