Fox Point Farm

Gerd Heuschmann Clinic


Notes from Dr. Gerd Heuschmann 'Biomechanics of the Horse' Clinic
in Southern Pines, NC 10/6/12
by Charlotte Cannon

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend  Gerd Heuschmann Clinic with Tony Hubbard, Jim Crew, Mackenzie Beaucage, Savannah Parks and Doug Davis. I had been devoring his book 'Tug of War; Classical Versus "Modern Dressage" Why Classical Dressage Works and How Incorrect "Modern" Riding Negatively Affects Horses' Health'. The book had me riveted and I could not pass up the chance to listen to his ideas.

I was not disappointed, it was phenominal! Of course I loved his concepts because they mirrored my own (at least I think they mirror my ideas). He had the details and reasons so many of our (Tommy's and mine) 'new' ideas were correct! He was the perfect person to confirm and thrust us dramatically forward! We now have an excellent path to follow! I can't wait to finish his first book and jump right into his new greater volume!

Thank you Tony for inviting and including us in such an educational and inspiring experience!!!!


Swinging back/soft mouth = good rider

HDV12 circa 1912

Positive tension on supple/calm/confident
Western long neck, back soft

If you are not soft, you will never ride a soft horse.

Emotions have incredible effecton seat. Most people ride backwards.

If you pull back on he reins, everything is lost.

Controlled emotions. Good character is a character ?

Long neck, soft aids, soft seat - sometimes firm
Good horseman - sometimes I'm the boss, I'm a friend

If you make the horse afraid, he is done! Horses will not work through fear.

Training based on the physiology of horse - guideline of training
* muscle physiology
* biomechanics
* psychology (love horses) 60%

Physiological training of horse
* Basic training (collect knowledge and experience)(Horsemanship)
* Gymnasticising (Equitation - Training instruction etc)(Biomechanics)

Physically stiff horse = mentally stiff horse

No squeeze, squeeze=stiff

Long reins - fill the frame and stretch forward

Pick them up where they are - sensitize

Muscle Physiology - Training - Remodeling of muscling: microtrama, lactic acid, muscle pain

No rules - only guidelines

Horizontal Balance - horizon of the horse


Withers as lever, high withers= more strength, more tension of superspinous ligament

Length and position of nck - big influence on back

At the end it is all about the seat and hindlegs

All contact problems come from stiff/braced back.

Tongue out= unbalanced horse

Look at the 'Ball' - Ball forward!

'Hunter's bump';  soft bump= ok   hard bump= stiff back

Pouschecken, 95 yr, "How do you want to explain to young riders not to accept curly neck horses? Loosen horse by loosening back."

Rhythm = each step is same, not about speed

Suppleness depends on tempo

Find a tempo that feels good and allows you to relax. Then softly encourage forward, horse will open up like a flower.

Suppleness = contact is a result of a swinging wave in rider equal to horse wave

Get the ears as far away from you as possible

The back is the center of movement
Soft back- can sit, soft mouth, gaits are 'open' and free

Loss of rhythm creates lameness

Cannot separate orthopedics and training

Hindleg lameness changes  - blocking transverse spinous process

Nuchial ligament pulls the withers forward and back up!

Stiff back puts horse in posture to spook and take flight
Stiff horse= spooky horse

Unlock horse, make body swing, mind gets good

"He steps where he is pointing."

Stiff back, stiff muscles of forelegs, upward movement, not relaxed forward movement.

Cue horse with leg as leg lifts off ground. Feel the abdominal swing (r to l, like a pregnant mare), cue when belly starts to swing across/away

More the abs free, better mover

Hind cannon bone should match front forearm in trot

Long neck = positive tension on nuchial ligament  Short neck = loose ligament
Loose ligament = spinous ligament loose too, pulls hip high, drag toe

Light seat makes it better.

Without forward impulsion -> no collection

Dressage goal -> Perfect control of horse in all situations!

