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Having fun with this… December 27, 2011

Posted by mikeschaffer in balance, calmness, contact, dressage, looseness, Riding, training.

With all the details and rules, arguments and schools of thought, it’s easy to forget that training your horse is supposed to be fun. I’ll go one more and say if you’re not having fun with it, neither is your horse and chances are there is no progress being made. Well, I’m having fun with my horse and with my new video camera, software, and computer upgrade. This video shows all 3 in action.

First you can see how nicely my horse is warming up in the long unedited stretch at the beginning. Putting up a “warm-up” is unusual to say the least, but the absence of good warm-up videos has resulted in an absence of good warm-up strategies. That’s really a shame as the science of the warm-up is key to being able to get on to the training. Now I understand that many people will say I warm up my horse all wrong – well that’s great! Let’s see how they go about it and everybody benefits in the end.

You also see what the camera “sees” in the first minute or so. After that, you see what I’m doing with the new software and why I needed a computer upgrade (and hi-def camera) to render the final video I put up on youtube – it’s pretty awesome since the ability to pan and zoom after the fact means I can set up the camera on a tripod on any day and time I want, ride in front of it and make it what you see later that night, at home in front of the computer. I’ve been wanting a system like this for 35 years or so – however long it’s been since I bought my first shoebox size VCR and realized that now all I needed was someone to operate it while I rode in front of it.  Now the wait is over, I have the ultimate mirror and I get to set it to music of my choice – cool.

In the first section you see my horse working long and “low” in frame and energy, although it looks more energetic on the screen than it felt when riding – very useful to be able to see that. The second part is the 2nd stage of warm-up, more energy but not all the pieces are there yet.  Looking at it, I sometimes see moments of an increase in tension along with the increase in energy, and I also see moments of brilliance – especially in the shoulder-in at the 4:50 mark. It’s wonderful to be able to see this, it tells me I have to continue to ask for the relaxation and the energy in ways that don’t make him lazy or tight. This is the challenge we all face all the time with all the elements of making our horses.



Easier to ride… December 21, 2011

Posted by mikeschaffer in balance, calmness, contact, dressage, half-halts, looseness, Riding, training.
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I had a very relaxing ride on Deedles today – no video, no training schedule,just got a ride in before the rain. So, there we were, up to the ring plopping around for a while when it hit me – we were just plopping around.

I realize that sounds so ordinary – what’s the big deal? Well, with Indeed, getting to the point where we could just plop around is a milestone. He didn’t come with a “plop around” gear. He didn’t come with a “relaxed ride” mind set. He came with a “life is a continuous struggle” outlook.

However, in looking back at the more recent videos I just put up (making excellent use of new camera, software, and computer upgrade to produce them primarily as a mirror for me and training aid for any who wish to look in) I realized that at some point Indeed stopped arguing and trying to figure a way out, and now he’s just trying to figure me out. About bloody time! Usually it
takes days or weeks, he took years!

All the same, I think it’s obvious that although much of the work is still far from perfect, it has all become fun and easy for him and me. So, in a head slapping isn’t it obvious moment it has occurred to me that a primary goal and test of training is that the horse becomes easier to ride. Well, duh!

Here’s the latest video from a couple of days ago – in this tape I’m just checking out his new “up” frame – he doesn’t look too bad if I say so myself. I’m also looking at his change from left to right which is improved from the last video.

You see, the work isn’t perfect by any means but it’s all fairly easy.

In this tape from a few days before that, I just look at the changes in a variety of different ways. I used the software to zoom in on the action and put everything in slow motion (ya know, sometimes being geek IS cool!) See if you can see what I learned by watching this tape and put to use in the video from the 18’th above.

(Oh – and they’re in hi-def )


3’rd place August 22, 2011

Posted by mikeschaffer in calmness, competition, dressage, half-halts, looseness, Riding, training.
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I love this horse and he keeps getting better!


