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The Problem with the System March 22, 2013

Posted by mikeschaffer in balance, competition, contact, dressage, performance standards, The Training Pyramid, training.
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In the official “system” your hands, seat and legs are your “aids.” Everything you do is an aid and there’s an “aid” for everything you do. The aids are always described in their ideal form – how you would ride a GP horse. Riding a GP horse through a corner – these are the aids for it. Riding a barely broke baby through the same corner – same aids!

It’s crazy talk!

First of all, your hands, seat and legs are not your “aids”, they’re your hands, seat and legs!

When you use your hands, seat and legs to make requests of the horse in a way that encourages and allows him to do what you’re asking for, then you’re using them to create aids.

When you use your hands seat and legs to physically/mechanically stop a horse from doing the wrong thing or to show him the right thing – then you’re using your hands seat and legs to create “corrections.” Corrections should be “clear, effective and over with.” Use them for a moment – then go back to riding with aids.

There are two kinds of aids – connected and cognitive.

“Connected” aids are the ideal aids used with a balanced supple horse that will go on “elastic” contact. The horse stretches to, but not through the bit. For this to happen the horse must be supple and elastic in his body, go with some engagement and a raised back.

Telling green riders on green horses to ride with “connected” aids will lead to bracing and pulling about 99.99% of the time. So most riders have to use “cognitive” aids when on green horses.

“Cognitive” aids are feather light and rely on the horses understanding of them for their effectiveness. If your horse knows to stop when you sit up and jiggle the rein a little, there’s no need to pull. If your horse knows to go when you push your belly button out a little and gently rub your legs by him, there is no need to squeeze or kick. If your horse knows to “follow your belly button” to go where you point it, there’s no need to pull him around with the reins while kicking and carrying on with your legs.

After you and your horse are pretty good at going with cognitive aids you ride him on the right size circles, do some figures and transitions, and he will gradually become loose, supple and elastic in his body. As he does, he will start to reach out and seek the connection with the bit – then you’re starting to ride with ideal aids. Note that YOU don’t establish the connection, your horse will seek it out.

Once he starts to connect HE will start to adjust himself to go in the correct frame. YOU don’t have to put him in the frame – the frame is “correct” because it’s the easiest and most comfortable frame for him to be in to do the movements and figures of dressage. Do I have to force you to do something the easy way or just show you the easy way? Well, your job as trainer is just to show the horse the easy way.

Once you’ve taken a horse through this process (which doesn’t require going to a single show!) the rest of dressage makes sense. It’s no big deal. Just one thing after the next.

Mike

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Comments»

1. P)atrick - March 22, 2013

Ah Mike, you’re out of hibernation. You hold these fundamental beliefs and viewpoints; but there’s only so few words in the english vocabulary needed to explain them. So the blog chapter reads almost like an extract from your book again.
But what’s to disagree….who’s to disagree…. not me.
I like simple language..
Thanks for periodically publishing these viewpoints……and putting up the videos which show it ‘just like it is’….

mikeschaffer - March 22, 2013

Hi Patrick, haven’t been hibernating – been busy. Did a little booklet for Kindle, that’s been doing great, and I put both of my existing books in kindle format (just noticed I never announced that here duh!).

You’re right that I’m repeating myself, but everybody else is just repeating everybody else. At least I go to the effort of making sure what I’m saying makes sense. Can’t say that for everybody else.

Mike

2. nancytrojo - March 22, 2013

Yes! Allow the horse to figure it out and find his own balance before trying to force it onto him!


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