I apologise for the delay in posting the rest of this blog! With the crazy weather and a busy few weeks I have had no free time so I will post parts 2, 3 and 4 together. Enjoy!
Now that I have the horse understanding the shoulder in on the small circle I can progress to doing shoulder in along the wall. Unfortunately I do not have an indoor but it can be done in an open arena, it’s just a bit more difficult. I ask the horse to do shoulder in down the long side of the arena. If he tries to drift off the long side I make small half halts (in a soft upward action as described in Part One) so that he goes straight down the long side in shoulder in.
Now that the horse understands the shoulder in and halt I can progress to training the rein back. On the long side I ask the horse to shoulder and then halt. By touching the horse on the gaskin with my whip and asking with a small upward aid on the inside rein the horse will take a couple of steps backwards. I then ask the horse with a forward driving aid with the whip to step forward. The number of steps of rein back can be progressively increased. Always finish the rein back by going forwards again.
Training the Piaffe.
It takes experience to know when is the right time to start the training of the piaffe. Piaffe is a way to collect and balance the horse. Some horses respond well to early work piaffe in hand while others need to learn passage and then go to piaffe. With my horses Miguel Tavora started the piaffe with me mounted and he on the ground helping the horse to understand. Miguel passed away before my present horse, Piccolo, had started the piaffe. I must confess I have struggled alone without the Master on the ground beside me however working Piccolo in piaffe in hand has improved his performance and understanding.
I start with shoulder in on the small circle, rein back and trot immediately around me staying on the small circle. Miguel would do this trot work by walking backwards but he had very long legs and I am of rather small stature! To stay upright I have to walk forward (many apologies Miguel). Once this is done on both reins I proceed to the long side, halt and ask for piaffe by tapping rhythmically with the whip on the top of the hindquarters. The rein aid is again a light upward pressure of the inside hand if he goes too forward or falls on the forehand. When he does some good steps, relax the aids. If the horse over engages the hind legs allow him to move forward.
To quote Nuno Oliveira “The sign of a good piaffe and passage is the length of time in the suspension of each diagonal, more than in a lot of height with little suspension.”
I remember Miguel saying that every horse has its own piaffe.
I have used it to help collect the canter with a horse who had excellent piaffe but was rather long in the back. It certainly improved the quality of the canter.
The work in hand is more difficult without the support of a wall or fence but it can be done. Teaching the horse these movements without the burden of the rider is very beneficial.