What To Do When Adding Impulsion Creates Tension

Adding Impulsion Creates TensionOften in our quest to develop the gaits, we add impulsion to the working trot and canter. This is a great goal, but with some horses, adding impulsion creates tension.

You do want to add more impulsion to the gaits, but you need to do it gradually so you don’t lose relaxation, suppleness and connection.

Think of the training scale. Use that as your guide as to how much power you can add. Rhythm is first. Suppleness is second. Connection is third. Impulsion is fourth.

So if you’ve lost relaxation, first go back to the energy level you had when your horse was relaxed, supple and connected. Stay there for a few days or however long it takes for you to reestablish suppleness and connection.

Then add a TINY bit more impulsion. Check that you still have suppleness and connection. Stay at this degree of impulsion until this amount of power becomes your horse’s new normal.

Then in a few days add a tiny bit more impulsion. Once again, check suppleness and connection. Stay at this new degree of impulsion until this amount of power becomes the new normal.

Continue to add impulsion very gradually until your horse tracks up with energy in trot and brings the inside hind leg more underneath the body in a bounding canter.

If you’ve added more impulsion than your horse can tolerate emotionally, drain some of the power away until you can reestablish suppleness and connection.


  1. Susie T. Duncan says

    I can so relate to this! My 16 yr old OTTB mare often gets tense and ridged when we add impulsion. There are “moments of brilliance” so I know we have it in us, but I know we have go back to the basics, frequently.
    It is a challenging adventure.

  2. Dorli Herman says

    Dear Jane- You are my constant companion on this wonderful journey called Dressage.You speak to me in my car, at the barn (on and off my horse) and in the comfort of my family room. The Happy Horse books/CDs/DVDs are always with me. Your style of teaching is beyond clear and so positive. My horse has changed from a hunter to a brilliant dressage horse in one year!
    Thank you so much!!

  3. mick mackie says

    at home my horse lacks impulsion , at home i,m constantly pushing. at a training day out, he is excited ,and has lots of impulsion. i think my horse gets bored at home.

  4. This came at the right time for me and my horse. We are only beginners, and are running into trouble with this very thing. I am confused because my horse is an off-the-track Standardbred, and if anyone should be able to TROT BIG, it should be him! But not when I am asking him to stay in frame, on the bit, and still go forward. He must be feeling like an accordion. Without the position and roundness, he will trot out, but he needs time to understand that I need him to stay in frame, but push from behind into the bridle. He’ll get it eventually, I hope! Thanks for your insight. Very helpful. I don’t want to be frustrated with him, as he is a very willing horse with a sweet nature. He has a lot of “try” and I don’t want to lose that.

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