Sunday, January 11, 2009

This is the Best!

Be warned. I absolutely loved reading the dialogue that got going without me. I think I'm going to do this once in a while. I liked the free flow of ideas without me butting in. Of course now I'm butting in.....
Back to Ezra's horse. We're going to look at this as a decent minded horse and rider team who are learning together. This can be tough, but not insurmountable. Ezra is not in a hurry and in my opinion will learn so much about shaping up her horse and develop so much feel it will be worth the frustration.
The colt I wrote about was physically crooked. He stood with his head turned, his spine curved and his tail cocked to the side all the time if you let him, whether you were on him or not. He is better now, but not ever going to be much more than a nice trail horse. Which is fine, his family knows his limitations and is fine with them.
We know Ezra has had her horse worked on by the chiro and is healthy. So I'm not going to worry about the mare being crooked. If it was a problem the chiro would have seen it.
I'm also going to assume Ezra rides well enough to handle this. She can lope around on her fine, just isn't getting the lead she wants, so in my mind she rides well enough for what I'm thinking.
I'm also going to have her ride Western, since that's what I know. In spirit if not in saddle!
Heila- You're right, most western riders don't wear helmets. Why? Because we are dumb asses. I'm sorry, but there's no other explanation. I don't wear one either. I look too good in my hat.
Back to Ezra...Congratulations on that lope! You're on your way!
So, let's start with getting rid of the lope for awhile.
I want you to do some work with yourself and your mare on feel. Do you ever ride bareback? If you don't that's OK, but if you do, ride her at a walk in your arena for awhile. Please ride in a ring snaffle or side pull for now. If you know this stuff be patient, I'm just going through each step. Make sure you know the feel of each foot leaving the ground. Get to where you can call out each foot in whatever order you feel like. Then get there saddled.
Once again, if you are comfortable bareback, start there, if not just do the same in the saddle.
Walk on the rail in your arena. (Don't tell your trainer!) In each corner guide her nose using your inside rein just enough to get her to do a circle, 10-12 feet should be good, make at least one full circle in each corner so you don't change direction. I want you to ride the circle to the inside. Don't use anything but your hands to shape your circle. Your inside hand is the only hand doing anything, it's your guiding hand. Your guiding hand will be out from your body, kind of like you are leading her, try not to hold your arm in tight against your body. Sit up and keep your shoulders level, don't lean in.
As you start your circle, don't worry about whether your mare is correct or not. Your just checking for holes. (I love holes by the way, filling them is how we end up with a trained horse)
Does her nose follow the guidance of your hand softly and easily? Does her neck stiffen up and she swings her hips out or leans into the circle? Don't worry about any of this, just note it. Think about how it feels, and what's what.
You want your mare to softly move through each circle holding her body in the shape of a "C" that matches the path of the circle. From the tip of her nose to the base of her tail, she needs to form a "C".
Don't try to force a shape here, just know that's where your headed.
Go both directions, checking her circles each way. Know in your mind what the issues are and where she tenses up.
Now you're going to check yourself out. Saddle is fine, bareback if you can. Sit square on your horse with your legs relaxed and free. If you're in your saddle take your feet out of your stirrups.
Sit up straight, shoulders back and find your seat bones. Basically your weight will be balanced on three points. When your neutral you will feel all three points of contact. When you rock back you will feel the back two seat bones. Let me know if you need clarification here.
Now go back to walking around the arena and making your circles in the corners. This time as you bring your inside hand up and out to guide her nose rock back and drop your weight onto your inside seat bone.
Think about what happens and how she responds. Does she make a sharper turn? Does she toss her head or turn it out or sideways in one direction? Once again don't correct her just analyze the feel. What happens to your seat, the placement of your legs? Don't let your shoulders fall in!
Now we'll add some leg. Think of your inside leg as a post your mare can turn around. It will fall at the cinch. Your thigh is relaxed, your toes are turned slightly out so you can have your calf pushed against your mare's ribs as the post.
Your outside leg is back about 6-10 inches behind your cinch and helping shape her into the "C". (Wherever you need to place it to get some bend.)
Remember to keep sitting up with your shoulders level.
Keep taking her through the corners and asking for a circle or two.
Now you've been doing this for a while. I will be very surprised if at this point she hasn't started to relax into your hands and is walking with her head low and relaxed and a lot of the tension is leaving her, even the bad way.
At this point you will come into your circle and keep circling her until she drops her head, relaxes her ribs and makes her "C". Then you can let her out and walk to the next point. When you are on your straight line make sure your reins are relaxed, you're breathing evenly and your seats relaxed. That is her reward for trying to shape into the circle. Make sure you go both directions.
So at this point you are taking your mare through some simple 10-12 foot circles in the corners of your arena in order to really analyze her areas of stiffness and to check your riding form.
1. You'll guide her by her nose with only your inside hand first.
2. You'll check the effect of your seat bones and add weight dropped on the inside seat bone during her turn.
3. You'll add the inside leg placed as a post on the cinch area.
4. You'll add the outside leg 6 to 12 inches behind the cinch as a guide for shaping your mare.
5. You will look for a perfect "C" shape with a lowered, relaxed head before you let her out of the circle.
6. You'll really think about each phase, how your mare reacts, if you have a tendency to tip to the right or left, and where your seat bones are.
Even if you know this stuff do it again, following the steps and analyzing your mare. I do this with every horse I ride.....
Then you'll let me know where we're at.
I have a few questions.
Do you ride western or English?
Does your mare ride in a ring snaffle?


  1. I can't WAIT to get to work tomorrow and work on a few of my VERY left sided ex-harness horses! And make sure I am not getting in their way.

    VERY descriptive and wonderful way to explain. Thanks!

  2. Ahhh, Very nice. Can't wait to get back in the saddle. It has been a few months since I moved. People are starting to offer me horses to ride, so it may actually happen before I get my youngster started. That would be ideal anyway.

  3. Oh, well a few months except for the ride in my photo... But that was just hacking around at a walk on my horse that I have leased out. I got lucky, he has the best foster home ever!

  4. Hey Mugwump! Firefox ate my bookmarks and I was so happy to find your blog again. Here's a tidbit of non-horse related random info.. my last name in Chinese is a plant, the English name is Mugwort! (made me think of you.)

