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Part III: Centre of Gravity

 This article has been published previously by Equestrian Life magazine. To see what's in our latest issue, please click here.

Bullwinkle and Rozzie show the balance in the half pass trot in the Special

Bullwinkle and Rozzie show the balance in the half pass trot in the Grand Prix Special.

© Roger Fitzhardinge


By Kerry Mack

At Mayfield you will often hear about centre of gravity (COG). From the last couple of discussions you will remember that this is a theoretical point where all the weight of an object can be thought to be concentrated. The effect of gravity is as if it is through this point. Another description is that there is no effective rotational force (torque) at this point, only downward force; therefore it is a balance point. 

You can keep this idea in mind to improve your sense of feel. Try to feel the centre of gravity of the horse as he moves. The idea of training is to help him develop the ability to keep his centre of gravity still and eventually bring the centre of gravity back as he becomes more collected. You should keep your own COG still, preferably balanced over his COG.

In doing this we improve his balance. Last time you practised simple transitions (within and between the paces) keeping both his and your COG in mind. I hope this was interesting and helpful.

Now try some more difficult exercises. The shoulder-in is a great exercise to develop collection, as the inside hind leg steps under the body of the horse, carrying more weight. So try to do transitions within the Shoulder-in. Start with a normal shoulder in. Do the small transitions within the pace, keep his head up and ears level. Generally you do this with your legs. Your legs keep driving his engine, his hind legs. His hind legs keep moving underneath him, pushing up. Keep the energy as you do these small transitions. When you feel you can do this maintaining the centre of gravity fairly still, you can try doing a bigger transition. Shoulder in at trot, then come back to walk (still in the shoulder in). Keep the balance. Keep the frame. When the two of you can do this you can ask trot shoulder in to walk shoulder in and back to trot shoulder in. This is pretty hard but fun to master. As he gets better at it ask for a bigger more expressive trot, then do the transitions.

When you get proficient at this you are probably able to start to feel changes in the centre of gravity in all the movements. Does his centre of gravity stay still as he does the flying changes? He should not feel like a rocking horse in the changes. What about the halt/rein back/trot? The rein back naturally moves the COG back, and transitions including reinback are very useful to move more weight onto the hind leg. The skill for horse and rider is to keep the COG back as you come forward out of the rein back. Rein back is often used to help train the piaffe and can be especially helpful to explain to a horse to carry weight rather than be too high behind in the piaffe exercises.


 a fabulous halt by Kate Farrel

Luxor and Kate Farrell display a well balanced halt.

© Roger Fitzhardinge


How about in the half passes and the counter changes of hand? Can you do these keeping his balance? I think that often when the judges comment on loss of balance in these exercises that what they see is effectively the centre of gravity tipping forwards.

I know that centre of gravity can be a difficult concept but just try to be aware of it sometimes when you ride. I do believe that it will help you develop feel, one of the elusive qualities of the expert riders.

Have fun!

Kerry Mack






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