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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 6:31 am 
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How have you encouraged the suspension required for passage? Or for improved trot in general. My mare is doing a nice piaffe as far as good rhythm and shifting the weight back, but there is no pause between diagonal pairs. Her trot also lacks good suspension.

Any ideas?

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 9:31 am 
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Hi Danee,

Great to read from you again! I just turned your post into a sticky as it's a very essential question. :D

First; do you have a movie of your piaffe? Because I'm not sure what you mean with having a pause between the diagonals - that's not required in piaffe.

Then about the passage: I guess you mean with suspension getting the horse to become less forward, and more upwards moving.

First of all I would look at what your horse offers naturally: does she canter more or does she trot more? Sjors is a trotter, Blacky prefers canter. So with Sjors I used the trot, and with Blacky the canter to ask for more upwards movement. So SJors now does (did, he forgot it a couple of days ago :cry: 8) ) passage, and Blacky tries hard on collected canter and is getting there quite well. Sjors is learning the collected canter from the passage (that's why he got confused and temporarily lost the first), and Blacky is learning that he can move more upwards in canter so that he can later on try the same in trot too.


Preparation for passage

The quality of your transitions
The key for getting passage however is in both methods the quality of your upwards and downwards transitions: Does your horse flex at the poll both in walk and trot? And more important: does he maintain this flexion or lowers his head when you ask for an upwards or downwards transition? If he tenses in transitions by bringing his head up and hollowing the back, your horse makes transitions by locking his body - and that will hinder him in making transitions towards passage too. So that should first be solved: if your horse drags his head up- and backwards when making a normal transition, ask him to make these transitions while moving in a small volte while keeping the head bent to the inside. This bending in stretches the outside neck muscles and prevents them from drawing the head up - of course do so on both sides equally! When he understands that he can stay soft during transitions, you can ask him to soften during straight transitions too by asking him to lower his head in the gait you're working in and only when he lowers his head, you ask for the transition - and reward immediately when he responds! So then you have a horse who drops his head and neck when making a rtansition, which is a really good start. only then you can ask him to stay collected with a flexed poll during regular transitions - and of course logically only then you can start to think of doing transitions to passage.

Spanish walk
A well-known method from the classical dressage is to teach the passage through or after the Spanish walk. The important thing about the Spanish walk is that it teaches the horse an exaggerated upwards movement in walk - as the passage is in fact a kind of exaggerated upwards trot. The Spanish walk paves the road to this passage because it gives the horse the ideas he needs in order to think of the passage in terms of upwards movement and more leg-action. On the other hand the Spanish walk stretches the shoulders in such a way that it's easier to rotate them more expressively in the passage too.
Some classical dressage teachers also teach their horses the Spanish trot: a Spanish walk in trot. This isn;t the same as the passage as in the Spanish trot the frontleg is lifted higher and more horizontal stretched in the air - and because of that there's less time for the suspension moment in which the horse jumps upwards and loose of the ground. So even though the Spanish trot seems to be much more upwards as the frontlegs stretch forwards, in fact the movement is less upwards than the passage as in the passage the frontlegs don't move that much, but the body jumps up much more. However, some horses learn the passage better after the Spanish trot because in that gait they've learned to slow their trot really down while keeping it expressive. Then they only have to exchange the stretched frontlegs for a higher jump and you've got the passage.



Methods:

Mimicry
For me the most important too for creating upwards movement, is mimicry: teach your horse that he can mimick your movements, and start doing trot-passage transitions yourself. With a trotpony like SJors that worked very well after a few weeks of mimicking my transitions walk-halt-trot-slow trot-fast trot. One day when Sjors really started to mimick every speed I started and also trotted collected at a slow pace, getting into the improved trot you ask for.
When we got at that point, I started 'collecting' myself more in that gait and did a couple of steps passage myself. Sjors' first response was to brake to a halt and look at me as if I had gone beserk - and I rewarded him for that. At least he was giving me a reaction, and even though it wasn't really flattering, it meant that he had seen that I had changed my gaits. Then he just trotted along for a couple of times while I made transitions to passage (and still looked at me in a very weird way), and then he decided to try it too, and gave one upwards diagonal in trot. :shock: :D
With Blacky, his collected canter is based on mimicry too: I asked him to canter when running together, but at the same time slowed down myself. Blacky tried to match that by instead of going to canter going to walk or trot, and at some point tried if he could do the same in canter too. Bingo!

Lungeing
The first step essentially is to teach your horse that if you flick the whip against/under the hindfeet, this isn't a cue for 'go faster' from now on, but instead a cue for 'move more collected'. Every time your horse responds by first slowing down more, then collecting more, you reward him for this. Then when he really understands the fact that it's not about speed anymore, you start to ask for more exaggerated responses to this whip-cue: for a bigger upwards jump in trot or when making a transition towards trot.
The important thing with this method to remember is that it easily can go wrong: because next to teaching your horse the passage this way, you can also annoy him into the passage in this way by continuously flicking the whip, when he responds with speed tell him to slow down, then whipcue etc. That's also a way - but I don't think it's a good way because instead of teaching your horse to enjoy this collected feeling, you teach him to dislike it as the training method used is something he dislikes. So be very careful when trying this method and preferably try it at liberty, with your horse circling around you like in lungeing, but now at liberty. That you you at least give him the chance to say 'Stop being so annoying and rude!' when in your enthusiasm and perfectionism you get demanding and rude with the whipcues. And that's only too easy!
That was my problem when trying this: the pony's weren't offering me the collection, I was nagging them for it. That, and the fact that I constantly had to cue them for collection instead of having them do it themselves led me away from this method and towards trying to do it totally at liberty because that doesn't involve physical cues, and is less intrusive or demanding towards the horse and therefore gives him more space to answer as he wants.

But I remember quite a few people over here having reached the passage already too. What did you use?