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. That was a very descriptive post, thanks! I have had very little formal training in my life, about 3 months of jump lessons. ;P
    I learned all I know by reading and by just doing it on horseback. It makes me glad that I follow a lot of what you say already, however I have so much more to learn.
    I'm always trying to place my horse's feet as we ride, as in, step by that rock, go just to the left of that dirt clod, make a circle "this" wide, etc.
    I haven't actually tested what my eyes, hands, legs, and weight do per horse though. I really should do a "sizing up" of each of them, shouldn't I?

    I love your blog- very informative!

    And Laura- I am an avid reader of your books. I love them all, but so far, Slickrock is my favorite.

  7. You are after my own heart! I teach this to my collegiate team riders when they first start with me, most of them coming to me during their college years after being with big name trainers and they often argue with me for the need of these exercises and why are they not just working on sitting the lope! I have lost a few riders to my boring exercises, but the ones who have stayed and stuck out have vastly improved in their horsemanship. Several have made it to regionals and two have competed at nationals. They have often said to others that it was these very lessons that helped them achieve success. Knowing where each foot is at any given time gives any rider an edge over others. I always ask my riders which foot leaves the ground when asking for a lope departure and now that the bulk of them have learned to feel it, they have very few missed leads. I have been frowned upon for these boring exercises by other riders getting instruction elsewhere, but the proof is always in the pudding. BTW a classical dressage trainer taught the very exercises you describe. Excellent post!

  8. Timely! I've been thinking about this! Besides, I love riding bareback in the winter. My gelding prefers a sidepull all the time so that's what we do when it's cold. (I figure, why make him miserable with a cold metal bit in his mouth - the sidepull is fine for a short walk through the snowbanks!)

    The circle in the corner exercise is a staple of my trainer's program. Excellent tool for horse and rider!

  9. Thanks, Fantastyk Voyager. Sickrock is most folk's favorite book in the series, as it turns out. The one I'm working on now has some riding in the mountains, too. If I ever get it finished....its so much easier to put comments on blogs (!)

  10. (I am printing off your blog to take with me to the barn to make sure I get everything down :) I will have husband observe in case I'm not seeing/feeling something)In response to your bottom questions first, I ride western and we ride with (what is described online as) a flat cheek training bit(?). I will admit 100% I don't know the correct names of a lot of things and have what the trainer said was working best with her. He switched her from a D-ring snaffle to this one as it seemed to have a little more leverage with her. We don't have a problem, as far as I can tell. She response to very slight pressure, even when she's just in her halter, and I try to keep soft hands because she does do well.

    You have your second paragraph right, we are definitely learning together. And I'm definitely not in a a big hurry. Not after having her four years. And I can't wait to develope good feel. That is definitely a problem of mine.

    Ok, mare is definitely not physically crooked. I have never rode her bareback, but I'd really like to. Maybe now is the time to try, (and get dumped for the first time, lol) it is one of my 09 goals too. I think I will don the helmet for that one. She's a little more spirited and jumpy in the cold than she was in the summer.

    I will switch back to the ring snaffle. I have a rope halter set up too if you think that would work.

    Your explanations were very good to someone like me. Usually people say what they did to help, but not HOW. You did very well in explaning how. I will try this all tonight at the barn and let you know how it goes. I will tell you right off the bat though, when you ask if I have a tendancy to tip right or left, immediatley I say left. For some reason, I am always off to the left, even when I'm consciously leaning to or putting more weight in my right stirrup. I don't know why. I constantly have to readjust to get centered again. I've thought that's part of the problem, but not sure. I cinch her girth tight (as you have said to do) and even have gotten off to retighten once we've been riding for a bit.

    I'm kind of like FV. For my riding experience, I rode and took English lessons for two years about 9 years ago, and got good enough to enter into a show and placed 2nd in cross country and 2nd overall. Not to shabby for the girl riding in Wrangler jeans and Justin workboots when everyone else was in their little breeches and jackets. lol All of my experience has basically been on well trained lesson horses until my girl. My situation is obviusly different now with my own green horse and I'm not all that confident sometimes. I will do your evaluation/analization process and see where that leaves us.

    Thank you kindly :) You have been a gigantic help.

  11. Oh yeah - walk is important! I've spent many lessons getting my walk correct. And many lessons counting footfalls or saying which foot was on the ground at what time while in the saddle!

    I love the training pyramid concept in Dressage...(I know it applies everywhere but this is just where I see it all the time) you have to build the foundation first...

    I know it's not exactly "exciting" sometimes and as you move on up the levels, it really saves your butt! Because as you say Mugwump, the holes are filled, you have a solid foundation before introducing something new that depends and builds ON that solid foundation.

    Riding. Such an art... never perfect... always something to work on. Isn't it GREAT?!

  12. I ride a pony who is rather one-sided (he resists the right bend, though we have been making progress). It is easier to get the left lead, but he frequently takes the wrong lead in both directions. He can balance on the wrong lead, even on a circle (for example, I will ask him for the canter while circling right, and he will take the left lead while still bending to the right on the circle). He would sometimes do a flying change over to the correct lead, so I have begun asking for changes and have a decent success rate. So would your advice be to make sure I am staying out of his way? I know I have trouble maintaining contact on the outside rein, which surely contributes to this problem, but I would be interested to hear your take. I ride dressage with this pony, and use a double-jointed snaffle bit.

  13. I really like how much you emphasize body awareness in this post, mugs.

    I took Pandora to a clinic on Saturday, and she had us do some things that made me super aware of my position and how it affects my horse.

    Example - the other rider and I both have horses that tend to be pretty heavy on the forehand. Thus, when we move into a downward transition, they tend to dive down and lose all forward motion.

    To help us keep our legs on, she would have us pick up a trot, then drop the stirrups for a few strides, then bring them back to a walk. She always said "FORWARD into walk."

    Because we had no stirrups, we had to keep our calves ON the horse as we transitioned down.

    Leg = forward = not diving in the transition.

    She had us go back and forth between transitioning with and without stirrups, which made me realize that sometimes my leg slides up or away from the horse in the transition if I'm not paying attention.

    Cool stuff. She did other exercises too - when I get back on the computer later today, I have one that may help with the seatbone awareness you're going for, Mugs. Be warned that it makes you look silly though ;)

  14. Excellent.
    Really a super explanation of how to get the feel, and how to find out where the root of the problem lies.

