This is the story of my quest to train my three Dales Ponies for classical dressage, primarily by using Alexandra Kurland's clicker training methods, with a touch of others such as Philippe Karl and Anja Beran thrown in. I turned to clicker training because I had come up against some issues that I didn't know how to fix and because I wanted to inspire them to become enthusiatic partners. Bella and Jack are all my own work and have never been ridden by anyone else.

Bella, Grace and Jack

Bella aged 6

Bella aged 6

Treat Delivery

Jack aged 7


Monday, 10 November 2008

sI have been struggling to carry the lateral work we have been doing in walk forward into trot. I knew that this was because I kept stopping trotting myself, as soon as I thought of going sideways, but I didn’t know how to get past this hiccup.

All the ridden dressage training I have done so far I have done by feel. I have had no dressage training myself and I have no trainer, no ‘eyes on the ground’ or mirrors, so it’s the only way I CAN do it, using photos to check on whether my feel is producing the results I am after.

I learnt how to ride the lateral movements by finding a way to communicate to my horses which movement I wanted (they had already learnt them in-hand), getting the feel of the movement, then trying to improve on the basics by improving on the feel. This was all while I was concentrating on what to click and timing the clicks, plus marvelling at the feelings going on beneath me, so my brain had very little attention left for controlling my body, which was mostly left to just to work it out for itself.

The way I have learnt to access really good lateral movement in walk is primarily by accessing and influencing the horse’s back, hip and stifle. This is where nearly all my concentration is and my body has learnt to ‘talk’ to my horse’s bodies by using feelings in the corresponding part of mine, so I have been using my hip and ‘stifle’ to take my horse’s hip and stifle under and across. In leg yield and shoulder-in (just under, without the across, in shoulder in) by using my inside hip and ‘stifle’ (and the thigh bone between them) and in renvers, travers and half pass, my outside hip, thigh and knee. This doesn’t involve shuffling across the saddle or unbalancing them; it’s very subtle bone rotations and actually improves their balance by further engaging their hindquarters.

I have come to realise that is what I do all the time now; not just in lateral work. Now my horses understand about softening into a lateral flexion I find that if their backs and hindquarters feel right then everything else pretty much takes care of itself.

I can’t make thinking primarily about using my lower leg with the swing of the belly work for me, for lateral work, even in walk. This is because, to me, my lower leg would be influencing from the hock down and it just doesn’t give me the right feel, in myself or from the horse. I can get some lateral movement but it’s not the effortless picking themselves up through their withers and gliding over, with big, swinging strides, that I’m used to. I’m sure that it works perfectly for other people and perhaps I am getting something wrong, but I need something that I can use and preserve the joyous, beautiful feelings that I am used to; something that works for me.

I’ve also realised why I haven’t been able to make what does work for me in walk, work in trot. Like my horses I have learnt the patterns and sequences of the movements and when we are trotting and I try to go sideways, I try to use the patterns that my body knows so well in walk, but I haven’t upped the speed and energy to match the pace, so, not surprisingly, we end up back in walk. I need to put my learnt 'feelings' into fast forward, to get them into the rythm of the trot. It’s very hard to begin with because I’m trying to access a feel that I haven’t experienced yet, but I had this trouble to begin with in walk, and once I knew how it felt, improving on it was easy.

I have now managed to get a couple of good strides, by keeping my brain occupied with timing the click and noticing what is happening beneath me, while my body just speeds itself up and puts in more energy, so I’m getting there now. As soon as I start to think about what I should be doing I start to lose it, so I need to keep my brain otherwise occupied until the feelings of the movements in trot are ingrained.

I read the following, by Max Gahwyler MD. First, these are his credentials:

“Kinetics is a branch of science that tries to explain the effects of forces, such as gravity, on the motion of material bodies, such as a horse and a rider. As a physician and dressage rider, Max Gahwyler has a unique perspective on kinetics and the physics of riding.”

In his book ‘The Competitive Edge III – Gravity, Balance and Kinetics of the Horse and Rider’ Max Gahwyler says;

“An outstanding European friend and rider admonished me many years ago, "Never push your horse around with crude aids - just take him with you and ride the movement you want ahead of him."

I'm not for one minute implying that using the lower leg with the swing of the belly is the former, but the later is what what my body tells me is the right way for me, and my horses (as Alexandra Kurland recommends I go to people for opinions but to my horses for answers) seem to give me a big thumbs up when I ride in this way. It may not be right for anyone else but, at the moment anyway, it’s the only way that ‘feels’ right to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive


About Me

My photo
I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!