Last edited by admin on Mon Aug 20, 2007 9:55 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 9:37 pm 
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My success with achieving some degree of passage has been totally dependant upon the attitude of my horse. He offers quite a variety of movement and it has been up to me to reward at the exactly the right time in order to "capture" the movement. Cam, my gelding, is extremely alert and sensitive to this. I used the longe whip tickling behind the hind legs and as soon as he scooted those hooves and hindlegs under his body, I quickly rewarded him with a couple of treats and took him off the cordeo for a bit of wild play. He got it very quickly. It was just a little bit of elevation at first. I slowly built on this to increase his balance and muscle development. It was clear that he understood what I was asking and offered increasing elevation and suspension as his physical strength and ability increased. Trot-canter-trot transitions helped with this for this horse because he needed the forward movement to keep his interest and impulsion. Piaffe for this horse has come after passage. His piaffe is improving with walk-trot-walk transitions. This took longer, but when he got it, you could see the light-bulb go off in his eyes.

He and I are currently playing around with collected canter and he has offered an extreme "school" type canter which I didn't expect. The main thing with him is that old saying about being able to see and reward the slightest try. Any kind of pressure is too much for this horse and he gets worried, anxious and starts throwing out all the behavior he can think of. Very wild!

I have a much different situation with my mare. I can't even attempt anything advanced until our relationship is to the point where she is interested in participating with me. She is now offering vertical flexion at a standstill and will play wildly with me at liberty offering her own free collection including the vertical flexion. She offers so much wild movement, that I am trying to help her with "balance" before movement as is described in another thread in this forum.

For me, I always am careful about not asking too much. No pressure. I won't try and "make" my horse do something that I visualize. Instead, I try to shape what I'm offered. Sometimes this requires a very careful, but relaxed eye and a deep feeling of participation and partnership with what is going on at the moment. I experience the least success when I take the position of "trainer". If I am my horses buddy and we're playing around, it is amazing what we can come up with. Great fun too! :D

I am videoing where we are now, but don't have enough decent footage to post yet. Hopefully soon. It is harder to capture some of this on tape than I thought.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2007 8:36 am 
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That's totally true; how in reality you get there depends most of all on your horse. Sjors also is more lively and keen to express himself in flashy ways than Blacky, so asking him to shwo some more expressive movements wasn't really hard because that's in his personality. Blacky on the other hand is quite introvert (becoming less), and needs more preparation in the shape of preparational exercises in order to at some point get the idea to move more upwards. He's the kind of pony you really teach, while with Sjors it's more that you inspire him (and then the hard labour for me is getting it on cue before he comes up with other new exiting movements and confuses them all with each other :roll: :wink: )


And it's funny that you mention the transitions too. I found them to be such amazing tools in improving movement at liberty! It's quite interesting because in a lot of natural horsemanship or 'liberty' training systems transitions actually aren't practised that much. There's much more emphasys on getting the specific behavior you ask for (for example asking the horse to circle around you, or to start moving sideways) and then try to perfect that within that movement. But that really only works if you have enough tools to correct the wrong movement with, and to keep your horse from falling out of that movement because he gets bored with the repetition towards perfection. While when working at liberty, transitions really are the highway to collection and not only improve the movement itself, but also the communication between horse and human, simply because you're exchanging much more information in a much shorter time than when you say 'now trot for five minute'.

When I was trying to teach Sjors to maintain his flexed poll in walk, I first tried to ask him to flex his poll while he was walking - and that didn't really work at all because Sjors' brain was set on 'walk' and not much else. So I decided to just ask him to stand flexed - then walk two steps and then stand flexed again. It took Sjors about five minutes to understand that staying flexed in walk between the halts actually was a lot easier and also feeling better. The same happened when trying to teach him to maintain this posture in trot. Probably because I'm very slow on the uptake. :oops: Again I first thought I could just let him trot and ask for flexion during that trot. Not with Sjors, (and as it later turned out, not with Blacky either). So then I had this flash of sudden intelligence :roll: and asked myself; why not do it the same as I did in the walk? So I just asked Blacky to walk flexed at the poll, then asked for three steps trot and then asked for a collected walk again and rewarded that. After one training Sjors realised that trotting with flexed neck was so much easier too. At the moment Sjors has forgotten the passage, but when he still knew it, we were getting that better too by making transitions from passage to trot - indeed to get his head in a better, more healthy frame. Only in transitions your horse really starts to think over the movements you're asking him to do. If you ask for longer stretches of one movement, their minds very quick turn on autopilot and before you know it they just 'do the trot they always do', and find it very hard to respond to new improvements of that gait.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 6:04 pm 
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Miriam wrote:
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While when working at liberty, transitions really are the highway to collection and not only improve the movement itself, but also the communication between horse and human, simply because you're exchanging much more information in a much shorter time than when you say 'now trot for five minute'.


EXACTLY! It is wonderful to see Cam's eager and excited attitude when we are at liberty exchanging lots of information at a rapid pace. In the old days when I used to ask him for four laps cantering in a circle, he was bored out of his mind and would pout and bend his ears back. What a difference now!

I'm a rather slow learner and have to be on my toes so that Cam doesn't get too far ahead of me. He, too, will offer behaviors rapid-fire on top of each other. In that old book of Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the Dog", (all about operant conditioning and positive reinforcement) she talks about giving a one minute "time out" when the animal starts anticipating. This has worked well for Cam who tends to get pretty wound up. If he thinks I'm about to ask for piaffe or collected canter, he will start leaping around and trying to do everything at once. I stifle my chuckles and ask him to just stand next to me and relax for a short while.

Miriam, your quote "transitions really are the highway to collection" has been so true for me. When my horse recognizes my request for an increase or decrease in movement and knows that the transitions may come very quickly, he pays close attention and begins to suspend his steps.

On another note, with Breeze I'm going to practice what you said about asking for vertical flexion at a standstill, taking a few walking steps and then asking for vertical flexion again. Like you describe, I have had no luck with this mare when I try to ask for collection or flexion when already in a walk or trot. She just throws her head up or does some of those Arabian head tosses.

Thanks so much!

