In a recent blog, we discussed propulsion, or the forward movement generated by the horse’s hind end. Propulsion propels your horse forward with power, strength, and efficiency.  

A word that commonly gets confused with propulsion is impulsion, or the “spring” in your horse’s step! 

Both propulsion and impulsion rely on correct engagement, suppleness through the back and hind end, core strength, balance, and dynamic stability

Let’s dive into more of their differences, and how to help your horse develop both qualities. 

What Defines Impulsion? 

Impulsion is a term used in horse training that refers to the energetic, controlled movement of the horse. 

Where propulsion is about forward movement, impulsion refers to the suspension and elasticity upward during movement. 

If you think about a Merry-Go-Round, propulsion is the ride moving forward in a circle, and impulsion is the fake horse moving up and down as the ride moves forward simultaneously. Obviously, both components are needed for a fun, enjoyable Merry-Go-Round ride, just like with your real, breathing horse! 

Some defining points about impulsion in horses include:

  • Forward Energy: Impulsion is characterized by the horse’s willingness to move with energy and engagement from behind. It’s not just speed; it’s the quality of the movement generated from the hindquarters, through the back, and into the bridle.
  • Engagement of the Hindquarters: Proper impulsion requires the horse to engage its hindquarters effectively, pushing off the ground symmetryically with power and thrust. This engagement is essential for the horse to carry itself and the rider in balance.
  • Control and Balance: While impulsion implies energy, it should always be under the rider’s control. The horse should remain balanced and responsive to the rider’s aids, maintaining rhythm, tempo, and direction.
  • Training and Development: Impulsion is not something that horses naturally possess; it is developed over time through correct training and conditioning. Exercises such as transitions, lateral work, and collection help to develop and improve impulsion in horses. Achieving true impulsion requires skillful riding and clear communication between horse and rider. Riders must learn to apply their aids effectively to encourage the horse to move forward with impulsion, without losing control or balance.
  • Benefits: A horse with effective  impulsion is more athletic, responsive, and capable of performing advanced movements with ease. 
  • Judging Criteria: In competitive equestrian sports like dressage, impulsion is one of the criteria judges use to assess the quality of the horse’s performance. A horse demonstrating strong impulsion is likely to score higher in competitions.

Overall, impulsion is a fundamental aspect of horse training, emphasizing the horse’s upward energy, balance, and responsiveness to the rider’s aids. It requires patience, skill, and consistent training to develop effectively.

Impulsion vs. Propulsion

Like we’ve mentioned, when impulsion or propulsion comes up in a lesson or clinic, typically they are used interchangeably. That’s because they are similar, and typically play together to create a beautiful, balanced picture. 

Let’s recap the differences again: 

Impulsion refers to the controlled and energetic movement of the horse, and emphasizes the horse’s ability to push upward off the ground with power from the hind legs. This allows energy to flow through the horse’s body to the bridle.

Impulsion contributes to the horse’s athleticism, responsiveness, and ability to perform advanced movements. 

Propulsion refers to the action of driving or propelling something forward, including the movement generated by the horse’s hindquarters.

Propulsion contributes to the horse’s physical power and engagement from the hind end. This energy is necessary for efficient movement. 

How Does Muscular Strength Impact Impulsion?

Building muscular strength in horses is directly related to achieving better impulsion. Here’s how:

  1. Hindquarter Strength: Impulsion relies heavily on the power and symmetry in engagement of the horse’s hindquarters. In other words, impulsion requires propulsion, which requires strength! Strengthening the muscles in the hindquarters, particularly the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps, enables the horse to push off the ground more effectively, generating more impulsion.
  2. Core Strength: A strong core is essential for maintaining balance, stability, and carrying the rider’s weight effectively. Muscles along the horse’s back and abdomen contribute to core strength. When these muscles are well-developed, the horse can better engage its hindquarters and carry itself with more power and impulsion.
  3. Engagement and Collection: Impulsion is not just about energy, it is also about the horse’s ability to carry itself in balance and collection. Strengthening the muscles involved in collection, such as the abdominals, obliques, back, and hindquarters, allows the horse to better engage its hindquarters and carry more weight on its hind end, resulting in improved impulsion.
  4. Endurance and Stamina: Building muscular strength also improves a horse’s endurance and stamina, allowing it to sustain impulsion over longer periods without fatigue. This endurance is crucial, especially in disciplines like dressage, where consistent impulsion is required throughout a performance.
  5. Coordination: Neurologically strong muscles contribute to optimal coordination and efficiency of movement, enabling the horse to move with impulsion. Remember, each movement the horse makes requires a symphony of coordination between all necessary muscles for optimal rhythm and balance. 

Overall, building muscular strength in key areas such as the hindquarters, core, and back enhances the horse’s ability to produce and sustain impulsion. 

The Equiband Pro System is the perfect addition to your training and conditioning program because it directly activates these muscle groups, while teaching the neural architecture how to more efficiently coordinate muscle function. 

In other words, use of the Equiband Pro system helps the horse develop physical and neural strength, and symmetry of movement, all of which combine to produce athleticism and performance in all equestrian disciplines.

Try yours today here!