Allow for Elasticity in the Wrist

Susanne von Dietze critiques Jolanda Adelaar showing at First Level

Susanne von Dietze is a leader in equestrian biomechanics. A physiotherapist, licensed Trainer A instructor and judge for dressage and show jumping, she gives lectures and seminars throughout the world, including at the prestigious German Riding Academy in Warendorf. She is a native of Germany and now lives with her husband and three children in Israel, where she competes at the international level. She is the author of two books on the biomechanics of riding: Balance in Movement and Horse and Rider, Back to Back. Find her books at 

Credit: Courtesy, Jolanda Adelaar Carletto, a 4-year-old Murgese (pure Italian baroque horse) showing at First Level under his rider, Jolanda Adellaar Rossi.

I must admit that I had not heard of the Murgese and, looking it up, learned that it is a very old breed that was nearly extinct. At the end of the 20th century there was a big effort to revive them, and the special qualities of these horses have made them popular again.

Looking at the photo, I am glad this breed is back. This horse fits into the typical baroque style with a nice and harmonious conformation. For a 4-year-old, his canter looks nicely balanced. The high lift of his inside hind leg shows the potential of good collection in the future. His shoulders appear uphill and his frame 
is correct.

Jolanda is sitting with a nice and natural upright position and shows a correct leg position. Her whole seat appears supple and light and this enables this horse to look light in his movement as well, even though he belongs to a heavier breed.

To be very picky, I will point out a small detail in her left wrist: I notice a slight tension in the bottom, which shows as a slight angle, and her thumb is lying flat on the reins. In the old masters’ rule books it is written that the thumb should be placed like a “roof onto the reins.” This means that only the tip of the thumb makes contact with the rein to hold it to the base of the index finger.

When writing my book Balance in Movement, I often questioned these details, asking Why does it have to be this way? Often the human anatomy gave me astonishingly simple answers to the knowledge of the old masters. The position of the thumb on top of the reins was one of those questions. 

Try this: Make a fist and put your thumb on top, either like a roof with the tip of the thumb or flat with the base of the thumb. When holding your thumb flat, you use the muscles on the inside of your palm that bend your wrist. As a result, all movements of your wrist become tense and tight. 

When changing the position of your thumb and shaping the roof we discussed earlier by holding the tip of your thumb on your index finger, you use a different muscle that runs along the outside of the thumb and wrist. This enables elasticity and refined movement in your wrist. Enabling elasticity along the bottom line of your wrist is very important for a soft and elastic contact. 

Jolanda looks like such a supple and feeling rider, and her contact appears light. Changing this little detail may improve this lightness further and help her to refine her soft connection with her young horse.This photo is a true advertisement for this breed, and I hope to see more of these lovely horses in the future.

You can submit your high-resolution dressage photo for critique (300 dpi and 4 by 6 inches in size). Or you can send your photo with a link to a short video. Email to Turnout in dressage show or clinic-appropriate attire is encouraged. Don’t forget your helmet!






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