Adelinde Cornelissen *NED* Rotterdam 2011 Dressage August 22, 2011

Posted by mikeschaffer in calmness, competition, dressage, Riding, training.
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1° Adelinde Cornelissen *NED* Rotterdam 2011... by martinehp

2010 in review January 2, 2011

Posted by mikeschaffer in balance, Behind the bit, calmness, dressage, looseness, Riding, roll kur.
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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2010. That’s about 26 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 24 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 38 posts. There were 14 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 266kb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was February 5th with 299 views. The most popular post that day was Hyperflexion/Rollkur/Blue tongue, Insanity!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mikeschaffer.com, britishdressage.co.uk, facebook.com, saddle-up.org, and dressagerider.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for hyperflexion, dressage training pyramid, rollkur blue tongue, in_the_moment_dressage, and mike schaffer dressage.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Hyperflexion/Rollkur/Blue tongue, Insanity! December 2009


The Anky Clinic Discussing LDR February 2010


The Myth of the Independent Dressage Seat December 2008


LDR Long Deep and Round, May 2010


The Rollkur Cure February 2010

HBT “Herd Behaviorism Techniques” November 20, 2010

Posted by mikeschaffer in calmness, dressage, looseness, Natural Horsemanship, Riding, The Training Pyramid.
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When I start working with frightened or aggressive horses, I use HBT “Herd Behaviorism Techniques.” (like that name?)  It consists of three phases or messages:

1. He’s stuck with me because he’s either on the longe line  or in a round pen.

2. I’m  able to herd him – make him go, stop, and turn – so I’m  dominant.

3. I’m not going to eat him.

Once I’m at that point horses lose their aggression and fear as they calm down and relax.  It’s fun to watch as it happens.

I take any horse that’s trying to run from me and just start changing his direction. At first they tend to whip around and go running the other way. But then, slowly, it begins to dawn on them that they’re not getting away, so they start to slow down. The horse will go from whipping around and running the other way, to whipping around and cantering, to turning and trotting, to turning and walking. The slower they go, the more frequently I change their direction.

At some point no matter what they’ve just done, I ask them to go the other way. Then comes a moment when they just stop in mid turn, lick their lips, look at me as if to say, “Just what the Hell do you want from me Mister?”

Well, what I want is for him to be standing there asking me what I want.  When he does, he has just elected me leader of the herd of two. Now because I’m the leader I make the decisions including what/who is safe to be around. Now, training can begin.


Another good day! November 2, 2010

Posted by mikeschaffer in calmness, contact, corrections, dressage, half-halts, looseness, training.
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Just thought I’d mention I had a great day on my horse today.  Actually, I’ve been having good days with him all summer and now into the fall.  Yes, he still challenges early on every day before settling in, and today he was even a bit more adamant than usual,  But then, once we got past that, which did take longer than usual, he really settled in.  I think we may have crossed a Rubicon.  Sometimes ya just need to get on ’em, and stay on ’em, and ride ’em through it.

Yea though I walk through the valley of warmbloods,

I shall fear no evil…

For I am the most stubborn SOB there.


Letter from a Reader.. October 29, 2010

Posted by mikeschaffer in balance, calmness, competition, corrections, dressage, half-halts, looseness, Natural Horsemanship, Riding, training.
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I recently received this from a reader of Riding in the Moment – The Hidden Language of Dressage.


Mr. Schaffer,

I have bought over 100 books on riding in my lifetime and your book is by far the most useful of them all!  In fact that statement doesn’t really convey exactly how useful it has been to me.  I bought the book yesterday and read the whole thing in one sitting.  I made a few notes and went out to ride my horse that day.  I have been riding my whole life and most seriously with tons of professional assistance for 15 years and I cannot believe the difference these simple exercises have made in my riding.  I too have an affinity for Thoroughbreds off the track.  My current horse which I purchased only 2 weeks ago has, I believe, spent his life(16years) leaning on the bit and racing around as if he were still on the track.  I was really struggling with how to get this horse retrained and we were having all kinds of battles resulting in him bucking and running away.  After reading your book, I figured this is EXACTLY what I need to do.  Take this horse back to some very simple singular movements.  I thought 5 concepts, pretty simple but I have all the time in the world.  Who knew I would make it all the way to soften in 2 rides!!  With each exercise, he picked them up quicker and quicker and by the time I got to “turn in” he had it on the second try.  2 days ago it took me the whole length of the arena to stop him and by the end of my ride today all I had to do was think about stopping and there he was!

