In Hand Guy. Part I
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 02:57 PM
He has an abbreviation for his approach - SEA - simplify, establish, advance. The idea is if something is not working make it simpler to a horse. Break it to smaller/simpler steps, components for a horse to understand. Forcing it will not create lasting results or even any results at all. When a horse starts to grasp it make sure you practice enough to establish consistency in response. When you have that advance, ask for the next step, even if it may not work. If you are afraid to ask for more you will never improve and develop your horse.
The following steps below are the progression that Joseph follows in training the components which later allow him to create a piaffe. He said - teaching half-steps is easy, turning it into real piaffe is very difficult.
1. Small Transitions - Joseph said he cannot stress enough how important this step is! It is pretty simple exercise. With the horse by your side, reins in your hands (or lead rope) you move at different speeds from slow walk, fast walk, trot, walk, halt, reinback and everything in between. The idea is that the horse becomes your shadow, ideally, following your speed. Transitions are effortless and smooth. If the horse is sluggish a touch with the whip on a side helps to make a horse understand to go forward and if he is not slowing down half-halts on the reins without hanging on him or making him come ahead of you help him learn to stay with you. Move with him as you are half-halting, this will prevent him from running ahead. Why this exercise is so important? By doing lots of transitions in quick succession it teaches the horse to raise his energy level without running away.
2. Leg Lifting - This exercise shapes horse's reaction to the touch of the whip or stick. Joseph prefers bamboo stick which is very light and stiff, so it's touch is much more definitive but not frightening to a horse. With lazy horses he may go with a whip to add sharpness to the touch. The horse is halted by a wall and asked to lift the near hind leg from the touch of the stick running down his haunches to the back of the cannon bone (make sure the horse is not afraid of the stick by gently running it over his back). If the horse ignores the stick tap first gently then sharper until the horse lifts the leg. The ideal result - lifting of the leg calmly and holding it forward for a few moments before returning it to the ground, if the stick continuously touching the leg the horse should hold it up. At first the horse may just lift and return the leg a bit forward under itself without holding. Any other reactions - snapping, kicking, stepping backward result in continuous asking until a resemblance of a right response is reached. If a horse tries to escape forward it should be half-halted quickly and kept on the wall without escaping into the ring or around the handler.
Joseph said he mostly works from the left, so teaching far leg to lift also happens from the left. I would disagree because at first it is much harder to get a correct reaction by touching on the front of the cannon bone (cannot touch the far leg from behind). It is much easier to explain to a horse how to lift the right leg when standing near his right side. I work horses in hand a lot and work them equally on both sides, so they are comfortable and familiar with it. Later it is very easy to get a correct response from both legs even tough a handler is asking from one side.
When the horse understands and lifts each leg calmly and holds it under his body you can start alternating the legs first at a slow tempo then speeding up the tempo gradually to resemble an actual tempo of piaffe. Joseph said many horses start lifting their fronts in rhythm when a certain tempo is reached in the hind legs. Before coming to this clinic I taught this exercise to my mare Chica. She is very good to alternate her legs but didn't start with the fronts at all and I couldn't speed it up after a certain tempo was reached.
Phrases that were often repeated during this exercise (also during the whole clinic) - hang in there (continue asking even if it takes a while to get a right response); feel your way though it (respond depending on your horse reactions, observe and analyze); Resolve the problem in the area of halt, do not let the horse run away (means running from the whip instead of lifting legs)
3. Tempo control/On the bit - This exercise requires skills and practice working in hand. The reins go over the neck and become inside rein and outside rein. Left hand is holding inside rein close to the bit and right hand holds outside rein that comes over the neck at its base and the whip. At first you are mostly facing the horse, later as the horse collects more and more you are facing his haunches and you walk as he does half-steps. The transitions you are asking are similar to the above exercise #1 - slow, fast walk, trot-walk-trot, rapid succession start trot, start walk, start trot, etc. This one is really good exercise and starts bringing a horse more and more on his haunches without losing energy and activity. The horse starts to move forward very little but remain active behind. The whip touches on the top of the croup or on inside leg, where exactly - more depends on the horse's reactions to it. Use inside rein to shape the frame - if the horse stiffens up work the rein down until he drops the head. From the ground it is quite easy to accomplish because it is very easy to change the angle of the rein (limited in the saddle).
This exercise teaches the horse an idea - trot without covering ground
In the next blog I will continue with exercises that lead to half-steps work. I will, also, describe the work Joseph did from the ground helping riders with piaffe and passage.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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