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.
Monday, 23 February 2009
Paul Belasik - Contact and Connection.
Paul Belasik speaks of the need to first insist that the horse respects and yields to pressure from the bit by, as Alexandra Kurland would say, the rider becoming a 'post': resisting any pull from the horse but never actively pulling back. As soon as respect has been established he says the following;
"Contact has to be merely a connection and I would use this analogy - the same as, if you would imagine, the reins were live wire, and when you touch the rein you would instantly make contact - you would make an electrical circuit. Now, if you're on the business end of that that circuitry, no matter how carefully the reins are touched, you're going to get a jolt.
I think one has to approach the reins in that way - that contact is not always something that can be measured in pounds of pressure, but it is really a connection, a completion of a circuitry, from your body, through the reins to the horse's mouth, and if you think of it like that you get the idea of the rein as, I love this phrase, the 'live' rein. You get the feeling that life, or a certain amount of energy, goes through that rein the moment you touch it."
He goes on to say, in answer to questions about riding a horse 'through':
"Every horse has an inherent rhythm and you have to find that rhythm - the inherent rhythm that the horse is comfortable with. Go ahead and take a horse that has such and such a tempo and advance it a few beats faster and watch what happens - the horse gets more and more nervous. Take one and ride it continually under power all the time and the horse gets sluggish, distracted, starts looking around.
Each horse has, within itself, an inherent tempo, or an inherent rhythm within a tempo, and it's up to you to find that heartbeat, that sound, that musicality that will relax the horse and all work HAS to begin with relaxation.....
You're always trying to develop this connection, this bow of energy - the hind leg engaging, putting in a certain amount of power and thrust, coming up through the round, full back - a strong resilient back - and out through an extended neck. If the horse extends its neck in an arch, that physical process...... when the neck is in proper extension, the musculature is drawn out, it's in a relaxed but a strong arch. When the horse is making a cresting gesture it pulls against the spinal processes of the withers and draws the back up. You must make the equation work at the back end. The hind legs ... must come under the horse and when it does that it has an equal draw, lifting the horse, so then you get to that old concept of a ring of muscle - the ring is continuous around the horse - the neck is arching, the back comes up, the hind legs come under and there's this beautiful, rolling, continuous ring - circuitry again coming into play.
If you inhibit the back you WILL NOT GET access to the back legs! When the neck is curved in such a position there is a lift in the back which will allow the back to swing. If you want to get access to the back legs - the power source - and want it to come 'through', it must start with engagement of the hind legs, but you MUST NOT impede it anywhere along that chain. If you shorten the neck you depress the back. If you depress the back you cut off access to the back legs. You must get the horse to come up in the back and meet your seat, so that you have access to the back legs."
He emphasises that all these things - the arched, extended neck, raised withers and back - are not just for aesthetics, just because they look nice, but because they are scientifically and bio mechanically necessary to produce engagement and collection.
I love the way he explains these things and you can hear the passion, conviction and enthusiasm in his voice, as the words spill out at times. All of this made perfect sense to me and also reinforced everything I believe that I have been trying to achieve by following Alexandra Kurland's 'Riding with the Clicker'.