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 8:25 pm 
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When I was trying to teach Sjors to maintain his flexed poll in walk, I first tried to ask him to flex his poll while he was walking - and that didn't really work at all because Sjors' brain was set on 'walk' and not much else. So I decided to just ask him to stand flexed - then walk two steps and then stand flexed again. It took Sjors about five minutes to understand that staying flexed in walk between the halts actually was a lot easier and also feeling better.


This also worked for Tamarack. Pose, take a few steps, stop and pose, take a step or two, pose, etc. Soon he was thinking about it all well enough that I could ask for the pose while moving. Still not perfect, but it will get there. He offers the pose more freely in trot than he does in walk, and there are still times that I ned to reach out and touch his neck at the base to remind him where he head needs to be. So we're still working on it.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2007 11:39 pm 
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As I think more about what I am trying to develop with Breeze and read back thru this thread, I wonder if I'm going a bit astray by focusing too much on vertical flexion. I know that correct flexion comes with collection and often not before.

I think it is one thing to develop the muscle strength by introducing and practicing vertical flexion at a standstill, but perhaps it is a mistake to even worry about it if the hindquarters are not properly engaged during forward movement at walk and trot. If the weight is shifting from front to back, won't the head position eventually follow? I could easily get carried away, forget, and focus too much on head position.

Thoughts?

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:02 am 
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Right or wrong, I work front to back AND back to front. I feel that by teaching the Goat on the Mountain, and by teaching the pose (always being mindful and aware that he is doing so from the ase of his neck and not just from halfway up the neck to the poll), then essentially re-teaching both in movement (easier with the pose than with the Goat), then one way or another I should have the ases covered enough for a start on basic collection. I am obviously just starting on working from Goat to movement, goat to movement, etc. Every once in a while now, Tam offers a partial Goat when he poses. THIS is nice.

Make that Goat move though, is an exercise in patience! It's not something he is understanding easily. At some point I know we will have a breakthrough. I can see though, why A Nevzorov finds the Piaffe a good thing to teach early on. It necessarily combines the two ends of the horse in a trot-like movement...and since both the pose and the collection from behind (or at least a rounded back) is easier for the horse to do in trot, then why not the piaffe...at least some semblance of it...unlike Cisco's version of course... :D

But Tam is still slightly mistrustful of the energy I need to convey a movement such as Piaffe...so I have no idea how long it will take.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:12 pm 
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Me too. If Blacky stands with his head flexed, I reward him if he stands nicely and not dipped too low with his nose - but the only way to 'get him' to do that in movement too is by using transitions - there the hindquarters kick in already! :wink:

I don't think that 'standing collected' alone can teach a horse collection. As a horse can very well stand in the 'goat of the mountain pose' with his head flexed by just stiffening his hindlegs and sticking them further under his belly while he leans more on the forehand . That's Blacky's preferred way of doing this. 8) So a very good way to get some real hindquarter engagement in that exericse is by asking the hindlegs to lift alternately - or do a piaffe.

By the way: I'm just reading the very interesting book of Philippe Karl ('Die Irrwege der Modernen Dressur' if I'm correct, also translated into English, I guess it's called 'The mistakes of Modern dressage') and he has critically evaluated the FEI rulebook - and discovered that not only the FEI rules are regularly in conflict with each other, but also that demand movements and bends that are anatomically impossible for horses. He teaches horses classical dressage and haute ecole (with bit, in the traditional manner), but also completely ignores the headset of his horses when teaching them collection so his horses perform these in the beginning with their necks vertical and heads almost horizontal because of the effort these exercises places on their muscles, and lifting the neck is a very efficient way of shortening the backmuscles in order to draw the hindlegs further under the body. Later on the horse won't need this muscular 'shortcut' anymore and can drop their necks a little and relax the poll so that a true flexion starts. I thought that was a very interesting approach, as I can see Blacky using the same system when asking him for more collection or a collected canter: he raises his neck and head without really hollowing his back. Sjors also does the same in his 'passage'. I still tell him that I like the flexed poll a lot, but also accept that when learning new movements he won't be able to give me that right from the start. So yes, then the hindquarters are more important than the way the fron looks indeed.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 4:37 pm 
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I can certainly say that I tend to focus too much on a finished picture...head, neck, back. Last night, I had someone else get on Cisco and trot a bit, and where she doesn't have the same communication with him that I do (in terms of getting him to lift his back) it gave me a good opportunity to see where I have missed the mark in some things.

I believe I need to pay more attention (in groundwork especially) where the base of the neck is, and the haunches are, and stop worrying about where his nose might be right now. It is like we are on the brink of something wonderful, but that I am missing some important part. Perhaps this is it. I have felt for a while now that Cisco and I were at a little plateau...just coasting along, and not really knowing where to go from here.

I need to make myself a list of "micro goals"...things I can work on that are very tiny, but very important on the road to higher collection. As this is so much more difficult for Cisco than for Tamarack, I think I make allowances for Cisco and at times feel I shouldn't even try for higher collection with him.

But you know...one can never have finished picture if pieces of it are missing...like a jigsaw puzzle. So perhaps I have lost a couple of pieces somewhere along the line. I must look for them.

I think the closest he comes to true collection is rearing in hand. That is the only time he is truely under himself, and truely lifted in front - where he utilizes all parts of his body for a moment. I don't mean the actual rearing up, but that second of lift when he is preparing himself, just before he makes the effort to take his front feet off the ground. There is a moment that that I may be able to capture. It may destroy our rear up for now, but who cares? LOL. I think that moment is worth exploring and playing with. I will have to think and perhaps come up with a cue that would differentiate it from actually rearing up?

But in that moment too, I stop worrying about where his nose is...it is one of the time that I know he must lift his nose in order to execute the movement.

I hope this is an ah-HA! moment? We'll see! Does anyone else think this moment is one to play with, or do you think it's the wrong moment?