    I would like to make some additions to what you wrote, Mugs, if I may?
    All comments relates to riding the horse on a circle, to get the correct bend.

    I have sometimes experienced that if you ask a rider to keep the outside leg slightly further back than the inner, some riders just bend the leg more in the knee which gives the wrong result.
    If you instead keep the outside hip, including the leg, further back than the inside hip/leg, then it’s easier to get it right, and to get the correct position of the seat.
    (Think inside hip to point towards the horse’s outside ear).
    Check also if it makes a difference to weigh the inside seat bone, or to weigh the diagonal between the inside seatbone and the pubis bone.
    I like to keep the inside thigh close to the saddle, so I can feel the inside knee in contact with the saddle - but not gripping.
    A common problem is that the horse likes to position the rider to the outside of the saddle, to avoid the bend, smart things.
    The rider can still feel the inside seatbone clearly, and believes that she is sitting to the inside, but in reality the whole seat is displaced to the outside - with the inside seatbone close to the centerline of the saddle.
    A warning signal is if the inside knee no longer can stay snug to the saddle (a result of that the inside hip joint has moved to the centerline of the saddle instead of staying to the inside where it should be)
    Check two: Where's the outside seatbone? Can you clearly feel it?
    If not, again the seat may have come over to the outside. Warning signal. It should be clearly felt, and the outside seatbone should be close to the centerline of the saddle, due to the outer hip positioned further back.

    All just personal (dressage) reflections. Might be totally different for a western rider?

  15. I don't find any of this stuff boring. I like to analyze myself and my horse, how the shape themselves etc. I kind of go into a zone and am very happy.
    I want to warn some of you dressage guys, I'm a bit rough and ready in my approach. I'll have Ezra moving faster than you're probably use to.I'm about helping her find her lead. What's always worked with my approach is it's simple to go back at any point and build on it.
    I guess I'm asking for everybody o feel free to chime in, but lets not muddy the water for her.

  16. Hey, Mugs, I have an off-topic question for you. This might be long to set up the situation…

    I moved my mare 2 weeks ago. She really seems to love the new place and has settled in well.

    We've encountered a new training opportunity - tackle it as it comes! There's a stream about knee deep that leads to 17 acres of trails at the back of the property. I didn't anticipate a problem - she LOVES to splash in puddles. But, she was very unsure of herself. I *think* it has more to do with the steep, sandy bank leading to the stream, than the water itself.

    The first day, I ended up hand walking her across then remounting on the other side. She wouldn't cross on the way back with me on her either. I did get back on her and ride her for a bit longer to calm her down (she'd gotten herself pretty worked up and "hot" over the stream). Nothing strenuous, but no instant reward (other than praise and a mint).

    I’ve been careful to reward her with “no more work” since then.

    The next day, I free lunged her then set out to tackle the stream again. I ended up using a dressage whip to lightly tap her hock to get her to move away from the pressure. When she stepped in, I offered her a handful to smell; we did a small loop up the trail, crossed back, and went back to her stall. Then she was done for the day.

    This past Saturday, I rode, and tried to get her to walk across with me on her. She wouldn’t even start down the bank, tried to spin and run back to the arena. I made her stop as close as I could get her without fighting, and when she stood still, I dismounted.

    I ended up grabbing the dressage whip again, but only had to tap her hock twice the first time to get her in. We crossed 5 times, the last 2 times, I had no whip, and the last time heading home, I asked her to stand with me in the water for a minute or two. I rubbed her face, scratched her ears and withers, fed her mints, etc. She relaxed, put her head down and sighed. Then we went back to her stall and called it a day.

    Yesterday, I long-lined her for a while, then headed to the bank with the whip tucked under my arm. She walked right in behind me with no hesitation (no taps at all), stood for a bit in the middle, and then crossed back with the same confidence. Into the stall, and call it a day.

    After all that, lol – any suggestions for getting her to cross with me on her? Clearly she trusts me enough to follow me in without too much trouble. But it seems like she is forgetting that I’m still going to protect her and keep her out of danger in this particular situation. I was thrilled when she crossed so willingly yesterday and want to somehow transfer that new confidence to when I’m on her so I can stop getting wet and get on the trails!

  17. Promise- I would have another rider on a quiet horse with me. I'd have the other horse go in front and cross back and forth with me.
    I would have my dressage whip with me. I would tap her on the hocks while riding to send her forward.
    I would let her stand and smell the water, paw the water, whatever she needs to do, but I would tap her with the whip every time she did anything but face the water.
    She might leap the first few times, but hang on. I think you've probably handled it, you just don't know it yet.

  18. Thanks for the quick response. That's about what I figured you'd say. The barn owner offered to have her horse ready next Saturday about the time I was finishing this week, and would help me try to get her across that way, if we succeeded, we'd go ride on the trail for a bit, come back and try again going home - which should be easier, lol. I figured basically stuff Promise up his butt and keep my leg on her. I probably do need to have the whip in my hand, unfortunately. I was trying to avoid it while mounted. Maybe I need to dig out my "oh sh*t" strap from her 4 year old antics, too. ;)

  19. Promise: the "oh sh*t" strap cracked me up! I have one of those that I used when we were breaking my Hanoverian mare, but I never had a name for it, that is just so appropriate! I loved that thing!

    Translation for you Western people: there is a strap that you can attach to the D rings on the front of an english saddle. So the strap basically comes up over the pommel of the saddle where a western horn would be. It's used a lot with lead line kids. Since they are being led and don't have reins, it gives them something to hold onto.

  20. I have a horse that hated to cross water (still does). To this day (the horse is twenty) I still have to be sure I have something to whack him with if I want to cross so much as a mud puddle. Getting him in the surf (which all my other horses will do) is pretty much impossible. I don't bring this up to discourage you, Promise, just be aware that some horses have a far greater aversion to water than others. It doesn't sound like your mare is in this category, just given what you've accomplished already.