Haunches = major joints of hindquaters

Stiff back makes horse uncollectable

Passive flexion

Shoulder fore incredible balancing/relaxing exersize to lift back, supple loin

Proper shoulder fore - inside hind travels inside of front; outside hind follows outside front

Rhythmic forward to get connection on both reins

Leadership longing! for relaxation to raise and create bending and swinging back
Blast out at gallop first, then allow to jog

Riding Demos:

Swing the horse to the contact.

Horse thinks to the ground. Rider thinks to the butt.

Shaking is poll relaxing. If you ask for back with a little trembling, chewing and waiting to shake. Horse on its way to relaxation will shake and make gelding noise.

Never more neck bending than rib flexion.

Never bend more on hollow side than you can bend on stiff side.

Think 'trot' not 'stop cantering'.

Shavings line - shoulder in/shoulder out; haunches in/haunches out

Fast is not forward. Dynamic action of hindlegs

Forward positive tension

Shake your glasses of champagne upwards

Chest forward

Short neck is killer of back, lose hindlegs

Neck out, swinging back -> chance of hindlegs

Your seat rides - hands and legs organize

Forward down - not curl, curl is bullshit

Hillwork = back opener

Navel to hand - legs say go

The seat is all you have.

You have to Arrive. Breathe. People are moving fast through life, hard to Arrive

First respect, be passive; organize contact, in front of me; drive

Higher classes -> turn hands only

Swing horse into contact. Bring navel to hand. (Spike great example)

Maximum bend possible 9-18 vertibrae, bend ribcage directly beneath the saddle

Small aids -> small circles 10 meter, lameness may go away, older remedial horses benefit, much at w/t on small aids. Cross inside hind foot, ask with inside hand to inside seatbone, hold straightness in outside rein(Tommy's figure 8 cones)

Blowing = flowers for the rider

Nose 2 fingers back -> you lock poll, no lateral flexion

Ears as far away as possible.

When poll not highest point -> back stops swinging

Any problem -> medium forward trot

Do not push him, swing him into contact (Spike example)

Pulling back will make loin concrete at the canter.

Monumental balance comes after physical balance is achieved.

Shake hands upwards.

Sit down toward the inside in serpentines around trees.

Good work is first sign of back working.

Goal of dressage is athletic ability increase of horseb (maximizing athletic performance) - not fancy lessons

Leg yield in walk -
* teach rider meaning of inside leg/seatbone
* teach horse meaning of inside leg/seatbone
* unlocks back by loosening loin
* rider learns to communicate through seat only

Longer you ride, get your horse more on the seat

Round poll is result of horse pushing through the back

Maximum effect of reins is one hand up, one hand down, shaking not pulling, the difference makes the difference.

Shake, don't pull - trembling hand

Never backwards with inside hand.

Extensors push forward and carry in collection

The more your horse can push forward, the more it can collect.

Only a bent horse can be collected.

Gallop, blow forward to remediate.
Shut down = spooky

Gerd loves George Morris and the American forward seat.

Need some knee angle. American dressage riders have stirrups too long.

Need light seat, 2 pt position to develop horses

Muscles can only develop with relaxation.

If you lean backwards you lock through the back (of horse and rider).

Hands follow the nod of head/neck in walk and canter.

Everything in front is the result of what happens with the hindlegs.

If horse is in the right temp -> chews; if tempo too fast -> still mouth. Wait for the horse.

Chest forward, do not hide chest, everything reaching forward.

"Sit on the spot", then swing into movement.

Hands - hold/carry champagne glasses, birds (must be alive and still there)

Do not push a baby or remedial horse forward, must come from leg first (no squeeze, rhythmic movement).

Never push a horse with a stiff back.

Forward, not fancy. 'Fancy' steps are destructive to suspensories and soundness.

Soft hands, soft wrists

Shoulder in/leg yield (done properly) to produce chewing and relaxation

Slow down, wait for the horse; sit down, wait for the horse; sit down, mind to the butt (center/'dodge ball')

"I have time." Move away from from 200 mph. Time will solve your problems.

