Training Gryphon ~ Chew-Down

Today was very rainy so the footing was wet this afternoon. I just focused on walk and trot with Gryphon, getting him to reach better through his back. Since Gryphon was not started in dressage he tends to move with a hollow topline. He will round his neck easily but not lift his back completely. This reflects the importance of riding the "stretchy" trot or "chew-down". The reason this movement is required in Training and First level is to confirm that the horse will reach through his topline at any moment when the rider gives a longer rein. The horse should always be thinking of stretching over the topline rather than go above the bit when the rider gives a long rein. When the rider goes to shorten the reins the horse should not brace or come against the hand, this will show that the back is tight and he is not properly connected. The horse should have the same feeling in his back from a trot chewdown to being in a working frame, the major difference being the length of the reins. The horse should be light and giving to the rein and easily adjustable from a long frame to a short frame. The rider should feel that they can give a few inches and have the horse reach into that longer rein, this demonstrates true throughness. When I have been doing chewdown at the trot with Gryphon he tends to get a little unsure and lose his balance on the forehand. I kept his trot a little slower so that he doesn't think of rushing and I make sure to give verbal praise when he reaches correctly. I did a lot of stretching in the walk, shorten to a working frame, back down to the stretch, and back up to a working frame again. By the end he was staying through his back when I rode him back and forth. A judge is looking for the horse to reach down easily without losing his tempo. The rider should not throw the reins away and hope that the horse will drop down. He may go down, looking for you but usually he will come right back up and then start to rush. The rider has to have a soft feel to stay "barely there" for the horse so you can give, have him stretch, give a little more and have him stretch, etc. It should take only a couple strides to get a full down stretch when the horse is correctly through the back. The rider also should bring the horse up gradually within 3-4 strides rather than shorten the reins too quickly and cause the horse to tense up. This movement is very telling of the horse's progress and will reveal any holes in the training. It may affect the Impulsion score because it relates to the horse's back and possible tension that blocks the stretch. So make sure to spend enough time to perfect this movement and at the same time you will be improving your horse's connection from hind to front.