    As for the lead thing, I have a question for you, mugwump. I find the dressage rider's responses interesting, too, but I don't ride my horses with that kind of leg contact, ever. Do you? My leg is loose, unless I'm cuing, and my cue for the lope is just outside leg bumping behind the cinch, and I sort of expect to get the lead I want and it comes. I think I automatically check that my horse is in the proper curve, nose tipped slightly to the inside when I cue. I'm not conciously aware of where the horse's legs are, but I always cue at the moment I feel that the horse can pick up the lead. Obviously I'm not much good as a helper, but I'm curious if this is how you ride your broke horses, or if I'm the only lazy rider, and everybody else is working away with these complicated, somewhat strenuous sounding cues.

    I do have a trick for getting right leaded horses in the left lead--as you may remember from my previous comments, rope horses need to take that left lead coming out of the box--taking the right lead is a big no-no. But as you say of your own methods, this is sort of a rough and ready approach, so I won't bring it up now. It works, though.

  21. Mugs, do you have any extra tips at 'feeling' the motion of a walk? I ride bareback alot but this isn't something I've picked up well on. I can sort of get it, but if I try to focus on more than one or two legs it all gets jumbled... also, is riding in snowpants a problem for these excercises? Iowa's got alot of snow...

  22. Sorry, didn't completely finish my thought - got interupted by a stupid thing called 'work'... ;)

    Of course the strap is not just for kids, it's great for hanging onto with a young horse or horse that's acting up. I didn't need it much with my young horse, but knowing it was there if I needed it gave me some much needed confidence.

  23. Mugs, forgot to ask... do you have any tips for ponying? I've been ponying the three year old off of the two year old (both wearing halters to avoid screwing up their mouths & bareback because it's winter) and we've been getting better, but the 3 can get really rowdy sometimes. I've found that pulling him in on a shorter lead instead of giving him his head when he tries to throw a fit works pretty well, but I'd like to get them good to the point where I can take them out in the open together.

  24. "I find the dressage rider's responses interesting, too, but I don't ride my horses with that kind of leg contact, ever."

    Hmmmm - I don't understand this cuz I love Dressage and I am never in full contact with my whole leg, bumping, pushing, squeezing, grabbing, clinging, hanging with my legs? It's not the first time I've seen the comment about dressage riders?

    Wonder if it's a terminology thing?

    Maybe it's not coming thru in e-mail correctly? I dunno.

    When I ride, my leg is long, I only use my calves when I cue them for something - to speed up, hold just a bit to slow down and for canter it is just what Mugwump described. Outside leg back a bit, inside leg at the girth to give the horse something to bend around. Otherwise my leg is relaxed and "off" the horse and in position with my heel aligned with my elbow aligned with my shoulder.

    The way the horse moves, causes my leg to lightly move with the horse. It's really noticable when you are bareback... your legs move as your horse walks and moves your seatbones/pelvis forward and back from the forward motion of the horse. This is what I refer to as "bumping" but it is in no way a concious taking my leg off and putting it back on to physically bump said horse. It is the natural motion of a riders leg as the horse moves. A slight brushing..

    I think if there is obvious leg movement, you are contantly moving your leg, constantly bumping, contstantly grabbing and pushing or clinging with a vice grip and things are really difficult/complicated you are doing something wrong.

    I've always been taught legs, seat, and then hands. So I'd ask for something with my leg first, if no response you involve your seat and then finally you get your hands involved. Is this the same in the western world?

    Maybe it's different because of the neck reining, loose reins?? I wouldn't think so cuz I've heard western can be very similar to dressage? And what I've read described here, it sounds like you cue with legs first...

    I'm confused by the view of dressage. The USEF rule book is the "bible" for what you are trying to acheive in Dressage - put together by top judges and trainers. It states:

    "The object of dressage is the harmonious development of the pysique and ability of the horse. As a result it makes the horse calm, supple, loose and flexible but also confident, attentive and keen thus achieving perfect understanding with is rider...the horse gives the impression of doing of his own accord what is required of him...They respond to the slightest indication of the rider and thereby give life and spirit to all the rest of his body..."

    On position and aids of the rider:

    "All movements should be obtained without apparent effort of the rider. He should be well balanced with his loins and hips supple, thighs and legs steady and well stretched downward...."

    Anyway - interesting discussion!

  25. can I beg for a shoulder post now? puhleeeeeze.... I am so frustrated. My horse sidepasses wonderfully, does a nice rollback and will move her shoulder into her circle at a WALK.. when I move to a trot, it all falls apart, she ignores my leg and pushes pushes pushes her outside shoulder out. I tried supporting with my outside rein more, still doesnt work. I just am at a total loss on what to try next. If I use too much inside rein, instead of a "C" I get an "L".. lol

  26. Ooh, perfect timing. I have an Arab mare who I'm about to start asking to engage her back- she likes to keep her head high and her back hollowed. She'll get her leads just fine (and is INCREDIBLY smooth), but she's always a little off balance. I see about a billion little circles in our future until she starts relaxing. This is probably out of your area of expertise, but any suggestions? Trot poles really help her round, and it's beautiful, but I'm not sure that'll be more than a situational fix.

    She rides in a loose-ring snaffle, bareback, dressage, or western saddle. Our work will probably be dressage or bareback.

  27. ETA: Not really an "L", but hopefully you get what I am trying to explain.....

  28. Oh wow. I may be a little tired for this - might have to come back and clarify on my coffee break tomorrow or

    something, but here goes nothing.

    "I find the dressage rider's responses interesting, too, but I don't ride my horses with that kind of leg contact, ever."

    Like anon comments, possibly this is a language barrier, but actually, I think not entirely.

    I've been thinking about this for a while now, after someone commented that reining was the western form of dressage, and have come to the conclusion that no, actually, it's not. I do not intend that comment to be in anyway detrimental to the sport, nor to be at all dismissive of something that I personally wouldn't have the first clue about doing!

    I'd like to ask what exactly is the ultimate point of reining and the other western disciplines from your respective pov's?
    My definition of the ultimate end goal of dressage is to produce a horse that is as strong, supple, balanced, responsive and impulsive as it possibly can be. To develop the horse so that it can show the full beauty of its paces despite the hindrance of the rider. To create the "ultimate" riding horse. (Yes, dressage horses that never come out of the arena piss me off too.)

    With that in mind, dressage is about developing rhythm, regularity, straightness, impulsiveness and cadence in the horse's movement. It really is all about the paces, the quality of them.

