The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 10:45 pm 
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another thought...

At what age could you start teaching this? I believe collection is natural for even very very young horses, but many say the piaffe is an upper level movment and could physically stress the joints.
I don't think the piaffe stresses the joints, I think the way most people train it stress the joints.

But I also think to get it any good the horse probably needs to know many other versions of collection first that have strengthened the horse sufficiently.

My mare lives on a hill, and knows all the lateral work, so she is fairly strong. We have a 3 yo QH that is a typical cow-horse type build and is incredibly strong (also turned out on hill) but not very flexible or fluid in his way of going. Purely for sake of conversation (he happened to be a good example) why shouldn't he learn piaffe at 3 yo?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:12 am 
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Give it time, if the diagonal lifting is already occuring, this is very good! Piaffe is a really difficult exercise!

Maybe ask someone to take pictures of film, you can see the slow motion ;)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 9:17 am 
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I heard somewhere that in the different Haute Ecoles the piaffe is taught from age 10 after a lot of training of shoulder in, travers, renvers etcetc.
I think a horse must me fully grown and well trained, so at least 7-8 years old?
My 5 year old I just ask to lift her legs underneath her belly http://www.pro4s.nl/artofnaturaldressag ... c.php?t=12


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:37 pm 
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I think that even if you do not consider the age of the horse, or the physical ability (which you must do, of course, but I'm pretending here that it's not an issue), it takes a lot of time for a horse to learn to do a Piaffe without physically restricting their forward movement while asking them to "up the energy" level. That is, if the goal is to teach the horse to do it themselves, you must take however much time it takes for the horse to learn to do it themselves, and LIKE doing it, purely as an expression of their pride in their strength.

If you have visited the website of my trainer friend, Paul Dufresne (http://www.pkequestrian.com), you will see some new training videos that he took. These are not instructional videos, but videos he took while training his two boys, the Andalusian "Padrino", and the Friesian "Ljibbe".

When Paul was visiting our stable with his two boys, he demonstrated that both boys have a really good Piaffe in-hand (both are young, but strongly built), but this is while he restrains the head and forward movement, while encouraging the action and energy from behind as well as "mirroring" beside them.

In the videos, he is working the horses just with a neck rope - a stiffer version of a cordeo (I think it's an old Ttouch neck rope). In one of the videos (they can take a very long time to load, so be patient) he is working with Ljibbe, and he tries several times to get Ljibbe to Piaffe along the fence with just the neckrope. Ljibbe only gives it half an effort. It's a rather sad little piaffe. Ljibbe won't do it without being made to do it - this is very clear. When Paul lacks the tools he normally uses when riding and training on the ground, the horses do not collect or perform of thier own volition. This tells me they have not seen, or been shown, how delightful it can be to Piaffe. They have only been made to Piaffe.

It is the same as forcing collection. A horse that is forced to collect, will not collect himself when the force isn't present. I don't think that it is because the horse isn't capable, but rather, it is the method of training. Force does not show a horse the benefit of collection. No force allows the horse to explore the mechanics of the movement, and they find that happy place themselves where expression is allowed, and within that expression, the Piaffe can occur - from within the horse himself, and not just from within the power of the rider.

So...again, I (this is my personal thought and not based on anything scientific) don't think the age of the horse is an issue, as long as the movement is not forced. If it is simply taught and "allowed" to happen when the horse joyfully realizes it can, then age is not an issue...because the horse simply won't do it until he/she is physically capable of doing it. If that is at three years old, so be it.

Cisco is nine and physically mature. But he can't yet do it because he's either not phycially strong enough to do it, or he just doesn't yet understand how.

Tamarack will likely do Piaffe long before Cisco ever will, even though Tamarack is much younger. Tamarack is built differently and has a different point of view regarding energy and expression.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 9:04 pm 
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It is odd of me to jump straight into "piaffe" as my first post to this forum, but I've had something of a breakthru with this and thought I'd share what has happened.

I've been strengthening "Cam" thru collection on cordeo and at liberty and some riding since discovering NHE over a year ago and feel that he is physically ready for piaffe. He is my 7yr Arab gelding and tho he is quite talented and clever, he has always had a tendency to get his legs tangled and fall over his feet from time to time. Learning the elements of spanish walk has been fine at the halt, but moving forward is a big challenge for Cam. Piaffe has been difficult in that coordinating the diagonal pairs without moving forward has been more than he can grasp so far.

