Three Questions to Ask Your Horse in the Warmup1. RESPONSIBILITY: Does your horse hold up his end of the bargain by maintaining the gait/pace/whatever you ask until you ask him to do something else?
Testing responsibility: Take your legs off your horse's side. How long does it take him to slow or stop? That tells you how much you've been "helping."
Fix: Take your legs off your horse's side. When he slows, correct him by "chasing" him into the next gait (note: I think she meant, "annoying little kicks"). Make sure to base the correction on your horse's temperament--if he is hot, no need to kick him into the next county. If he's lazy, don't make your kicks so ineffectual that he ignores you. Praise heavily if he doesn't slow down when you take your legs off.
2. RESPONSE TO DRIVING AIDS (self-explanatory)
Testing the driving aids: Make a promise to yourself--you are never going to give a leg aid that isn't featherlight. Your horse can feel a fly on his skin; he can feel you, and what's more, you'll just exhaust yourself trying to keep him going. So try the featherlight aid.
Of course, a featherlight aid isn't going to work at first.
Fix: Make a correction by chasing him into the next gait (according to his temperament). Go back and re-test with the featherlight aid until he responds to just that. Lavish praise when (and only when) he responds by being 100% forward and responsive. Don't accept "good enough" here.
3. RESPONSE TO SLOWING AIDS (self-explanatory)
Testing the slowing aids: Push your horse to a slower gait with your seat. Squeeze-release should by the cue.
Fix: Halt your horse and say "Whoa," "Ho," or whatever you're using as a vocal cue. Repeat, praise lavishly when he responds correctly. (sensing a pattern here?)
Then focus on your position.
Then focus on the training pyramid.Rhythm: AKA regularity. The walk marches, the trot swings, and the canter springs--whether fast or slow.
Suppleness: AKA relaxation in body and mind. Bend over topline and laterally.
Contact/Connection/Going on the Bit (whatever you want to call it.): The cues: Driving, a squeeze-release with the outside rein, then bending--in that order. But the whole thing only takes like three seconds.
For Training level horses, you should really only be focusing on Rhythm, Suppleness and Contact.
Accelerate from a 20 meter circle to a 10 or 8 meter circle. Ahhhhh! This seems hard. Maybe I will try it with the Shadow-man since he's not going to take off with me.
So although I didn't win a free copy of Step-by-Step Dressage (and no, I'm not being paid to buzz-market--the promotion is over), I think I still got something out of it. Pretty common sense stuff, but packaged in a digestible way.