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


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Paul Belasik - Impulsion, Engagement and Collection.

Paul Belasik is a follower of the Austro-Hungarian School and has little time for Baucher, although he doesn't, as Philippe Karl would say, 'reject him out of hand because it is fashionable to do so, preferably without having studied him!' Paul Belasik has studied all the great masters in great detail.

This means that, when it gets to practical details, some of his 'means' do not really belong on the path which I'm trying to forge for myself, but I'm finding his very clear explanations of what the 'ends' should be, very helpful indeed.

Although he studied with Nuno Oliviera for a while, Paul Belasik says that, in his opinion, although riding on a slack rein is the ultimate aim of training, actually training a horse on a slack or semi-slack rein, and developing true impulsion, engagement and collection, is only possible for great artists like Oliviera. I'm hoping that the added motivation and precision made possible by clicker training can make it possible for this very ordinary rider to train a horse successfully without 'full' rein contact, as that's really the only way I want to ride, but time will tell!!!!!

Paul Belasik, on the 'Campaign School I' audio-tape of the 'An Interview with Paul Belasik' series, begins by defining impulsion, engagement and collection. He says:

"Impulsion is not just the raw force or power of the stride - it's not just the tendon/ligamentous movement of the horse across ground - but that the muscles actively flex and extend joints so that we have a gymnastic striding going on. Impulsion refers to this quality of how the muscles interact with the movement and that one sees the amount of strength in the step itself.

Engagement is the swing under of the hind limbs and how far they go under - the travel of the hind limbs under the body.

Collection is the compression of the hind limb joints in the stride which is engaged. That COMPRESSION, along with the extension of the neck, is what lightens the horse."

The term engagement is not enough to describe all the different phenomena that people try to make it cover - it doesn't cover the specifics and qualities - one must use more words

He says that if a trainer just shouts "engagement, engagement" at a pupil, then pretty soon that pupil is going to ask what EXACTLY it is that the trainer wants.
He says:

"If, when you ride, in your mind engagement is this catch-all word for all the different things that happen when you are introducing collection, then how is the horse going to know what it IS that you want... The horse is going to ask you "what specifically DO you want? Do you want me to sink down more? Do you want me to thrust more? Do you want me to go more forward? Do you want me to go more vertical?" I think that the horse will entertain this same amount of confusion if you, the rider/trainer, don't have it in your mind what it is that you are after.

If YOU think that the term engagement is good enough to answer all the questions.. - it ISN'T good enough! You MUST analyse the movement more carefully and must decide, in each particular horse you are training, what it is that you are after.

You must develop language to describe.... vocal language, for me to describe it to you, or tactile language, for you to describe it to your horse. It's a complex communication that must go on and one word is not going to surfice; saying 'engagement' over and over again, or using your spurs on the horse - it's the same thing - that is NOT going to get you all the nuances of movement you are after as you head towards High School.

Explaining nuances of movement to the horse - sounds like an ideal job for the clicker to me!!!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Ah the minefield of contact.
    When Mr Belasik says that only master like Nuno can achieve the slack or smei-slack rein conact, we ough to send him to teh DVD Classique vs Classical. Philippe Karl chose an avergae rider with a limited pony to show yes you can do it with his method.

    I agree with you that CT is the best tool to ask teh horse what you want!

    Helen you must be an audio learner, because I find very difficult to listen to tape. I lack of focus. Unless it is a story while driving long distances, I listen to audio-books. I have heard that Leslie Desmond's audio tape/CD are very good too. But it is horsemanship rather than Dressage.



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