Flexion and Bend

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Any good riding starts with correct flexion and bend.

While many people use the words interchangeably when it comes to dressage in horses, there are noteworthy differences.

Let’s dive into a quick class on what flexion and bend are, how to best achieve them, and some helpful dressage tips.

Defining both terms

Flexion is simply a small degree of movement to the left or right, from the poll to the wither.

The flexing rein initiates the flexion and the non-flexing rein is how you contain the flexion allowed.

More on flexion in a moment.

Bend on the other hand is a complete body movement that includes the poll. Correct bending of a horse refers to the lateral curvature of the horse’s body from the poll to the tail.

And in a correct bend, the horse should bend along his whole body with his rib cage swinging outward and his jaw flexed in the direction he is moving.

More on flexion

The correct position of the horse in flexion is when the rider can just see the inner eye and the inner edge of the nostrils of the horse. If you see more than that as a rider, your horse is definitely too bent.

Now if your horse is too bent they develop a contracted neck and are unable to step forward or under the center of gravity.


To make sure you achieve correct flexion with your horse, try these tips –

  • Twist the inside of your wrists slightly asking the horse to yield at the poll.
  • If the horse reacts to the signal, soften your hand.
  • If the horse doesn’t react, wait and give the signal again without interrupting the connection – even if the horse moves to the side. Only when it chews and gives in does the rider give in as a reward.

Good to note:

  • Maintain contact with your thumbs pointing towards his bet and your hand’s fist height off his neck
  • Be aware of your own body position from left to right and front to back.

More on Bend

One thing to know about bending is that doing it excessively would only build up tension and cause the horse to develop resistance to the rider.

To make sure your horse is bending properly try these tips:

  • Create flexion with the inside rein
  • The inner leg floating on the girth
  • Outer leg lying behind the girth
  • Don’t push with your body. Let your shoulders be parallel to your horse’s shoulders.

Good to note:

  • Strength and muscle tone play a tremendous role in bending for horses.
  • The horse requires physical strength to be able to curve his body while in motion if he is to maintain his overall balance by keeping his legs underneath his body and maintaining forward movement, collection, and impulsion.

Bending and suppleness exercises can be stressful for your horse’s body. This is why it is important to remain ever aware of your horse’s well-being and safety during these activities.

About Roger Nitto