It takes a bit, but the beginnings can be taught when the horses are first started as a young four-year-old and then throughout their training developed in a very systematic way.
The rules and the process I have learned.
Initially done in a rope halter
Pressure is added slowly and patiently
Moving back, coming forward, and moving around their center of gravity
The horse must move away from pressure
Relaxation must be a priority
The horse must stay over his feet
Straightness is key
Reward must be instantaneous
Ask the horse to lift each leg…eventually holding it and then putting it down
Don't ask for too much (SOOOOO IMPORTANT!!!!!)
Keep every session short
Be aware and foster confidence and willingness
Often the best steps come after the horse has bucked and released the tension in the back
Respect and ground manners must be maintained (don't let the horse pass you)
Teach the horse to offer the steps of Piaffe
Reward! Reward! Reward!
Mounted with a Ground person
The horse must never pass the ground person
Prepare the horse
Keep the horse straight
The ground person must be acutely aware of when to ask, apply pressure and when to back off
The rider needs to allow the piaffe without interference
Again at the slightest understanding and effort the reward must come quickly from both the ground and the rider
("Walk and Reward" as Alfredo would say!)
Keep each "ask" brief and remember not to push
The horse will tell you how much pressure they can handle
Mounted on your own
Imagine your ground person
Let your body relax and prepare the horse
Straightness remains paramount
Relaxation, willingness and confidence are the framework for success
Ask and let the horse find it
The rider must not force the steps
At first keep some forward steps to keep the horse from feeling trapped
The above videos in this blog are of Sunny Delight, an 11-year-old Trakehner that we have for sale. He is a successful event horse that could obviously have a career as a Dressage Horse! Taylor Lindsten, assistant trainer at Four Star Farm, and her horse have learned the techniques outlined here well. He moved through this process in just a few short months. Well Done Sunny and Taylor!
The clip below is of Virginian Sky and I. He brings me so much joy. He has been a pleasure to train and I know that with him I will soon realize my goal of the USDF Gold. His oldest offspring will be three this spring and I can't wait to start this journey with them!