With sincerest thanks,

Jennifer F……..

Simplicity. August 30, 2010

Posted by mikeschaffer in calmness, dressage, looseness, Riding, training.
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“Ask often, expect little, reward generously” is the only simplicity there is.  It applies to all horses, in all disciplines, at all times.  Implicit in this universal core principle is that we train the horse’s mind.   It is only when the horse is learning on an intellectual basis that training can occur.

“Ask often, expect little, reward generously” is the only training method there is.  All the other long winded discussions and complex theories are merely descriptions of how to ask, in order to get a result that is close. Techniques, no matter how sophisticated, are the rough sledge – the method is the fine chisel.

Weight aids are NOT simple. August 30, 2010

Posted by mikeschaffer in balance, calmness, contact, corrections, dressage, looseness, Riding, training.

Obviously a horse is reactive to weight – since even a casual observer can see him react to the weight of a fly, it hardly takes a grand master to figure this out!

Yes, if the rider is skilled enough, he can use weight as a teaching aid and later as a very subtle enhancement.  But like the proverbial razor in the hand of a monkey, some uneducated ass throwing it’s weight around isn’t such a good thing.

For instance, a really clumsy rider’s weight is just a bowling ball rolling in the bed of a pick up truck.  Horses learn to compensate for random weight changes so it appears they’re ignoring them.  From this we can learn that the horse’s experience and understanding of the correct response is more important than the actual effect of weight.   Weight can be suggestive, but it is not compelling.

Weight can also be used to some purpose but in a way that is counter to the goals of dressage.  A competent rider can turn a horse by having it fall into the direction he wants it to go, while weighting the outside to control the rate of turn. So you can turn a horse by controlling how out of balance he is, but that’s a far cry from teaching a horse to  stay vertical and balanced as he follows his bend through a corner.

In the same way, a rider can teach a horse to “swap leads” by throwing it from side to side in the canter and get a result does teach the horse to change canter leads, but that is very different from the long straight leaps from lead to lead we seek in the flying change.

Giving a weight aid is not simple.  If you weight a stirrup by pressing down with the ball of your foot, you actually shift weight to the opposite hip/seatbone.  If you weight a stirrup by sinking through your knee, you’re actually weighting the seat on that side more than the stirrup.  I’m sure there are more ways to “think” you’re weighting a stirrup as well…

If you don’t do a weight aid in the rhythm and tempo of the horse, than you’re just shifting the load.  Any horse will compensate for an uneven load in 3 strides or less.  So, if you were centered on the horse and the horse was crooked, and you sit crooked to make the horse “straight”, you haven’t taught the horse to go correctly, the horse has taught you to ride badly.

Timing of the weight aid, applying it in the horse’s rhythm and tempo, is critical.   You must apply the weight at a particular moment – but only for a moment.  Just some portion of the time a foot is on the ground. If you think this is easy, stand in an arena while some horse is trotting around and try to weight your right foot as the horse’s right hind lands, but be off of your foot before the horse’s foot leaves the ground.

If you accomplish this exercise correctly, you’ll notice that there isn’t enough time to shift a lot of weight on to and off of your foot.  So, the amount of weight in question is very little.  But this brings us to the very nature of the “power of the seat” which is that very subtle aids have big effect.  However, even that effect is in and of itself temporary.

If you accomplish the perfect aid (weight or anything else), get a perfect response from the horse, and ignore it, the horse will always learn in very short order to ignore the aid no matter how theoretically “perfect” it was.  So the real trick to using weight is NOT to think it physically makes the horse do anything, but to realize is it only a helpful technique that can be used to teach the horse what you want.

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