The Training Scale Checklist
Throughout our journeys as riders, we will undoubtedly encounter challenges in our training.
For many of these problems, the diagnostic solution lies in the practical applications of the Training Scale. Here is a brief training checklist, focusing on the first three sections of the training scale: Rhythm, Relaxation, Connection. Riders should refer to these often to help them identify and subsequently fix any training issues which may arise.
(I should caveat this and say that each horse / rider case is unique and the advice given here, should not take the place of individual professional coaching – Please visit Equicoach Online for more information on individual online consultations and feedback sessions).
The rhythm is the regularity of the beats in all paces. The tempo is the speed of the rhythm.
Rhythm is the largest element in the training scale and for good reason. If you do not have a solid, even rhythm, you have nothing to build on. So how is your horse’s rhythm?
Too Slow? – Transitions will help to keep your horse’s attention and keep them off the rider’s aids.
Too Fast? – Lateral work will help teach your horse to accept the rider’s leg aids and how they can also mean “Sideways”, not just “Forward”.
Changing Rhythm ? – Consistency of the rider’s aids and regular practice of the exercises mentioned above will help establish an even rhythm.
A good rhythm should feel “going but not hurried” and your horse should have a good understanding of the “Half Halt”. (Click here to watch a short video explaining more about the Half Halt).
Relaxation refers to the horse’s mental state i.e. calmness without anxiety or nervousness, but it also refers to its physical state, i.e. the absence of tension through the body and muscles of the horse.
The horse should learn to accept the riders aids and be influenced by the rider without becoming tense. Once this happens, it allows the horse to work softly and build the correct muscle tone. This in turn increases their suppleness and elasticity both longitudinally (forward / back – transitions) and laterally (sideways – leg yield, half pass etc).
Without relaxation it is impossible to teach the horse the more advanced exercises, because their mind will be defensive instead of receptive, and the body will not be able to take on increased demands.
Connection refers to the horse’s acceptance of the bit through the acceptance of the aids. The USDF Pyramid of Training explains that “the energy generated in the hindquarters by the driving aids, must flow through the whole horse and is received in the rider’s hands. The contact to the bit must be elastic and adjustable, creating fluent interaction between horse and rider with appropriate changes in the horse’s outline.”
Once again, transitions will continue to help the horse accept the rider’s driving aids and thus have the horse move forward into a light contact with the rider’s hand. The rider should not use their hands to “pull” the horse into a contact, they should always strive for the feeling of “pushing” the horse into the contact.
A test of a true and honest connection between horse and rider is seen when upon releasing the reins, the horse reaches forward and downwards into a long and low outline.
This must be done in a manner in which the rider maintains a light contact and the horse will want to stretch over its back and into the rider’s hand, all the while maintaining balance, rhythm and tempo.
It is for this reason that you will find movements in a dressage test which require the rider to ride “on a long rein, allowing the horse to stretch”. Here is a link to a short video clip of a “stretch” which is good, but is still a work in progress.
If a rider encounters an issue in the training, referring to the foundations of the training scale and using them as a checklist, will hopefully help them to identify where a problem may stem from. The rider may then need to book a training session with their coach to get them going in the right direction once again.
Please check out the Equicoach Online training website for more information and where you can also send your training videos in for a detailed feedback session with me, Sarah Elebert.
Best of luck to you all,