He is beginning to give me a passage in movement. I will address my feeling about this (wonderful!) in Cisco's diary...and I know that he is trying to shorten his body somewhat to do it, and the back lift is easily felt, but he is still very low with his head and behind the vertical, so the picture must be closer to a modern dressage type of passage, which isn't really collected at all...I know it feels ok to him, because he is offering it more and more, but he is doing it the "easy" way...with head held low so he can lift his back easier. This is fine, but I don't think the passage is part of the missing puzzle pieces...it has to lie elsewhere.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 10:03 pm 
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Karen wrote:
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I think the closest he comes to true collection is rearing in hand. That is the only time he is truely under himself, and truely lifted in front - where he utilizes all parts of his body for a moment. I don't mean the actual rearing up, but that second of lift when he is preparing himself, just before he makes the effort to take his front feet off the ground. There is a moment that that I may be able to capture. It may destroy our rear up for now, but who cares? LOL. I think that moment is worth exploring and playing with. I will have to think and perhaps come up with a cue that would differentiate it from actually rearing up?

But in that moment too, I stop worrying about where his nose is...it is one of the time that I know he must lift his nose in order to execute the movement.

I hope this is an ah-HA! moment? We'll see! Does anyone else think this moment is one to play with, or do you think it's the wrong moment?



I say Yes! Capturing and shaping what a horse offers has gotten me to places I never dreamed of. I think being able to do this in a subtle and effective way can be a key to developing more refined movements. My bet is that you have a keen eye and are quite experienced with positive reinforcement techniques and the timing involved in capturing what you want. If you are able to picture something your horse offers being used to develop something else, then I say go for it! You can certainly change your mind later and extinguish a behavior that didn't turn out like you planned.

Right now I am going back to targeting to try and achieve a better lift of Cam's left front leg during Spanish Walk. I wasn't picky or specific at all when beginning this movement and I find now, with patience, Cam understands to touch the target with his foot. Today he offered a fancy little flip that so far, he has only offered with his right foot. I was surprised and want to keep it, but it appears to be a very fleeting thing.

In the older book by Karen Pryor, "Don't Shoot the Dog", she talks all about shaping and how the animal begins to enjoy the interaction with the human far beyond just a food reward. When we get to the point where the horse is offering things and wants to interact, then we really have something fun to work with. I say take whatever comes your way!

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2007 5:03 am 
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Wow! Sorry I was a no show for awhile. I hate to say it but I was obsessing over the ideas on this forum so much that I started changing the way I behaved around my horse to the point that she was confused and hated me! I than realized that she appreciates the leadership and I have to find a middle ground, so I baned myself from outside ideas until I could get it all straight in my own head!


So anyway, my horse is much more springy in the canter. I have played a LOT with transitions- that is actually an understatement. At liberty, with a halter, while riding- itransitions is most of what we do. I auditted Walter Zettl (wonderful man!!!) and he has riders go from trot to almost walk to trot again and the horse usually ets springy in there somewhere. On the ground I like to play with walking along nice and forward, starting to spring into a trot, and by the second beat of trot settling back to a walk again. It is actually our 3yo stock QH that really is good at it!!! He does lift his nose too often, but he almost always comes up in the wither.


But anyway, my horse knows a little spanish trot, but its not very exuberant and she comes up more with the knees and doesn't really extend forward.

She comes up in the wither the first step of canter, so could I maybe incorporate a cue into that and reward her most elevated efforts maybe?

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 15, 2007 10:52 am 
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but also completely ignores the headset of his horses when teaching them collection so his horses perform these in the beginning with their necks vertical and heads almost horizontal because of the effort these exercises places on their muscles, and lifting the neck is a very efficient way of shortening the backmuscles in order to draw the hindlegs further under the body. Later on the horse won't need this muscular 'shortcut' anymore and can drop their necks a little and relax the poll so that a true flexion starts.


In Walter Zettl's clinics, it is common to see the horse a little high headed and 'above the bit' for the first fifteen minuts, but instead of pulling the nose in, he has the rider establish a little contact on the outside rein and darn near throw away the inside rein and than really get those HQ moving. than they throw insome large circles and serpentines that get progressivly smaller, which gives the horse a reason to rethink hi postrure. By the end, the contact is soft elastic and willing. I have no problems with a bit whatsoever when it is used in this manner- unfortuanately it is rare.
But anyways, I too have to think less about the neck and more about the HQ- unless I have the neck to short, than I think about it alot! But not about getting it into some perfect shapre, but on how to get her to open it up more.


As far as using the wip behind the back feet for collection- I'll have to play with this more, but I'll do it in-hand or at liberty up close- my horse hates any type of "longing" unless she is particularly energetic. It is to dominating to her- "oh sure, send me out to work while you just stand there!!!" If I go with her it is all fun.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:57 am 
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I started using cavalletti for suspension (I set them close together with some decent height) and than asked for spanish trot afterwards. Her spanish trot is all knees and stomping the ground rather quickly- she doesn't get any suspension in it at all, but the ground poles give her the suspension.

I had her go in a circle and asked for long and low on most of it, and than right before the poles, used my body language (mimicking)to ask her to collect and get springy.

We'll see where it goes. I hnever have done the whip under the hind feet, put I have tapped the hind legs for lift and "step under" and have even gotten some levade with it, so we'll see.

She sees this stuff as real WORK though so I have to be careful what and how much I ask for.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 10:52 am 
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I love how you're experimenting, Danee!

But I do agree with you that using cavaletti will be 'work' very quick in the eyes of a horse... You write that you can get a Spanish trot when moving more energetic on your own without cavaletti: why can't you continue on that road? By shaping (watch the timing of your rewards!) the response you get from your horse, you can transform one movement into a 'better' one. And that way the work becomes play again too, for both of you.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 4:26 am 
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Her spanish trot is more like a saddle bred park trot- all knees, no suspension. It isn't that I can't build off of it, but the trot over the cavalletti is more correct. Also, I think the spanish trot is physically difficult as well- I can use the cavalletti to not have to pester her about it, while still getting great effort. I just have to not do too much at once! The first day I over did it and believe me- She told me about it!!! (not so happy to see me next day so we went for a trail ride and creek stomping and that must have did it- she was much happier next day. She probably was tired though- she didn't splash near as much as usual)


I wish I had a nice area with 18 inches (about 50 cm off top of my head?) of water to trot through- she loves water and we could work on the muscles for suspension without all the dredded stuff- like a really fun aerobic class instead of jogging.

