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Active learning August 20, 2016

Posted by mikeschaffer in dressage, online lessons, training.
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Active learning

Many, many years ago, an instructor I knew would often say, “This is dressage not massage — I cannot dressage you.” This sentiment, which is expressed in many different ways boils down to the idea that as students each of us has to be responsible for our own advancement. We each have to do the reading, the watching, the wondering, the critical thinking, and the asking.

As instructors it’s not our job or even within the realm of possibility to pull students up the mountain but only to offer our guidance and experience as each finds what is necessarily their own personal path. It is up to the student to spend enough time in review of what they think and what their horse is telling them to figure out what they’re confused about and present a cogent question to the instructor.

For my part I’ve written my books, put up my videos, have made this group available to anyone who would like to ask anything and am open to the occasional email question. I’m available for lessons literally throughout the world via skype which works, much to my happy surprise, really well and for many students is more effective than traditional lessons.

So if you’re going round and round not making the progress you would like, perhaps you should ask a question. The best time to do that would be right about now.


Ride like you walk February 18, 2016

Posted by mikeschaffer in calmness, dressage, Natural Horsemanship, online lessons.
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Many students are writing in, anxious to see the snow melt so they can get back to their regular riding. Since we have more enthusiasm than riding opportunity, I’m suggesting they do one of my favorite riding exercises – walking on the ground.

Yes, that’s right. One of the best ways to improve riding technique is to observe your walking technique. This is true because when walking with reasonably good posture, we manage to go, stop and turn with our hips. When riding, the correct use of our seat for asking the horse to go, stop and turn is virtually identical.

I know many will protest they’ve been taught to use their seats in a different, and generally more complicated or counter intuitive way. It is also true that if we are to compare many of the methods taught, we will find that they are often in conflict. Yet when done with a modicum of skill they all work. I discovered this for myself decades ago. My conclusion was and is, as long as we use our seat consistently, in an encouraging way that doesn’t interfere with him, the horse is open to learning our aid and doesn’t really care much about the details.

From a standing position, I begin to walk forward by pushing my hips slightly forward. How slight? Until I paid attention to this, I never noticed it – but just doing this starts me walking. Notice I don’t need to be kicked in the ribs or ever squeezed about my mid-section.

When stopping from walking I bring my shoulders up and slightly back which again brings my hips slightly forward, and again allows my feet to come under me in a perfectly fine halt. It goes without saying I don’t need to pull backwards on my face or any other part. I just “sit up” a bit and allow myself to stop.

When changing direction while walking I don’t pull my nose in the direction I hope to go to, or point my feet that way, I simply turn my hips a teensy bit in the direction I want to go in. Not to be repetitive, but I didn’t know I how I changed direction until I made a conscious effort to figure it out. It’s really a small change.

This is relevant because if you teach your horse that he should go, stop and turn in response to only you using your seat this way, the rest of training is a matter of polishing it up. Said better by an Irish eventer I rode with long ago, “Once you have go, stop, turn, everything else is window dressing.”

Start the Summer Right! May 21, 2015

Posted by mikeschaffer in dressage, online lessons.
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The last few years more and more readers of my books have been discovering how incredibly effective online video reviews are.  This week, to help get even more riders and readers familiar with this system, you can try it at no charge.  Just shoot some video of you working with your horse.  It doesn’t need to be anything fancy and your horse doesn’t need to be at his best (actually it’s better if he isn’t).  Just get a little video – 4 or 5 minutes is fine –  contact me  and we’ll setup a convenient time to watch it together.

Looking forward to hearing from you,


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