    The many and various school movements are intended to help the rider improve the horse's way of going. In the competitive world, they're elevated to an art form and an end of themselves, but that's not what they are for.

    And, honestly, I don't think you can have one without the other.

    But I digress and probably rant a little. Sorry!

    Back to the leg thing. It's been mentioned a couple of times now, enough for me to start paying attention. I suspect this is actually at the heart of what makes the difference between the disciplines, and the rein contact angle as a difference is a red herring.

    I don't have my legs "on" as in clamped on all the time and I don't know a dressage rider worth his or her salt who does. If you do that you end up with a horse who is dead to, or sits on the leg.

    I do use my legs a lot. Not just to cue a gait change, or to turn, but more like a running conversation. "Nudge, more impulsion, steady, bring that leg under, more impulsion, steady, don't swing that quarter, more impulsion, I'll lift a seatbone you bring that hip up, more impulsion, OK I'll support you a step, more please, keep the bend, rebalance please, more impulsion again, Oy! more forward..." and so on and so forth. The stronger and more balanced the horse becomes, the less we need the conversation to get things done. Of course, with a baby, you 'talk' less too, because it needs to learn the 'language'.

    I'm getting the impression that you don't do that, correct? If I am, I have further thoughts, but we'll see if I am first, before I make myself look daft.

    Mugs - that's what I do when I first get on any horse (assuming it's quiet.). Get on and we spend 5- 10 mins depending, on walking / trotting around actively on a light contact (no outline, unless the horse offers), doing no pressure circles and serpentines and rein changes, loosening up both the horse and myself, because I never was particularly bendy and these days I creak. It's a habit I picked up as a teenager, when I frequently had trouble getting into the right headspace due to tension and it's served me well.

  29. That was very interesting, Anon. I am not sure how much of it is a terminology thing, or if some stuff doesn't translate well when put into words. I know for myself, I have a very hard time articulating what I do when I ride. (I don't have any of mugwump's skill at this--I write fiction, remember.) I have ridden steadily since I was young and I am 51, everything I do comes automatically--I really have to stop and think if someone asks me how I do something. I hardly know how to put it into words. I will say that I bought my little trail horse from someone who tried to use him for dressage (not a particularly apt choice on her part and I believe that the horse--a team roping horse by trade, and not a particularly nice mover--frustrated her). When she rode the horse for me (in a snaffle bridle and English saddle), she seemed to be using her legs much more than I would ever do to keep a lot of impulsion, and she was also, in my view, pulling on the horse and he was pulling back, in a way that I, the western rider, found quite objectionable (no criticism here, just pointing out the differences). I took the horse home, put him in a mechanical hackamore, rode him with the almost non-existant contact that is typical for me and many western riders--not a completely loose rein, but barely any contact--no pulling at all, and the horse was just fine. Didn't pull on me, had a nice stop at just a touch on the reins..etc. The stuff I would want him to have. So from that I took that this particular dressage oriented rider, anyway, rode very differently than I do.

  30. FD--I think you got right to the heart of it. I don't know what mugwump will say, but I do ride very differently from you. My goal is not to have all that leg conversation going on. I may have to do some of that on a green horse, but as mugwump once said, on a broke horse I want to be able to "brush my teeth" or whatever and he'll keep loping along nice and steady, holding his circle. Obviously, it takes a bit of work to teach them to do this.

    As for goals of the training, that's an interesting question. I quit reining partly cause I didn't care for the goal of the training. Cutting and roping, which I did a lot of, are pretty straight forward. The goal for a cutter is cutting cattle, the goal for a team roper is roping cattle. There are lots of nuances to this that can't be explained in one short comment, but the intent of all the training is to enable the horse to succeeed at this event. Maybe show jumpers are like this? Or hunters?

    To get back to the loping on an almost loose rein with no leg going on....the goal of this in my eyes is that its the most pleasant way to lope a horse. If the horse has been taught to stay light and collected and obedient and respond to any cue you do give--stop, go left, change direction and change leads--this is just (in my view) a much more pleasant way to ride (and a whole lot less work) than that constant leg dialogue that you describe. I would find that irritating. So, back to my first point. Maybe I'm just a lazy rider(!)

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  32. Any tips on how to get a horse across water without a whip? My horse is a rescue from a former abusive situation, if I were to carry whip she would flip out (and I probably wouldn't stay on). I have tried leading her across, but she will plant her feet, grab the bit, and pull me back out of the water. The only way I have been able to get her in water is if another horse pushes her in, or if I trick her by getting her in it before she sees it (water in grass or catch her looking at something else then...oops we are in a puddle). Unfortantly, these methods don't work when we are riding alone or crossing creaks.

  33. This is going to sound weird, but in a way Laura, my goal is to not need to have the conversation either. The idea is for you and the horse to practically be able to read each others mind, and for cues to be feather-light and seamless to the observer. (Please let's not get into rollkur right now either, because frankly it's an abomination - albeit an abomination with some legitimate training uses. All of our sports have their horrors, sadly.)

    I also think 'your' collected might not be the same as 'my' collected.

    Anybody here got experience of both sports at high level?

  34. Aaaah, that's where you western and english people get it (sorry, this is said with all due respect to the learned folks on here) all wrong.
    There isn't a difference in the goal of the training.
    There is, or isn't, "self-carriage". Lightness of aids is always possible, but always time consuming.

    Thumping/bumping noodley dressage legs, and constant "go this way that way", strong contact is not the ultimate goal of dressage, IMO. It is light, adjustable, easy, self-carriage, and not all horses can do it. Think Reiner, or Nicole, or Christilot. I don't count the Anky's, sorry. That is controlled dynamite. No wonder she wants to go into reining!
    Novice dressage (well, any) riders do too much thinking/nagging/directing. Go forward, and straight, first.
    (cowers, back to corner)

  35. Fascinating comments!

    Just wanted to say I've been doing it wrong. I thought about this post tonight while I was riding the horse I have issues w/ the right lead on.

    It took my whole hour and some, but at the end, it clicked. I was doing perfect circles in the corners (never have done a perfect circle on any horse ever) and my horse was a lovely "c" shape and it was really cool. Yay!!


  36. I posted this once before, but this seems an apt time to post again.

    Shows a dressage horse, and a uh, western horse, the riders switch, and neither is able to get the performance from the horse of the other discipline, but the video is in excellent spirit and both seem to be very nice horses =)

    sorry, not sure which tags to use to make this a link =(

  37. not that...