Imagine you are an angel with wings. If shoulders stiffen, wings stiffen and suck to body. Relax and make wings fly.

Soft shoulders = wonderful hands; stiff shoulders = stiff hands

Problems in hands are problems in the seat.

Shake inside hand up.Hold outside hand straight.

You must be able to reduce the meaning of the seat to only 1 lb of contact.

Change diagonal to balance hollow side.

Fight natural crookedness, then bending

Western saddle tough for bending

Behind bit -> light seat, body forward

Shoulder in - straightness in outside rein

Major reason for rein lameness - never pull on a stiffness on inside rein

Chase super stiff horse forward.

Spur shortens horse and causes contraction

Raise hands to break loose backing for remedial horse, mouth activation is the key.

Very difficult to teach horse to drop back and make still; easy to take well broke western horse to suspension when contact is added. It is nearly impossible to create a relaxed 'leg mover' from a swinging 'back mover'.

To fix hindend going in at lope, fix trot first, then canter forward in half seat.

Forward is the best medicine.

Don't squeeze.

'Carry' your hands.

Shoulder in gets the hind legs.

Find the moments you can relax.

To improve the poll and back, work in the snaffle.

The curb causes poll flexion; use only after the poll is soft in the snaffle. If you use as a mechanical device to force poll flexion, flexion is false and worthless. False flexion will create a tight, 'bottled', explosive horse.

Step away from inside leg, stay straight in outside rein.

Leg yield is really step away from inside rein, leg is increasing phase.

As soon as you have lateral, you offer down and forward.

Horse must be 'on seat'. As soon as horse moves, lighten to just seat.

If you don't like neck position, use lateral

Everything in front is a result of what happens behind.

Pulling on inside rein locks the whole horse.

Poll down from relaxation, not mechanical.

Poll is a mirror of hindlegs.

Outside rein is not concrete, leading/ready to give

Lift and shake inside rein.

The more you hold in front, the less your seat means.

If you use 'hard aids', they must be sharp and quick, must sensitize, do not desensitize. Never pull!

If you shorten reins, you lock neck and are locked out of everything behind the neck including back, loin and hind legs.

Horse in natural balance.

Lovely uphill canter.

The long back muscle is the focus for relaxed movement in the horse.

Fascinating view of the lumbar spine and transverse spinal processes.

Fascia is the connective tissue that unites all parts of the body.

Photos picturing 'flashy show trot' that destroys the back, balance, suspensories and soundness of the horse.

Drawing of the proper way the hindend spring is designed to work.

Lovely, famous mare clearly demonstrating the bad effects of this false showy trot. Notice the stiff back, hind leg out behind not using the 'spring of the hindquarters' correctly and the exaggerated stretch in the fetlock joints putting extreme pressure on the suspensories. This mare shows her discomfort in her tail. She lost her life bc she gave out in 3 legs in her suspensory ligaments.

Another very famous horse who was recently sold for a record price. He unfortunately failed the vet check at the world games after suspensory injuries caused by the unnatural flashy trot.

This moose shows without unnatural training, even a moose will have matching angles!

Stiff backs cause many problems including: pacy walk, unclean trot/jog and a 4 beat canter/lope.

If the poll is not the highest point and the nose is not in front of the vertical, your horse cannot achieve the matching angles in the front forearm and the hind cannon bone.

Photo showing Nuschial and Superspinous Ligaments

Drawing of the proper forward down stretch that occurs when the abs are properly contracted (engaged). Proper positive tension in active swiging back is shown here.

What happens in hyperflexion: back over stretches and becomes locked up in extreme tension, neck is overstretched in extreme tension, and hindend is forced out and back.

Drawings on a horse to show us some of the skeleton and a few key muscles.

I hope you enjoy these photos and notes! I will go back through and add punctuation and needed words to make the quotes more understandable. Take the time to observe and listen to great horsemen whenever possible, you never know when the key that brings you to the next level will come into view!
Website Builder