His collection at the trot with cordeo and while riding has developed very well. He offers a lovely passage and I was slowing that down to get to piaffe. I was told that this was not correct, as piaffe is quite a different movement from passage (piaffe more "sitting" and passage moving forward) so that I would do best to begin piaffe from a halt. The technique I was shown was more pressure than I wish to apply to Cam, so all I did was make a game out of getting him to at least step in place. He now understands that he can move each of his feet, but this in no way is even a poor piaffe. His feet are moving, but there is no elevation or suspension.

So far, Cam has been able to learn and do anything as long as I can come up with a way of explaining it to him that he can understand. He has not been able to understand what I'm asking with piaffe, except that he nearly offers it when slowing down the passage like I described.

Well, I read a little blurb from a Parelli list about Walter Zettl teaching the importance of transitions. We have worked quite a bit on transitions of trot-canter-trot-canter-trot to shift Cam's weight back and get him off the forehand. This has been a major part of his ability to now collect at the trot and is currently helping him with collected canter. The blurb I read said that walk-trot-walk-trot-walk transitions done quickly are what WZ says helps develop piaffe. Aahhaa! :shock:

So - this morning in a little 5 minute practice session with Cam in hand w/cordeo and after he was warmed up, I asked for these walk-trot quickly back to walk transitions. He understood immediately what I was asking and collected, elevated and gave me his closest offering yet to what will become piaffe. Of course I gave him a big reward (I use small treats) and let him off the line to play his favorite game. He seemed quite happy to have understood what I was asking and I do think this is a clear breakthru for both of us in developing this movement.

IMHO, the two things that appear to be most critical for developing this movement are #1, the relationship between us where Cam knows that I am asking something and he is wanting to figure it out. I am so careful not to apply pressure to him 'cuz he does not like to be "wrong" and would have his feelings hurt if I persist. #2 is that the horse must be physically capable of performing this movement. The collection practice we have done over the past year has stengthened Cam to the point that his muscles can handle the work load that comes with the elevation and suspension required in this movement. He also has the mental interest and focus and desire to want to learn and perform more advanced movements.

Just my thoughts and I'm pleased to be able to toss this out here for general discussion. If what I say strikes any of you as not quite right in your experience, then please point it out to me. I'm definitely here to learn and doing all this at liberty or close to it is a big thrill for me.

Thanks! - cheryl

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:20 pm 
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I think this is addressed in "Training the Horse in Hand: The Classical Iberian Principles" by Alfons Dietz...but it's been a while since I looked at it. I should look again!

Cisco has that veeeeerrrrrrrryyyyy slow Piaffe.........step.........step..........step....with no impulsion, no momentum, no energy other than what is minimally required to lift his diagonal pairs very slowly while keeping his balance. I love it though, because it is what he can do right now, and he offers it freely when I wiggle the cordeo.

I do hope to make it better some day, and I think the transtion idea is a good one. I know that for Cisco, it will stay slow for some time, then one day it will have a little bounce and it will seem to be out of the blue - because that is how he is!


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:25 am 
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Hi Cheryl! Nice to see you here :D
A very nice description about learning the Piaffe. I think this might work in many cases indeed because Piaffe is really making the forward movement an "carried movement" and I think this indeed happens when you go from walk to trot and your horse is trained to limit it forward movement like cantering and trotting along with the speed of your walking!
Thank you!
Kind regards Bianca


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 6:34 am 
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I do a lot of transitions with a rope and at liberty. The trot/"walk, NEVER MIND, trot again" transitions, and walk/"TROT, nah forget it, lets walk" transitions are both easily done stress free and are really beneficial.

I just watched Walter Zettl and loved it! Today I tried his shoulder-in entwickeln exercise from the ground with our 3 yo QH and it went pretty well. See Walter's website if you don't know what "shoulder-in entwickeln" is. Actually you can do it in all the laterals, but doing it in shoulder-in is hard enough!

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:57 pm 
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Ok, first let me say I know very little about dressage, less about what stuff is called. So, I am thinking Piaffe is a "trot in place" with a high movement to the legs. So if that is not what it is, just write me off as a moron. :wink:

Brandy is 7 y.o. (roughly) and does this undersaddle. She offered it. But what she REALLY likes to do is canter in place (no idea what that's called). We were playing around with a 'how slow can you go' kinda thing, no pressure on the reins just seeing how slow I could get her to trot off my seat. Answer, we can trot without moving. She's done this on the ground for a long time, it's one of her favorite fancy collected moves she likes to show off. I have no cue for it (besides mimicry, she will piaffe when I piaffe), but she's done it for years, deeply collected, snorting, trotting in place with extremely high movement of her legs. She loves it.