    Here it is in two parts. Worth watching really, shrinks away embarrassed.

  38. You guys covered a lot of what I was going to say about the leg contact thing.

    Am I holding on to my horse's side with a death grip? No!

    But I certainly don't hold my legs away from the horse. At all.

    To me it's pretty much the same contact with my legs as contact with the bit: to the misunderstanding eye, it may look like you're just constantly holding on the horse's mouth or constantly squeezing, when in fact you maintain a soft connection for - as someone put it - an ongoing conversation.

    My legs hug my horse's side (well, ideally!) with the same light contact that I work towards in the reins. It's not a squeezing pressure - they're just there, gently resting against the sides. In transitions, I'll squeeze a little, saying, "Please keep your hind end under yourself and maintain forward movement in this transition." When we need to bend to the inside or leg-yield over, the inside leg squeezes more firmly, saying, "Bend around this leg and/or move away while bending, please."

    I really like the conversation explanation - that pretty much nailed it. Much like the contact in dressage is an ongoing conversation, the goal of which is to become lighter and quieter as training progresses.

  39. FD- thanks, sums up my believes/thoughts also.

    If I look at the video (a very good one, by the way) it’s interesting to note the differences between the two horses. Look at the outline, and the movements.
    I don’t know anything about western riding, I just have to comment on what I see in this video.
    I assume that the western horse shown is a good example?
    A horse that moves as the western horse does is very comfortable to sit on. I also believe that the horse is well schooled and well balanced. But if you started this horse in a dressage competition you would get marked down for lack of engagement in the hind legs and for the horse being on the forehand.
    So there are differences.

    If you moved over to sit on the dressage horse, I’m convinced that you would experience much more movement in the saddle, which might be harder to absorb. You have to be very focused on your own balance and seat.
    The more educated the horse, the smaller signals he responds to. You could not put an inexperienced rider on an experienced dressage horse, it would be total confusion.

    So yes, as a dressage rider maybe you have to be a bit more into details.
    But I still believe that the horse/rider interaction is much the same, western or dressage.
    I still believe that you cannot ask your horse to be balanced and bend correctly if the horse has a rider who is not in balance, and sits crookedly or to the outside.
    And the two riders didn’t do such a bad job when they changed, did they? :-)

  40. paintarab -
    My mare was also abused, she's 15 now, and was abused as a yearling and 2 year old before I met/purchased her. It takes time to get them to realize the whip isn't there to cause them pain anymore. Your mare may never get over it...mine still has her moments, lol. I rarely need one, and it was my last resort in this particular situation. She simply planted her feet and was pulling back, it was a lose-lose situation. When I tapped her hock, she moved away from the pressure as she's been taught to do. And since I didn't whack her - plus she knows I don't intend to beat her - she maintained her confidence in me that the water wouldn't in fact eat her. I'm not sure what the trick would be with your mare since she gets so worried when a whip is around. Any way to bribe her?

    Yes, my "oh sh*t" strap came in very handy from the time she was 4 to about 6 or 7 when she stopped growing and could finally have a saddle that fit her 100%. Up till then, I had a rodeo bronc about 85% of the time I went to get on. Not fun on a 16.2 Hanoverian cross!

  41. Esquared - ponying is definitely an area of expertise for me, after many years in polo ponying multiples, so I'll respond to that!

    You are right that shorter is better. I like to keep their nose no further forward than my horse's withers. It's a PITA if they try to cut in front but equally dangerous if they cut behind (voice of experience, having had the lead-rope-jammed-under-MY-horse's-tail episode).

    If your youngster is too rowdy outdoors, invest in either a longe caveson or if he's really feisty, get one of the metal nosebands shown here. The metal noseband will keep even the strongest horse at your side where he belongs (and save your back!). It probably goes without saying that it's smart to turn a feisty one out first and let him do his playing before a ponying session.

  42. And we all have to keep in mind that there are good and bad riders in every discipline.

    There are new people learning who aren't going to ride wonderfully (yet) and there are more experienced people that do it badly as well.

    There are also people that ride wonderfully and understand concepts and they are a beautiful picture to watch when they are on a horse because everything is so fluid and smooth.

    We all get different things out of our horses or the way we've chosen to ride.

    Seeing a bad ride isn't indicative of all riders in that sport or discipline. I don't care if it's Western, English, Driving...

    I think ideally we are all working to ride our best and keep our horses happily working with us.

  43. Collection, for me, is the horse loping along, carrying himself in an appropriate frame to stop in one stride at my light signal on the reins. He has to be ready to execute a 180 rollback at another light neck rein signal and jump out again in whatever lead I choose. This manuever is the foundation of cow work, at its most basic. You are moving a cow from here to there and cow ducks back and tries to go the wrong way. Horse has to be ready and able to turn him. So, when I lope around my arena at home I want my horse collected in this frame at all times. I am not pulling on him at all, once he has learned to do it. I ride with almost loose reins (I never ride "thrown away" any more since I had one horse do a somersault from the slow lope--something I could have prevented had I not been loping on a completely loose rein). It is all "self carriage", as someone said here. We are both relaxed. I am not bumping squeezing or anything else with either my hands or legs, unless he gives me a sign that he wants to quit, in which case he gets a sharp bump as a reminder that he's not to do that until I tell him. Obviously, I, or someone, has to do some work, which involves lots of active hands and legs, to teach the horse to do this. But this is the desired end result (for me).

  44. Laura,
    You ride alot like I do. I like to have control of a horse, but not do all the leg stuff. I lope a horse around ask to go one way or another and they should go there without hesitation. You can call me a lazy rider, but one of the reasons I wanted out of the reining cow horse stuff was all the work with the legs. I HATE doing all that driving forward and making sure that they are driving from the rear. But on that same note, I AM glad that I went through all those lessons on cow horses because it has given me a whole new perspective on their body positions and where they are leaning or diving in. It has helped me IMMENSLEY with my new horse that I am going to go cut on...but what I would give to have my old mare back and just lope around with loose reins and completly trust what she was going to go where I wanted her to go and when I say "WHOA" she drug her butt in the ground. But I bet now that I am more aware of the horses body position, I would probably think that my old mare would be stiff, just like my new horse. I am working him on getting him to bend more, but boy is he stiff. I have had him checked by a chiro, so I know that isn't his problem, but it was the way that he was trained. "Some" cutters don't really care how their horses move during the warm up, but they do all their stuff on the cow. This horse was never really taught(IMO) to follow his nose and to lope the proper way. If I try to tip his nose in, to get more bend at the trot, he dives his shoulders in and makes a small circle...not at all what I was asking for! But with several months of work, we will get there and hopefully I can lope around again.