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Last edited by danee on Sun Nov 16, 2008 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2007 9:21 am 
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It sounds like she sure knows how to teach you! :D :wink:

The only thing I would like to add is: body follows mind. Not the other way round. Of course the other way round is how we have been taught to train horses for centuries (make the head come down, then he will relax; make the hindquarters get under more and your horse will collect and feel proud; make your horse back up and he will respect you as a leader... :roll: ), but when working at liberty you have to follow the rule that applies to every living being. And most of the time when you realise that, you realise the answer is not in getting your horse to do something, but in dropping that specific goal and do less to achieve it. It gives the horse more liberty to experiment on his own, to discover it himself and when that happens, your horse will love it even more.

Sjors is a good example of that: When you look at the video of Sjors I posted a couple of weeks ago, you see that Sjors has a nice, round posture when trotting around me, but isn't extremely collected: his head is held at shoulder-height, and not higher. I realised that at first this was because he was new to this posture and needed to find his balance and strength in it. But then it became more of a habit it seemed. He did everything, but everything with his head over there, which of course limits higher movement of the frontlegs in passage, Spanish walk and other more upwards gaits.

I could have looked for many solutions. Some would have started to train with a whip again in order to engage the hindlegs more so that the front end lifts and the head comes up. Others would start training with a halter and reins so that they could 'show' Sjors where his head should be by subtle rein-cues. I decided to give him his rewards a little higher over a period of time to see if he would start to like this position, but the only effect was that Sjors did raise his head flexed nicely when eating a reward, but also stretching his hindlegs out behind him while doing so. Of course you can repair that with a whip-cue again, but I didn't because for me this was just a sign that my method didn't work. So I decided not to focus on it anymore.

Then yesterday I was training with Sjors at liberty again, and I noticed that he has a habit of taking me over when making a halt at walk and trot. So I decided to go and focus on that: when I wanted to stop, I would deliberately slow down, shorten my steps in order to show him that I was slowing down, and only then stand still. Sjors would trot happily on, only then take his brain off the sleep-mode, realise that I was way behind him, and would stop. I immediately clicked and rewarded this halting, because that was what I wanted to see (preferrably with a shorter period of time between my bodycue and his reaction, but you can't have it all right from the start! :D ). Sjors realised that he should pay more attention to what I was doing and look at my body for signs on what to do. So I started to make it more interesting by walking next to him, slowing down to almost halt and then walk forwards again.

What almost blew me off my feet was that Sjors responded to that by mimicking my every slowing down - and collecting further and further. And while doing that, he raised his neck higher than ever and still with a nicely flexed poll. He has never done that before! It was just so amazing!


What I guess my point is (if there is any ;) ), is not to focus on the one thing that's not as good as you would want it to be (for me the posture of Sjors'neck, the passage that wasn't really lifting off the ground), but instead on the big whybehind it. If there's one thing that every dressage trainer agrees on, it's that if there's a problem somewhere in the training progress, you should go back to the basis to see the root of it. With Sjors myproblem :roll: was that he didn't hold his neck as high as I wanted. Sjors' problem was that he wasn't collected enough to do so. Our problem was that our communication wasn't subtle enough to work at that. Of course I could have thought of various ways to fix my problem, by learning Sjors where to keep his head, of I could have fixed his problem by making him collect and devicing ways to get his hindlegs under more - but that would have only fixed symptoms: the real problem was that our communication wasn't refined enough yet. We were still speaking with each other in three letter words (not the nasty ones, you dirty minds :twisted: 8) ). And of course I could have just deviced more three letter words in order to somewhat crudely point out what I wanted, but the real solution was to become more aware of my body, all the things I took for granted when moving (I just stop by banging to a halt, and Sjors should see that as a cue to collect himself, bring his hindlegs further under his body and softly come to a connected halt. Yeah, right 8) ). I needed to refine my bodylanguage to be able to be more subtle, in order to be able to ask for more subtle movements from Sjors. So now occasinally we already use a three and a half letter word. Yay. Progress. :D


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 30, 2008 3:41 pm 
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The first step essentially is to teach your horse that if you flick the whip against/under the hindfeet, this isn't a cue for 'go faster' from now on, but instead a cue for 'move more collected'. Every time your horse responds by first slowing down more, then collecting more, you reward him for this. Then when he really understands the fact that it's not about speed anymore, you start to ask for more exaggerated responses to this whip-cue: for a bigger upwards jump in trot or when making a transition towards trot.


I had been concentrating a great deal on a very collected trot with Tamarack. Primarily by using the method above, but with other cues involved as well. If I "annoyed" his back legs while he is trotting, I would also give the verbal cue for the Goat On A Mountain Top. My cue is "push". At the same time, my body language (pushing my own hips forward and bending my knees in motion - kind of a Klaus Hempfling posture).

Later, rather than swishing at the back legs, I would try a bit of swishing under his belly...with a touch under the belly. A cue more like the way Nevzorov begins to cue for Piaffe early in the training. Again, I would add the verbal cue of "push" and my Hempfling body language.

In this way...just fiddling around and experimenting, I could get moments where Tam's front end (base of the neck) is clearly lifted. Great!

Then recently, when Paul Dufresne was here, he cautioned me about losing Tam's extended trot. He told me not to forget to practice that as well, because a very important transition to aid in achieving the suspension one would like to see in the trot, is to transition from a collected trot to a working or more extended trot, then back to collected, etc. It was while I was practicing these transitions with Cisco, that he began to offer suspension and some passage.

So I have now been reworking the trot with Tamarack, so that any swishing of the whip behind him IS a cue to pick up the pace, but the fact that the swishing takes place at hoof level and not higher, and my body language again is saying to push under with the hind end and lift the base of the neck. In all this I can now "shape" Tamarack while he is moving...hind feet for pace and push, the tummy touches for a little attitude and lifting the front end, and I can even bring the wip forward and touch the base of his neck to remind him to lift from there (rather than just arching his neck) without him slowing down much at all.

