It can feel really overwhelming when we begin looking at all the different things you need to include when training your horse, right? All these ‘steps’ and ‘principles’ are big pieces of a puzzle in their own right; they also have to work together in order to get the full picture!
The training scale is a proven way for you to take these pieces and make them work, regardless of horse, discipline, schooling, or past experience.
And yet, if you just read ‘training scale’ and instantly decided that this is not the way for you where training your horse is concerned; hear me out. It is not just for dressage. And certainly not only about pictures of tall men on small horses from the 1900’s… (that is the picture that so many people have when the training scale is mentioned!).
The training scale is as beneficial for trail horses as it is for dressage horses. For showjumpers, to riding school ponies. It is truly a system that helps all horses really harness their natural abilities and develop them.
Training Your Horse
Let’s be really honest here; you are always training your horse. Whether you are just walking him from the stable to the field, or you are jumping courses of fences, there is training happening. Training is basically setting boundaries for what you expect and want to happen during the conversation.
The more ‘developed’ your horse is, the better he will be able to respond to your questions.
The training scale is a system that helps him to develop; emotionally, mentally, and physically. It takes basic concepts and builds on them, step by step, on a scale. As you work with your horse you will touch on each of these concepts and strengthen them.
The Steps in the Scale
There are a few different opinions and ideas regarding the order, however, almost all scales will include the same steps. Relaxation, rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, and collection. They will almost all end or finish with collection being the ‘goal’ or pinnacle of the scale.
I suggest that when you are training your horse, start with the foundation of relaxation. Let this be the principle that all the others are built on.
I have written more on relaxation HERE and HERE. I feel it might have a slightly confusing name when it comes to horses and training horses. Rather than it being about lying horizontal with a glass of something nice, it is about the ability to manage the correct levels of tension for the question at hand.
In my experience, when the training scale is correctly applied, it will only serve to enhance what is already there; for both horse and rider.
Working Through the Steps
A key question many riders have, is how long will all of this take? How long can you expect to work on this process when training your horse? The answer, unfortunately, is a little along the lines of how long is a piece of string?! Horse riding and all that goes with it is ongoing.
It is something that you can always go deeper and further with, regardless of horse or rider. There are no ‘end points’ when it comes to developing and training.
I think it would be pretty naive to try to work through the full training scale in 6 weeks (allowing a week for each step). I also think it would be unrealistic to do this in 6 months… 6 years would allow you to see a lot of progress, however, I also don’t believe it could be seen as ‘done’.
And the lovely thing about the training scale is that, as you work on developing each aspect more, you can do so through the filters of each of the other pieces.
Filling in the Gaps
I would imagine that you have, at some point while training your horse, touched on two or more of the steps in the training scale. Suppleness and contact, perhaps? Or relaxation and straightness? And this is just fine. In fact, it is how many riders are working with their horses on a day-to-day basis.
Using a system like the training scale allows you to reach all of the different aspects of your horse’s training. It allows you to fill in the gaps – and, trust me, there are probably gaps!
Gaps are funny things in horse riding! They don’t normally show themselves until pressure is applied. Meaning, both you and your horse may be oblivious to them until something shows up that questions you both. Maybe it is an unexpected event. Or a bigger challenge than before.
When you work with an actual system, it will allow you to return to any gaps and correct them, from a foundational level. Rather than just putting on a bandaid and saying a prayer!
As mentioned, I do believe in starting with the foundation of relaxation. Relaxation is simply having the right amount of tension present for the movement that is being worked on at that moment. It is also for both horse and rider; often excess tension comes from the rider, not the horse!
As you begin to systematically work on training your horse using the training scale, allow relaxation to be the first ‘filter’ you use.
When you look at rhythm, is relaxation present as well? As you do this more and more you will probably notice a relationship between the two of them, and how, when one is lost the other tends to leave as well pretty soon afterwards!
From here, as you then work on suppleness, notice if both rhythm and relaxation are present. Applying this to your training will give you a neverending list of potential things to work on with your horse. And all through either groundwork, lunging, or riding.
What Do You Believe?
The final piece I want to touch on is using the training scale to train your horse by developing him emotionally. I do think that this is often overlooked.
We have all met the horse who, we know, can jump the fence; however, sadly, the horse does not believe in his own abilities. It is never a good place to be, for horse or rider.
As you work with your horse going forward, think about how you can help him to strengthen mentally and emotionally; not just physically.
Find in the Gaps In Your Horse’s Training
If you are interested in learning more about where you might be missing pieces in your riding, sign up for my new free training “ FIND THE GAPS IN YOUR HORSE’S TRAINING“. This audio training can be listened to, via podcast app, to help you figure out where to begin working with your horse.
You can sign up and get it, for free, HERE
More Resources to Help You on this Topic
- Find the Gaps in Your Horse’s Training
- The Training Scale for You And Your Horse
- Relaxation; Buiding It Before You Get Into the Saddle
- Relaxation when Riding a Hot Horse
- Online Community for Equestrian focusing on Planning and Mindset
- Equestrian Virtual Lounge Online Community
- FREE 2021 Equestrian Fitness Challenge – What You Can Do While You Ride
- Daily Strides Premium Newsletter