What is ‘Throughness’

Learn what throughness means for dressage riders and how you can develop it

As a full-time dressage trainer, I constantly get asked my magic top tip for helping my pupils get their horses more “through”.

Yes “throughness”, that constantly repeated dressage description that is used commonly amongst trainers, judges, and all the wise wizards of our sport. But do we really understand what it actually is and how to achieve it??

To me the answer in “throughness”, or as the German training scale calls it, “Schwung”, lies in knowing all the components of the training scale and how they intertwine to make the “magic”.

The definition of “SCHWUNG” – “is the transmission of the energetic impulse created by the hind legs into the forward movement of the entire horse.”

But to get this amazing “Schwung” all the six steps of the training scale must be nicely aligned in relativity to your horse’s level of ability.

Rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection.

Each build on the other, and they work together to achieve that elusive “throughness” that we all seek.

I personally like to think of “throughness” as the ability to communicate softly and freely through to my horse in both body and mind.

A ‘through’ horse is elastic, supple, and willing, allowing the rider’s aids to go freely through. Clarity of seat, leg, and rein aids allow the energy to flow through his body with a connection from back to front. When completely through the horse is soft and elastic, with a connection from behind, both balanced and relaxed. 

I am a believer that, with correct training you can enhance any horse into carrying his body to be the most magnificent version of himself.

The six steps of the training scale each have to be addressed and mastered for you to be able to achieve this desired “throughness”.

If the RHYTHM is rushed and you are riding in too fast a tempo the horse will hold himself in a body tension. This leads to a lack of SUPPLENESS. Equally, if underpowered the IMPULSION will suffer, and all lift and take-off power will be sacrificed.

A horse travelling crooked (STRAIGHTNESS) will be unable to propel evenly and take equal powered steps forward. This will not only affect the horse’s expression and evenness in body, but also the rider will feel a one-sidedness in the CONTACT.

If all of our stars are aligned and the pieces of our training scale are nicely adhered to then the pinnacle of COLLECTION and overall SCHWUNG is achieved.

As I train my team I use the training scale even on my young horses. With a young horse, not yet fully developed in strength and conditioning, I think of collection in regard to his own ability. 

Each horse has their own individual form of collection in relation to his level and the transitions required. 

The training scale holds so many answers to the question of how to enhance your understanding of thoroughness. They are all of equal importance and act inescapably together to achieve that all-elusive ‘throughness” or, if you want to practice your German, “SCHWUNG”. 


Here is a wee snippet from Vanessa training at home in Season Three of ‘Master your Dressage movements’. Here she is helping Abbie with her young four year old. Implementing the base of the training scale and developing a softer back from the very start of the training.

Get access to the full video plus over 4 hours of Vanessa’s teaching with her online training program ‘Mastering Your Dressage Movements.’ and check out season three here. With every season, you can watch the first two videos for free.

Want to learn more from Vanessa? Check out these articles.

How to do flying changes

Centre lines and halts

Learn how to improve your canter walk transitions

Accuracy in PSG movements

PSG competition warm up

Preliminary level competition mastery

Check out all of Vanessa’s online programs here

Want to improve your dressage riding off your horse?

Check out our sister site Dressageridertraining.com

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Glute strengthening exercises for dressage riders

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