So I am now getting slight clickable moments of more suspension with Tam too, at those moment when he's just got everything going right. It's lovely. At times he simply starts to canter, but then I drop my energy ask him to come back to a trot and we try again.

And for building the muscles that are required for passage/piaffe, I too am doing ground poles now and then. Sometimes on the ground, sometimes I raise one end, and sometimes I raise both ends of the poles.

Tam used to hate them, but of course now that he realizes a clean pass through them gets a treat, he's all for it!

As I learn more and do more with the horses, it's becoming clear that there is a myriad of small components that all have to come together to form the ability to do a passage. A lot of strength building (even in horses like Cisco that LOOK like they should be strong enough, the development of muscles still needs to happen), and a lot communication. It has Taken Tam a long time to understand a "sentence" of cues, rather than just one cue at a time.

When I first try to give two or three cues at once, Tam will get annoyed. So the communication is not perfect yet, but it gets better all the time.


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PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2008 8:07 am 
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I think Paul is very right indeed with his warning. :D

If you only collect, shorten and tighten the steps a horse makes, then at some point he will think that he's not allowed to do more relaxed, forwards or extended movements anymore - even if that's not what you had in mind at all.
For me passage therefore is more a kind of trot among all kinds of trots, than a specific exercise. When lungeing, we do a round of regular trot, half a round of collected trot, then something more upwards resembling passage and then a relaxed forward trot again, in order to show Sjors that it's not just a trick, but a way of moving so that both he and I put it in the right perspective. 8)

The real collecting of the trot and the first steps towards passage also we didn't get from doing things with a whip or making Sjors more lively, but rather from transitions from trot to halt. When we started doing that, Sjors very quickly seemed to discover that he needed more collection to be balanced in such a transition, and got himself a shorter, higher frame during those transitions. Actually, now I come to think of it, our collected trot actually is a kind of half-halt in which I mimick the cues for halt (raising my hand, shortening my steps) but do not bring myself to a real stop. And our passage attempts happen when I do that and add some voice cues for a little more action in that short, upwards trot.

Wow! Suddenly I discover that there actually is a system in what the ponies and I do! :shock: :lol:


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 2:58 pm 
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I took a 3 year old mare to a ISR/Oldenburg Inspection two weeks ago. She a client's horse but I have had her in training since she was a yearling so she understand mimicry really well and has a pretty high play drive. To work her on the triangle I would first collect up and than blast it forward. This worked so well because it got her over her haunches and than her 'big' trot was still correct. I had to let it out slowly at first, but by the inspection we could do just two collected trot steps and than GO!

She scored a 7.5 on Elasticity :cheers:

The inspector gave me some really great complimetns on her handling. It was nice to make such good use of all the ground work we've done.

I just started playing with passagey/piaffy kinda somthing with my mustang, Rave. We do odddles of transiitons beside each other- than I kind of confuse him by going but not 'going'. He isn't sure wether he should trot or back up so he stays 'on the ready' and when that happens to be diagonal I really lay on the praise and rewards. He gets a little too hyped, but the cookie makes all the difference! We intermingle spanish walk (I can't seem to get anything spanish tort like form the spanish walk) so he knows somthing upward is to take place. He keeps wanting to rear instead. We have not worked on rearing much at all but it has become his default. I just verbally say no and don't reward it and ask for somthing diagonal and reward that instead. At the end I somtimes ask for a rear and reward it so he knows the difference in cues, but I'm not sure that idea is working?? He is such a skeptic and finds this stuff a little to stimulating so I can't work on it much.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:46 pm 
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danee wrote:
We do odddles of transiitons beside each other- than I kind of confuse him by going but not 'going'. He isn't sure wether he should trot or back up so he stays 'on the ready' and when that happens to be diagonal I really lay on the praise and rewards. He gets a little too hyped, but the cookie makes all the difference!


When I read your description, it sounds similar to what I've seen Silke Vallentin do during a demonstration in which she wanted her Frisian to be more alert. He was standing in front of her wheelchair and she gave within a minute five conflicting cues telling him that he should go left-no right-no left-right, which hyped him too because he was just standing there, not knowing which cue to follow (and which correction to evade when he would be too late). It did get him very attentive and 'sharp', but at the same time he got very stressed and tense if you checked his bodylanguage. Giving lots of cues after another can indeed be a good way to wake up your horse, but is he waking up out of interest or out of stress?

With a tense horse especially I wouldn't work with a lot of backing up transitions, simply because backing up is an emotionally tough exercise for most horses and can cause quite some stress in itself, especially if you start asking for sharp transitions to and from the backing up. Transitions from walk/trot to halt achieve the same, without the stress (that is, if you don't use pressure to ask for the halt of course 8) ).

Edit: by the way, I was writing this for improving the trot at liberty, but in your diary topic I read that you're training this on line with him? The tools that are used can also be a cause of stress, especially in sensitive horses. If leaving them off indeed results in that your horse isn't near you most of the time, then that can be an important cue for how he feels about the training with the tools. And then even at liberty, sensitive horses require a lot of sensitivity in order not to frustrate/stress/overheat them! :wink:

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:59 pm 
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With Tam, I have had to "condition" him over time to accept energetic actions from me...so we began well below his threshold and over the course of this past year he now does not generally get stressed when I ask for energetic things like pushing off from a Goat On A Mountain. It has taken a long time though, and he can still leave if he feels overwhelmed. We have been playing more with the "tiger" and for this too, I cannot "attack" him with it...if I dodge toward him rather than only moving away from him, he may indeed leave still. He does not like that kind of energy from me.

So I take it slow. He is now following the tiger with even more energy and will strike at it with his front feet...so progress is there, but very slow with Tam. So sometimes it just takes the time it takes!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:03 am 

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Just to add to the post on teaching flexing when walking or trotting, I managed to do this by teaching "the pose" then adding the cue of a kissing sound, then when Ted was walking I did the kissing sound and he flexed, I rewarded this and when he got the hang of it moved on to trot. I do sound like a bit of an idiot blowing kisses but it works! I can be riding him round then ask him to flex with this cue and he will straight away.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:23 am 
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I haven't had any experience in teaching piaffe or passage from the ground.
So for me it is more easy from the saddle.

