Horse Training Methods: The Horse Training Pyramid – Part 2

horse training methods

Showing nice straightness with the rider sitting nice and centered

I am writing about classical horse training methods because they are time tested and the best systematic approach to improving a horses physical fitness, balance, suppleness and responsiveness.

In Part 1 of the horse training pyramid we covered the first three blocks, or base, of the pyramid. In these basic blocks we were looking to develop the horse’s attention, understanding and confidence.

In Part 2 we will be looking at developing the horse’s pushing  power (impulsion) and carrying power (collection).

Always remember to establish your first blocks before continuing on to work on the blocks that follow. It can take many months and years to work up the training pyramid.

The reason that this is the most often used of all the different horse training methods is because it establishes the basics and builds on them each time you school your horse.

So, you have established your rhythm, relaxation and connection. It is time to begin work on the next building blocks, which are impulsion and straightness.

You develop impulsion through riding your horse on contact, with a connection from your hand to his mouth.

You want to have your horse moving energetically forward and have a “feel” of his mouth. You don’t get this feel from pulling on the reins, but from your horse stepping forward “onto the bit.”

A common fault that I see in riders is that they will open and close their fingers, going from contact to no contact. This makes things very confusing for the horse who goes from feeling something…to nothing…to something again.

horse training methods

Learning to step up under his body on his weaker inside hind leg

You need to have a soft, steady contact that you can increase and decrease as needed…NOT drop and then pick up.  This creates loss of balance and rhythm.

Impulsion is your horse’s thrust, or pushing power from his hind legs. Closing your leg asks him to engage his hind legs to reach up farther under him and propel him forward.

This energy is transmitted up over his back and neck and down to the bit/your hands. If you create this energy and then have no contact (open fingers) then the horse falls onto his forehand and loses energy out through his front end.

Transitions between and within gaits are a great way to develop your horse’s hindquarters and pushing power.

Working on impulsion also helps develop suspension in your horse’s gaits, giving them that beautiful, elastic, bouncy quality!

Your horse is straight when his hind legs follow directly behind his forelegs.

Problems creep  in when your horse swings his haunches one way or the other – because he is weaker in one hind leg. It is easier to swing his haunches in or out rather than step up under his body and support more weight with the weaker leg.

One of the reasons horses have difficulty with straightness is because their hind ends are wider than their front ends. When your horse isn’t straight, you always want to correct it by moving his front end over in front of his hindquarters.

Without straightness your horse is unable to use both sides of his body evenly. Straightness is developed by training and suppling both sides of the horse’s body evenly, following the classical horse training methods of the training pyramid.

Correct leg yields and riding in shoulder fore and shoulder in are great for helping develop straightness.

A horse that isn’t straight cannot correctly perform the next block at the apex of the pyramid, collection.

horse training methods

Beginning to show some front end elevation and suspension in the trot

As the horse is progressively developed and strengthened by working up the training scale he becomes capable of developing collection.

In collection the horse supports more weight with, and carries his hindquarters lower, elevating his shoulders and forehand. The stride is shorter but more elevated, like coiling a spring.

Collection requires the utmost in balance and muscular development. Not only is the horse supporting himself, but also his rider, in collection and lightness.

In my opinion these classical horse training methods are the “way to go” whether training a horse for dressage, hunters, jumpers or as basic training for any other discipline. There is just no shortcut to having a balanced, light, supple horse that is a pleasure to ride.



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