  45. OK- I am going to kinda sorta comment here. There are no hard fast rules regarding leg use when on a "western" horse. We have different saddles for different events, different methods of riding to get different things done and as many different approaches as there are riders.We have highly successful riders and really bad ones. Lumping us into riding with legs or without categories is about as silly as lumping racehorses, HUS and dressage riders as English horses.I would imagine the leg use is different in each area.
    I'm guessing we could be tempted into thinking our way, (whatever it is) is the best or only way.
    I'm personally interested in this because I pick from many disciplines to develop the way I ride.
    My working plan is to ask my horses with my legs before I go in with my hands. But I teach my green horses to respond to my hands before I add my legs. Why? Because thay are taught to lead before I ride, so my training is an extention from that.
    My legs are added later. Eventually my horses learn to respond to legs first.
    Lazy? Somebody asked me once when I would think one of my horses was truly finished.
    I told them, "When I can call down to the barn and she has herself saddled, warmed up and ready to work."
    So I guess I'm pretty lazy.

  46. One more comment-The reiner in the dressage/reining video is NOT an ideal reining horse. Nor is the rider one of the best. I can't comment on the dressage horse because I don't know. Heavy on the front end is universal I'm afraid. Our horses travel much flatter than dressage horses, but they should still work completely off their hind ends.

  47. Good to know Mugs, thanks. I really didn't know what I was posting in terms of the reining horse and rider. But I love the contrast and general spirit of the demo =)

    Not surprising (I suppose) that they didn't have the best western horse and rider available in Europe for that performance.

  48. Ok, so here's my update, if that's what you want to call it. Things didn't work out as planned and horse wasn't paying a bit of attention to me because my 4 year old was there and she wanted to keep going to him instead of listening to me. She finds him fascinating for some odd reason.

    I also forgot my paper at home to see what I should be analyzing. So I tried my best from what I studied to do what you said to look for, but I got messed up with some comments that I had read and did some of that stuff too. Here's what I discovered in any case, and this is a "to be continued......" comment. I will ride again (when it's not 5 degrees out) and come back with a better report :) k?

    I went out and was too wussy to ride bareback so saddled up my girl. lol I walked her to try to get a feel of which foot was hitting the ground. Fronts, I was pretty good at. Backs? Lousy. I finally had my husband call them out so that I could get a real good feeling of which leg hitting the ground felt like what. Then I rode a little and tried again. I kinda sorta got the feel of the back right, but not the back left. What's my deal? I guess in all my lessons I was never told to do that and I admit I have no feeling for this. SO that will be #1 on my to do list when I'm riding from now on until I get it. Feel her movements so I can tell what she's doing.

    Then I went to circles in the corners. HA. If circles have 4 turns, then we did good. If not, we did just a few curves but mostly turns. Then we got to the point where she was totally fighting me just using my reins and hand/arm to turn her. She braced her neck, lifted her chin to the way I wanted her to go, but then walked the opposite way. Like a rebelious teen. I felt like I did more fighting with her than truely analyzing. Which I know was a mistake because you said not to force her. Sorry! She did not once form anything close to a "C" even when she did manage a non pointed circle. Unless of course my visualized 'c' is something out of a flashdance movie and impossible for a horse. Then it is possible she was trying for a c shape.

    I was trying to be patient, but was on limited time, so I moved to the feet out of stirrups, and checking myself out. By the way, my mare was totally at ease and licking away at her bit. Here's where your advice on paper in hand would have been nice because I couldn't remember what you said to do then. So I just kind of shifted my weight around while walking to see how she would respond to that instead of reins. She did slightly repond to the left, but nothing when I shifted to the right. She just kept going where she wanted to. I don't think I was doing it right, so after my next ride, that part will be in the "to be continued" update comment. What I did notice though, was that the saddle didn't slip once while my feet weren't in the stirrups. While walking OR jogging straight or turning. When I do my normal riding, my saddle is CONSTANTLY slipping to the left and I can't figure out why. So I'm apparently more balanced when my feet are not in the stirrups. Can you tell me what that might mean? Because I'm at a loss.

    With regards to the part about my legs, I couldn't remember what you wrote, but I recalled something about pointing hips to opposite ear, so that's what I was doing. And that didn't provide any type of steering result whatsoever. Obviously upon review of your post, that was not what I was supposed to be doing, lol. So I will have to retry that. But I do realize that when I ride, my legs are away from her sides, because as I attempted to put my legs on her, with feet not in stirrups, she would speed up, and quickly. A lot quicker than when my feet are in the stirrups. So I must look pretty retarded when I'm riding with my legs not touching her, lol. I know that my normal technique is to neck rein with legs on her to "push" her in the direction I want her. For example, she responded quickly to that last night when I just touched the right side rein to her right side neck than she did with leading her by guiding her nose with the left rein.

    I definitely learned that I need to really work on my feel and feel what my horse is actually doing. So thank you for that :)

    Ok, for now, that's it. I will comment again after my next ride, so this be continued.....

  49. EP, Perhaps you are tipping the saddle left by placing a disproportionate amount of weight in the left stirrup. Something you can't do with your feet out of the stirrups. I have to correct for a tendency to place too much weight into the right stirrup. I also tend to stretch further down into my right heel.

    Perhaps between the two of us we could be balanced =)

  50. Ezra- Remember. We are not in a hurry! This is about figuring things out. That's all. If it takes weeks that's fine. There's no time table here.
    So you're doing great.
    I am not dissing anybody who is joining in here, BUT! Please,Ezra, while your working with me, just work with me. Don't add in any outside advice until you understand what you and I are doing. OK?
    There is good input here, but you have to pick one person and go with it. You will just get confused if you try to sort it out now.
    We'll just fight back and forth amongst ourselves, you need to tune us out and ride.
    Your stiff headed four cornered circles are just fine. You found a hole, yay! Remember, we like holes.
    So when you circle her to the right, take her nose, bend it and hold until she relaxes and walks at least a few steps in her circle.
    Sometimes I'll get a cone and walk around that. I'll pretend there is a 10 foot string from the cone to my knee and I can't have any slack in my string.
    Keep circling her in the corners, they will help hold her up.This could take awhile. Be patient.

