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...more about Self Carriage and Roundness

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

To date, there is a lot of confusion on the riders behalf about what the two concepts here, roundness and self carriage, actually mean. Being able to correctly define Self Carriage is now one of the requirements whilst completing pony club certificates in Australia. In this post, I'll try to clarify what the true meaning of these two concepts are. About Self carriage: Definition: Horse maintains its own tempo ( speed ) directional line & postural outline, without support from a rider. "Without support from the rider" being the keywords here. Roundness: the overall shape that develops as a result of correct & systematic training ( training scale ), over a period of time. About roundness: Roundness refers to the arched head, neck and apparently rounded body posture acquired by the horse in correct dressage training. It's characterised by self carriage, where the horse has learned to persist in his speed, directional line, and head, neck and body posture without support from the rider. Roundness is however a frequently forced response where the rider increases tension on the reins until the horse shortens its neck, or uses concurrent rein tension and leg pressures to "drive the horse onto the bit". Although this is contrary to practices of classical and ethical dressage, it provides the illusion of roundness and collection and is known as false collection. However, dressage experts, experienced coaches and trainers can readily perceive the incorrect outline, where the neck is shortened and the back is hollow. The result - riders tight control on the reins to maintain this posture will lead to incorrect neck and back muscles involved are preventing correct development of the topline. There are a number of significant welfare issues surrounding this type of training which manifests in a range of problems from tension to conflict behaviours. Sadly, the origin of these behaviours often goes unrecognised, even by experienced riders and some coaches. More on the subject @ / blog

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