From the saddle, first you have to strengthen and make your horse more flexible so he can carry himself and you with his abdominals and hind quarters.
So simply put, follow the 5 step plan, which are nothing more than an extract of the Classical Riding art exercises of the old masters, mostly De Pluvinel.

The transitions are for me the best thing to get to piaffe.
From walk to trot and back and later on from walk to canter and back. And last from halt to canter and back.

When you horse starts to collect during the transitions down and up you can begin with the 'in between gaits' as I call it. So let's say you are in trot, you ask for walk (with your seat only! or maybe the cordeo, but NO reins! This is essential, for when you use the reins, your horse looses balance and false on to the forehand and the use of your transition is lost!).
Now, before your horse goes into walk, but you feel him intending to, or when he just goes into walk, ask for trot again with your buttocks. When just arrived in trot ask with your seat (and cordeo) to go back to walk. Keep this going for a while. I have had a lot of horses showing the first signs of piaffe right then and there.
3 to 6 months of following 5 step plan was enough for most healthy horses.

From the ground this is yet an experience I have to have... As a youg adult I have seen people hitting and pulling horses from the ground into what my grandfather called: 'Bear on hot platter', so before AND I never even tried teaching it from the ground having sort of a bad taste from it because of past traditionaly experiences.

Now, if I had a healthy horse to work with myself I would try this with the tiger. The trot/walk transitions, moving up the energy wit mimicry and voice/clicking tongue. I tried it with Owen, but his bad leg won't follow.
Maybe Inocencio once I can get him to follow the tiger in te future. For now I still need it to keep Ino out of my hair.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 3:27 pm 
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Josepha, lovely post! I have to say that even clicker training piaffe when it is freely offered may not go as it should. Tam was trying much, much too hard, getting too far under himself and getting stuck there briefly...so rhythm is impossible. So my point is, even if the horse is offering it on their own with no pressure it can still be all wrong and look too stiff and uncomfortable. For someone else, it may wrok very well, but just not for Tam.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZqu4lFV_tU

So I too am waiting until I have a nice walk/trot transition, and then hopefully walk/canter and halt/canter from my seat alone before we revisit the piaffe under saddle now. In hand, I am doing only slowing down of an expressive trot (in cordeo only or on lunge, and sometimes at liberty when he's really connected), then forward again and I'm not trying to get to stationary for the piaffe. It will come when it is time, and perhaps one day Tam will offer it in a more correct way. Right now is not the time - yet!

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2009 10:15 pm 
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Hi Karen:
Tam is working so hard to please you. I just love the video. You can tell by his posture that he is trying so hard to get it right. It's great to see you training.
You've just answered my question about how to teach Corado to walk while lifting his leg. I will ask him to mimick me. He already does for alot of things so that should work. I will keep you posted.
Jocelyne

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2009 12:42 pm 
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Karen wrote:
Josepha, lovely post! I have to say that even clicker training piaffe when it is freely offered may not go as it should. Tam was trying much, much too hard, getting too far under himself and getting stuck there briefly...so rhythm is impossible. So my point is, even if the horse is offering it on their own with no pressure it can still be all wrong and look too stiff and uncomfortable. For someone else, it may wrok very well, but just not for Tam.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZqu4lFV_tU

So I too am waiting until I have a nice walk/trot transition, and then hopefully walk/canter and halt/canter from my seat alone before we revisit the piaffe under saddle now. In hand, I am doing only slowing down of an expressive trot (in cordeo only or on lunge, and sometimes at liberty when he's really connected), then forward again and I'm not trying to get to stationary for the piaffe. It will come when it is time, and perhaps one day Tam will offer it in a more correct way. Right now is not the time - yet!



I have had the same experience with Beau, when we had only started AND for some months, I got some terre a terre's and even a piaffe out of Beau, but it was so tense so stressed and that at liberty, not even a whip or a cordeo in sight, and yet, he was trying to make me happy and he know I love those movements. I decided not to exercise them again and haven't now for about a year and a half, I hope in time he will be able to do it again but then more loose and supple.

I never thought you could 'force' a horse into something just with your happiness :)

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 4:55 pm 

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this is an entry from my diary, but I sure would love to hear some ideas on this! :)
so I thought I would re-post here...


... I think I finally got a fairly clear idea of what I mean by passage. That's rather helpful to trying to train it :)

The issues we were having came mostly from too much speed/forward!
The movement is a "parade" gait, a promenade, if you will. It is not a highly suspended movement - not suspended with 4 feet of the ground that is! I misunderstood the "highly suspended" description of the (newer) texts. Instead, as I understand it (and seek it) - it is suspended diagonals. - the horse lifts/flexes the diagonal pair of legs and suspends them in the air while bearing weight on the other diagonal. this is why the pictures of a classical passage never show the horse with all 4 in the air! I pondered this "discrepancy" for a long time :)
As well as "hovering" on a diagonal at a time, the movement is also not really going anywhere. At the most the distance of 1 foot forward at a time (a human foot, not a horse one, I assume :smile: ). This has been clearly defined by the old Masters - the horse's hoofprints shall be placed no more then a foot ahead of the last print. that is really a very short step!
And the croup will be still, like in the correct piaffe - you can rest your glass of wine there... hmmm "a coffee table croup" - a new phrase to sweep the nation? :funny:

In order to do this, the horse assumes the right posture. He cannot bounce stiffly off a shoulder and a straight hind leg and dwell in the air - for that is not the classical passage. When I began to ask for a movement fitting into the definition, the horse got more on his haunches, slowed down and became "silent" in his steps. No stomping, it looked like he was floating. How interesting! - when he became more ground-bound (instead of trying for some sort of Spanish trot/extended up and forward trot) - he looked more like he was floating, not touching the ground! :huh: cool...

Incidentally, when I reviewed my video of first attempt at using mimicry (and got the best passage-like movement to date) - I bend my weight-bearing knee/hip, lean back and lift the other leg and take small (relating to ground-covering) steps...

