The Training Scale
Contact / Connection______
What does the Training Scale mean? In general, you can’t reach higher levels of the scale without having the lower elements. For example, your contact/connection are going to suck unless you have good relaxation, rhythm, and suppleness.
Be smart and safe
No matter what anyone says, if you know that an exercise or activity is dangerous to you or your horse, don’t do it. You are responsible for your choices!
Don’t forget a good warm-up. Start slow and long, then test each stage of the training scale (yes, the training scale is a dressage term, but it applies to all riding). Fix issues each each stage before pushing to do more.
Training your horse
Stop on a good note. Most horses (and riders) are not ready to do every exercise listed here. Or they can do the walk portions, but not the canter. Test your boundaries, but never think you must complete every part of the exercise.
If you or your horse are struggling at an exercise, take a break with any improvement! This lets you and your horse imprint the successful motions.
Horse training 101
If you are doing an exercise and things are getting worse, STOP and figure out what is wrong. Get a trainer’s help or work on something else. Here is a good article about training, and what can go wrong, when we are trying to explain a concept to a non-English speaking horse.
Even world-class riders have trainers. Trainers see things that you aren’t aware of and can help you troubleshoot. Solo exercises are not a replacement for a skilled horse (and rider!) trainer.
If you apply a constant level of pressure, your horse will eventually learn to ignore it.
Here are some common examples:
- Constant squeezing from your thighs (due to tenseness)
- Constant pulling on the reins (due to poor hands or letting the horse lean against them)
- Constant kicking with your legs (due to your horse learning they can ignore it)
- Constant rider imbalance (due to beginner rider)
In some cases, it is good for your horse to ignore you. For example, if you are a beginner, you want your horse to ignore balance issues.
In other cases, it begins to turn into a problem where you have to escalate and escalate to get a response. The most common problem is when riders switch to more and more severe bits because their horse learns to ignore the gentler bits.
If you see an escalation problem like this, please get help from a trainer. It is very hard to solve this type of problem yourself. Most solutions involve a lot of discipline, timing, and knowledge of how to get a horse’s attention.
What are examples of School Figures?
- 20, 15, 10m circles
- shallow loops
- long and short diagonals
- half-volte to wall
- full school (around the arena)
- half school (around one half of the arena, sort of a square shape)