What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Relaxation and Rhythm
- Suppleness and Contact
- Impulsion and Straightness
- Putting it all together
The Training Scale is an important principle when it comes to riding and working with horses. It is particularly important to consider the training scale when it comes to riding good transitions.
However, you may find yourself thinking “How could I possibly fit the Training Scale into a couple of seconds?”… That is what this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast is all about.We are going to begin at, well the beginning, the very start of the Training Scale which is Relaxation.
Relaxation and Rhythm
Relaxation is a principle that a lot of riders tend to become confused about. This is often due to how we see relaxation in our everyday life and how we use the word relaxation in day-to-day living. That is not this! Please keep in mind that they are not the same thing – at all!
Relaxation is the foundation of everything when it comes to riding and working horses. I find that relaxation goes hand in hand with rhythm. In fact, you will find that in some variations of the Training Scale they are somewhat interchangeable depending where they are and what they are doing.
The first step to a good transition is the setting-up and preparing of your transition. This simply means that whatever you are doing at the point before the transition must be ‘good’ and of a high quality. You can usually assess this by assessing the overall quality of relaxation and rhythm in that exact movement and moment.
The Catalyst for Your Transitions
Have you ever thought about the word transition. It means ‘change’. As you ride through the transition, things are going to have to change. However, in order for things to change, there must be a catalyst. Something which, when added to the ‘mix’ will produce a change.
In riding, the catalyst is very often the amount of tension present in the horse and rider.
This tension is not excess tension, which will show up as a loss of relaxation and rhythm. Rather it is a change in how the energy is used, the tension, in order for the change to happen.
However, when we focus on developing relaxation based on our day-to-day idea of it, the transition is going to suffer. Many riders fail to see this difference. They think things must remain the same. However, if things remain the same – well they will stay the same!
Your job as the rider is to manage this change of tension. You can do this through your half halt before the transition and your ‘allowing’ after the transition. You create the necessary tension and, also, you then smooth everything out afterwards.
They key is to manage tension so much so, that to those watching on the ground, it will appear relaxed all the way through. From the original movement, through the transition and on to the next movement or gait.
One of the best ways to measure your success in doing this, is to keep an eye on the rhythm. Generally speaking, if the relaxation goes then the rhythm will follow suit. These are the basics of the training scale that everything else is built on.
I believe true suppleness is two-fold. You must be supple in the way you are approaching the transition mentally and physically. The suppleness of the approach comes into the balance of your aids, and how you are going to ride this transition, to make it the best it can be.
Suppleness in transitions, from your horse’s point of view, is the ability to manage that energy change.
The energy change comes through when the horse is literally changing what he is doing. This could be that he is lengthening or shortening his strides. It could be that he is moving between gaits. Maybe that he is going from being straight to having slight flexion. Whatever the case may be, there is a change happening.
Working on your horses suppleness through that transition is working on how he is managing to allow that energy to flow through him, while this change is happening. The more successful he is, the more supple he remains through the transition.
The more smooth it looks. The less energy is lost.
Contact and Connection
The next step of the traditional training scale is contact and connection. Simply put, this is looking at how successful you are at keeping the energy connected through the transition.
One of the easiest ways to simplify this is to think about your contact and connection in day-to-day life; it is simply your communication with other people.
The trouble is that many riders think that contact is only to do with the reins, the bit and the hands. It is not! You are in contact and communicating with your horse in so many other ways – your legs, your seat. You can influence your horse with your body, your voice, your thoughts. All of these are contact points with your horse.
So, rather than thinking about contact and connection as just being to do with your hands and arms, think of it as being more holistic. How am I communicating?
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself next time… How am I connecting with my horse at this point through this transition? How am I setting up this transition? How do I do this in a way that as we move through this transition? How am I connecting and communicating with my horse? What is the contact and connection looking like, all the way through? Is it consistent all the way through?
Obviously, the consistency will not be the same all the way through, it must change because a transition is a change. Therefore being able to balance your aids, balance the contact and connection all the way through the change of the transition, is what you are looking for.
Impulsion simply means that there is enough energy being created and held inside of the system that is ‘you & your horse’ to make something happen. In this case it is the transition itself.
My big piece of advice when it comes to training scale, impulsion and transitions is to make sure that you are not forgetting that the transition must go somewhere – you are transitioning into something else.
Sometimes riders can become so focused on the transition itself, that they forget to focus on what needs to happen afterwards. Impulsion is there to make sure that you are having this continuation of energy all the way through. It also ensures that whatever you are transitioning into, will have enough available energy there to carry it forward and maintain.
Your job as the rider is to ensure that you are managing the impulsion. You are setting things up so there is enough available energy there. It is a balance. If there is too much energy you will feel things become a little, well, volatile! If there is not enough energy, it is not going to carry you through the transition. There is a very fine balance that must be maintained all the way through.
One of the ways to balance this by maintaining true straightness true your transitions. Your straightness is really your channel. It is your way of ensuring that the energy you create is directed, or channelled, where you want it to go.
Leaks are where this energy is lost. You can prevent leakages through focusing on the straightness. The other thing you can manage, and hopefully prevent, are ‘explosions’! If there is too much energy bundled up and it is not allowed to flow through, there are going to be ‘explosions’!
I suggest that you think of straightness as not just channelling the energy, but consistently flowing the energy on to something else.
Your straightness through the transition is making sure that the energy is getting through to where you want to go. Remember, the end point is what you are transitioning into.
The final step on the training scale is collection. I don’t really feel that collection in and of itself, is necessary. But where I would see the collection coming into each transition is the balance, or control, of all the above. The half halt could perhaps be used to just re-balance as you are working through that as well.
Collection is almost the gauge of the strength and obedience. It is outcome when you are able to combine all the other pieces together in a balanced way.
Putting It All Together
We have covered a lot today. In fact, each of these topics truly deserve a post or episode to themselves! But if you can try to approach each transition by thinking about having all those elements and factors present.
I really feel that understanding the connection between each of the steps of the training scale will help you as a rider; regardless of your level of experience. With the Training Scale, one piece can never really be worked on in isolation. There should always be a holistic approach to each of the steps as you are working with them with your horse.
Start at the beginning with the basics, but have your eye on riding them through the filter of eventually developing the top level steps as well.
Links mentioned in the episode:-