So now it does make more sense to me and the horse to train passage from piaffe, or a very collected trot. :)

And last night we had a few moments of a pause on one diagonal. Which seems to be at the core of this movement. The slowness and bottling up of energy... So I am thinking of playing with cueing the hind leg to hold up.
I think I need to be extremely careful here, because many horses taught to lift the hind leg do so by transferring the weight forward - very obvious in horses trained to piaffe this way... and I want none of that...
but perhaps if I stay with the correct balance as my priority...
then again, if I cue the front leg (as established with the SW training), the diagonal hind seems to follow due to the neurological trot gait pattern... so perhaps I am safer with that technique. well, I will keep playing away with this :)
poor Special - he is the one who has to teach me how to train everyone else.... :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:13 pm 
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I think you have it :yes:

Spanish Walk is a classically acceptable way to achieve passage. Piaffe to passage works for some horses if they have a naturally bouncy and lifted piaffe. My horse does not (he has naturally more of a marching piaffe), so slowing or attempting to stall the passage has aided the quality of his piaffe.

With SW to passage, you may initially get more front end hopping and less going on behind, but that's ok...if you get it a little more forward, it will balance itself out and in time you can slow it down again.

Also, collected trot to working trot transitions (rather rapid...a few steps of each) or rapid halt to trot or even walk to trot transitions can elicit passage-like steps that can be built upon.

If you play and experiment with it all, you will find what works for you horse. :yes:

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2013 10:34 am 
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very interesting! thank you Zuzana an Karen for the clear explanation!

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2013 3:12 pm 

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You are very welcome Barbara... it's the attempts to put these concepts into words that help me become so much clearer... :)

Karen, thank you for your encouragement! I felt I wasn't very clear about the passage until last few days...

This is in hand work, by the way.

My horse also has what I would call a marching piaffe (or does he? http://youtu.be/BMRewTjQfVU )
so maybe I could focus on transitioning from the Spanish walk... it just seems like he gets more stompy as he attempts to speed up the SW. Or with a voice cue (clicking) goes into piaffe, then passage-like steps (maybe :smile: )

And the SW steps are BIG - do I try to shorten them while keeping some expression in them? That may be an exercise worthy of doing by itself....

How do you cue the transition? Is it asking for shorter SW steps but faster - to become diagonalized? or a transition to collected trot with some SW cues maintained?

I am a bit worried about using excessive transitions to create a new movement. Let me explain:
With piaffe training, I want the movement to stay rooted in the trot. So at the very beginnings, the transitions trot/back/trot are a way to get there. But not too much - I still want to be able to do trot/back transitions without piaffe steps... So very quickly - the piaffe becomes it's own thing, while -to test the balance - I ask for a transition after it. I am not sure if I am being clear here... :) And maybe you mean exactly what I am saying - just a few re-balancing transitions? Not creating excitement?
I work at having clean differences between the movements/gaits etc. I don't want the horse to be confused at all. For example asking for a school walk should not produce Spanish Walk.... I worry about having a "too fuzzy" set of aids. I think that is where this concern for using transitions to produce a movement is coming from :) ... any advice would be great! :smile:

I notice you don't mention the cueing of the hind leg to lift - am I correct this may not be the best approach?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:22 pm 
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First, all this can be done in hand, or at liberty with mimicry as you've already used.

Second :applause: Oh my goodness he has a lovely piaffe already. It is NOT marching. It is buoyant and pretty. The piaffe is a lifetime achievement, meaning it is worked on and improved over the lifetime of the horse. It always has a small beginning...some good, some not so good, but it improves as strength improves. Your horse is already bending the haunches and has found a balance that works for now.

For you, I would definitely say that your passage could come from your piaffe...simply take the piaffe forward and a reward a few more steps forward. If your piaffe doesn't end in a halt always, you can develop the passage from a more forward piaffe. No problems.

Do not worry about "fuzzy aids". The horse will figure out in time that (for instance) the same set of aids can request either school walk or spanish walk. It's all in your energy and intent, which horses can read clearly. To an onlooker, it might look like you are not asking any differently, but your horse will know. Expect a little confusion at the outset, but as long as you are calm and reassuring to the horse (ask little, reward lots), your horse will remain calm (or quickly return to calm) and will trust the process with you. Piaffe and Passage require "positive tension" in the horse. That tension is GOOD tension and the horse can remain mentally calm.

So....I think all of this is to say that you already have the basics of your passage at your fingertips. Over time you will work on the balance and cadence and the rhythm...trust that it will grow into everything you want it to be. It is never pretty at the outset. It never springs to life from nothing to perfection. It grows gradually to perfection through practice and love :D

In spanish walk, if you get just the right amount of forward, your horse may not stomp so much. In the beginning that forward is sometimes at the expense of amplitude, but the amplitude will come back. If you are using a target for the spanish walk, you can present the target and softly move it away as the horse reaches up and out and in time (it always takes time) the horse will reach out more with each step and will get quieter about it.

Again, it is always a process of a beginning (sometimes not so pretty), a middle, and an end. Sometimes the middle is very long. All of your work combined will affect everything, whether you work on it or not. If you didn't do a piaffe for a year, but continued to work on other gymnastic exercises, you would find the piaffe improved (if a little rusty).

So I would say for you, not to over-think things to much ;) You have a very nice start on both piaffe, and the gateway to passage. :yes:

_________________
"Ride reverently, as if each step is the axis on which the earth revolves"


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 23, 2013 3:28 pm 

Joined: Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:46 pm
Posts: 250
Location: Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada
Oh thank you Karen for the kind words!

I still think Special's piaffe has ways to go, but it's quite young yet (about 7 months) :smile:

I will work with your advice and hopefully post some video soon. I haven't used any target training, but I think the same ideas can be applied anyway...

I love the part about the shaky beginning, sometimes long middle. :)

And I am not sure I can comply on the "not-over-thinking" suggestion... :D but I will try.
thanks

Zuzana
http://www.ridebetter.ca


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