Riding toward the ultimate release - this is the stuff riders dream of.
Not the release of the aids - that is a given requirement during all facets of the ride. We ought to regularly create moments of praise/encouragement to the horse during movement through a variety of types of release. We can reward the horse by small gives of the reins, softening the lower back through a movement, lightening of the leg aids or even just harmonizing through the entire body with the horse's motion.
But there is more to the overall scheme of riding than just the take and release that is required to communicate with the horse.
As you develop in riding, you will come to realize that there is more behind any movement than just the movement itself.
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For example, developing a true leg yield can be a task in itself at the beginning. The horse is asked to not only travel straight ahead with a good reach from the hind legs, but then is required to cross the legs over each other while travelling somewhat sideways (but not completely sideways) with that same clear hind end stride. THEN the body must also stay straight - the shoulders cannot lead excessively nor can the hind end.
When we have all these things fall together at the same time, the feeling can be close to euphoric (for both the horse and rider).
However, if we practice leg yields on a regular basis, maintaining the basic correct technique throughout, one day we will be rewarded with a release from the horse.
This release is not the one where the horse lightens his pull on your aids, or leans less (although both are by-products). That type of release may happen on a fairly regular basis just through moments of obedience from the horse.
The release I'm talking about is the one where the horse lets go in his body. The best words that describe it are probably "looseness" and "swing". In effect, the horse releases his tightness within his body (not just the legs). We feel this sudden buoyancy that makes us feel like you are bouncing on a trampoline.
The strides seem to take longer, reach higher and farther. The bounce in the movement (whichever gait) amplifies, possibly making it more difficult for us to sit through if we are somewhat stiff through our body and joints. The movement becomes fluid, expressive, easy.
This is when we get into the "quality of the gait" of the horse. It's not just about the figure at hand; it's about how the horse moves during that figure!
Usually, the horse gives a good snort at this moment, confidently moving forward with enthusiasm but also in balance. Often, we will discover soft, even perhaps floppy ears as the horse finds his "happy place".
As the human partners, we revel in this feel that the horse so generously shares with us. The release of the movement of the horse INSIDE his body gives us a sense of freedom and floating against gravity.
And this is the pinnacle of riding that brings us back time and again.
How do you describe the feel of the horse's "let go" in a movement?
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