So lately when we've been riding and cantering, we'll get to the point I don't want to canter and she does. So she 'canters' at a walk or stop pace. It's super collected, no forward movement (though very comfortable to sit) canter. She'll 'canter' with the other horses we ride with who are walking. She totally WOWS everybody because she looks so cool. 8) But of course I have no cue for it, besides telling her to stay in one spot, so it's not really a trained thing. So is this called something other then "annoyed horse who wants to canter"? And is it harmful for her?

You talk about piaffe being bad for young horses, and I know she's been doing that since she was about 4-5 y.o. Cantering in place just started. Is this bad to allow her to do these things? (I can't control it all the time obviously since she does that while playing). Should I go ahead and put a cue to it, or should I discourage it until she is farther along in training?

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:20 pm 
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Quote:
Ok, first let me say I know very little about dressage, less about what stuff is called. So, I am thinking Piaffe is a "trot in place" with a high movement to the legs. So if that is not what it is, just write me off as a moron


Ah, then you can join me in the riding style that we refer to locally as "Redneck Dressage", or call yourself a charter member of the "Make It Up As You Go, School of Haute Ecole"!

Yes, Brandy is doing a Piaffe. Any attempt to canter on the spot may be called a Terre a Terre in the MIUAYG School. If you wish to get classically technical, there should be a slight pause in between complete canter strides (albeit, in place), in which case you can call it a Terre a Terre in the classical sense. Otherwise, feel perfectly free to call it a Terre a Terre in the Redneck sense :lol: :lol: :lol:

Anything Cisco does is not "classical" in pretty much any sense, but is very acceptable (and quite sensational) in any Redneck Dressage circles. He's a big horse in a small pond, so we can wow anyone in the barn.

I also think, if a horse offers something on their own, without any coersion, then the laws of training progression, or the age restrictions simply don't apply. Horses do what they do when they feel strong enough to do them, or they simply don't do it on their own. They may be forced to do something before they are ready to do it, which could be very damaging to them. But otherwise, it's ALL GOOD, and darn, I'm jealous!


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:29 pm 
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Excellent! Now I have a name for what I do with my horses!! :lol: I practice "Redneck Dressage" 8) I am a redneck in everything else in life, so that is perfectly suited here also.

I have heard of Terre Terre but didn't know what it was. Cool, now I can really wow people when they find out that funny thing she does has a real name and everything. :wink:

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2007 4:29 am 
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Faith, I hope I don't sound like the jealous one who has to throw darts at the pretty baloons, but it really sounds as if your horse is doing this out of nervousness-especially if it happens out on the trail where she many horses tend to become emotional. That doesn't mean you can't use her natural inclination towards it to get a more correct collection, but I would try to encourage her to lower her head (unless it is low already of course! If nose is on chest encourage forward stretching)and relax her back. You could also use bending lines and shoulder-in (hind end travels straight but front legs cross- basically horse is laterally bending his or her body while travelling in a straight line) to release any tension. If she does these motions out of tension it could be quite difficult to correct.

But right now I'm working with all lazy bum, couch potato horses, so the energy sounds nice!!!

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 3:49 am 
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Piaffe she does when she is playing with oethr horses, or undersaddle when I just ask her to do a trot without moving.

The terre a terre she started out of nervousness the first time. We were in the middle of a "discussion" on whether we were going to bolt forward and eat the horse in front of us, or stay where we were. When she started cantering without moving, I ended up laughing and scratching her neck. So now she does it real relaxed and calm, just for fun. And of course everyone else laughs and scratches her, so... guess how long it took for that to become her favorite thing. :roll: :D

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 1:31 am 
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very cool! Glad to hear it.

My horse got a little nervous during some of our piaffe work, but she pretty much told me that if treats were involved, she could handle it! NOw if she sees me get out a treat she just starts piaffe! Maybe not a good one, but she has found out how to operate the cookie dispenser!!!!

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 3:42 am 
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LOL, I know how that is. When I first started teaching Cody Spanish walk, he would stand at the gate and do a (very odd but cute) spanish walk until I came back to reward him. Now of course he knows 10 differant things that operate 'the cookie dispenser' and I had to stop rewarding everything he did, because he just would go forever! So now he waits and as soon as I ask him (or he *thinks* I'm going to ask him) he does it real fast, then with this big "I did that right!" grin. My complaint about treats, it made my horse too excited about work! :D

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If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.


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