My Brain Does Work Even When I'm Shivering
Cold here in New Jersey. I put winter blankets on the Boys for the night. Hopefully they will be comfortable.
But, on to the topic of the post.......
Interesting comment from Muriel on my last post about the western riders and flying changes. She noted that they do not worry about collection and such for training or teaching the exercise.
I am in total agreement. In fact, aside from a few of the upper level dressage movements that might require collection to be done properly—piaffe and passage, in particular—most of the “tricks” of dressage do not require the horse to even be on the bit.
Now, hardcore dressage riders/trainers may scoff at that. There is a certain mystery to teaching the horse according to the “training scale” and at each level of expertise, there are specific exercises that should be mastered. According to their theory, a horse cannot master, for example, a walk/canter transition when it first begins its training.
But, horses walk/canter in the field all the time. They do flying changes, as Muriel noted, and some of them even passage across the pasture. They are certainly not “on the bit” and the only collection they offer is whatever their bodies need to do to maneuver. Why should it really be any different under saddle once the horse is comfortable about the idea of how to carry a rider on its back?
I remember being taught and reading about how to get a horse to take the correct lead at the canter. It’s a rather complex process according to some experts. The cue to canter must be given as the off hind leg strikes off to encourage the inside hind to take a larger stride. The horse must be positioned “just so,” with a proper half halt to gain balance for the depart. You support with your inside leg and cue the lead with the outside leg (some people do use other cues, by the way) and if you do everything just right, you will get the lead you want.
Out in the field, horses take the correct lead for turns all the time, and if they change their minds about direction, most often will fly the change to make the new turn. Why not? They want to be in balance on their own and would much rather do it right than do it wrong.
Yet, we get in the saddle, and suddenly, we can’t canter on the correct lead at all. In all my serious riding experience, I can only recall two horses that posed a problem for me about taking their leads. One was my friend’s horse that turned out to have a permanently injured stifle, so he was actually too lame to take the lead, and the other was my very on PJ, who had apparently broken a bone in his front hoof at some point and had developed the habit of never taking that lead. I overcame PJ’s issues with lots of training, but other riders who rode him often could not get the right lead for “love or money.” Otherwise, I have never found getting the correct lead to be a big issue. Sometimes, it might require a little mental work to find the right exercise to encourage the correct lead, but that’s about it.
I think too many riders—dressage riders especially—make too much of what needs to be done to simply ride. Certainly, creating a beautiful Grand Prix test does demand all the “magic,” but for just plain old riding?
All it really takes is the proper cue to ask the horse to do what comes naturally.