  51. I had a feeling we would find a shift in your weight by taking your feet out of the stirrups. Keep it up. Take your feet out, put them in(while moving) take them out, back will help. I want you to think and figure this out....

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  53. Ok sensai :)) I will have eyes for your words only now. I just get too excited and I think I expect too much too soon. I love riding and I love my horse and I just want everything to work out good. I will keep on that and read your new blog post as well.

  54. If I have offended anyone, then I am sorry. It was certainly not intended.
    I am no “DQ”, GoLightly.
    I have been riding for 40 years, but have never been one of those envious few that have a natural talent or a lot of money – so I have had to work hard, not the least with my seat and posture.
    We all are a product of our past. As I have had to work hard with my seat maybe I have become a bit of a nerd just for this reason. But I have also seen what a large impact it makes.
    Yes, you have to ride on feel.
    But if you only ride on feel and do not try to find out what you did that made the difference that day when your horse worked like an angel instead of the day before when nothing worked at all, then your road will be much longer than necessary.
    If in addition you are to explain things to others, it will be much harder if you do not reflect on how your own interaction with the horse works.
    I just have to conclude that my life is too short for me to become the rider of my dreams.
    But I am certainly going to do the best I can to improve myself as long as I am fit to ride.
    I will try to get all the input I can, digest it, try it and see what works.
    I had the impression that this was a place to exchange thoughts, even if it was experiences from another discipline.
    If my thoughts were made in a form that caused offence, once again, I apologize.
    Please also bear in mind that I am not American, and English is not my native tongue. As well as we are riding different disciplines, we also come from different part of the world, which again influences how we communicate.
    I will refrain from commenting in the future unless you specifically ask for it, Mugs.

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  56. HorseofCourse--I really enjoy your comments. When I pointed out the differences in how I ride--it wasn't in a negative spirit. I am interested in the differences and similarities. I wasn't lying when I said I'm lazy. I ride the way I do partly because its the easiest and most pleasant for me. Its also an extension of the sort of riding that most cowhorse types practice (this is a generalization). Doesn't mean its better or "right". I know that mugwump enjoys your comments, too, and has said so, and even mentioned to me that she likes how you think. Just so you know.

  57. HorseofCourse- I love your comments too, your explanations are great. I have a decent understanding of dressage in my own head, but cannot express my thoughts with words. You are very good at it, so please don't stop!

    GoLightly- You seem to keep worrying that you have to watch out for 'flames' here on this blog. One of the things I love about this blog (aside from Mug's awesome writing :) is that all the people who comment seem to be genuinely nice people who are open minded and encouraging. I love the fact that this blog is so positive. I don't think you have to worry so much that people will flame you for your thoughts and opinions. Let's try to focus on what's important here, becoming better riders/trainers and keeping our horses healthy and happy :)

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  59. Yup, I am with you guys. I love the variety here, it is an excellent source of food for thought.

    However too much input when working on a specific issue can create too much inconsistency for horse and rider.

    It is a great exercise in focus, tuning out all of the chatter =) The chatter is what makes this blog for sure. Well Mugs is what makes it, but the chatter is like icing on the cake!

  60. You know GoLightly, that’s what I believe too – that there are more similarities than differences.
    And I find it very intriguing to look into “your” horse world. And I am curious about how you do things, and if I can get some new angles, or solve some of my problems in a new way.
    The thing is that if you are to relate to something unknown, which Western riding is for me – it’s really difficult. I don’t know what you do at all.
    So I guess what I do is kind of throwing out some thoughts/experiences, and see what fish I get. I can only contribute with my own experiences. How do my experiences differ from yours?
    I did not know that there were any animosities between Western and English riders, sorry.
    I am just plain curious.

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  62. Laura, thanks for your kind reply. Nice to hear.
    I have been thinking about what you wrote about collection. Your definition of collection is not the same as mine (as a dressage rider).
    So what do I mean?
    (Again, just my personal thoughts here)
    In the dressage world collection equals ability to engage the hind legs over time.
    When you start to ride a young horse, it’s rather on the forehand. So you work to get a good, balanced working trot with a nice rhythm and contact, and you work to keep the balance in transitions and in change of directions.
    When this is coming on, you begin to work with the straightness in the horse. All horses are crooked, as well as us riders unfortunately. An example: most horses, when they canter/lope along the rail place the hind legs slightly to the inside. (Do you correct this in a western horse?) So in this example we have to work to get the horse straight by placing the front of the horse slightly inwards from the rail.
    In my world we believe that the hind legs are the motor of the horse (same for you?) so we always correct the front end in line with the motor. And we need full throttle on both propellers. If not, we will get irregularities in the gaits and problems to execute the movements later on. So the horse is to use both hind legs straight under, with equal force.
    The same “straightness” also is used to describe how the horse has to work correctly in corners and circles. It should be in balance, with an even bend in the body that equals the circle, not leaning in, not putting the hind legs to the outside/inside, and not jack-knifing (falling out through the outer shoulder)
    This is a never ending job. (I believe that a good dressage rider should act like a physiotherapist to the horse :-) Away with stiffness, crookedness and work that body!)

    Then you start to play with the impulsion and collection of the horse.
    The horse’s hind legs can either carry or push.
    In a TB race horse as an example, you have long, low, ground covering strides with a great ability to push.
    A well educated dressage horse has a great ability to carry.
    All horses are constructed differently, and have more or less natural talent for what we call collection – but really it’s a question about building strength, over years.
    I’ll try a simplified explanation: what you do in the start is to put energy into the horse (back to the leg-discussion :-)) but when your horse answers with increased speed (which they do in the beginning) you balance it up with a soft closing of seat and hand, a half-halt, and ask it to bring the legs under instead. When the horse then happily turns off the engine instead (which they are likely to do in the beginning) you again ask for more energy and concentrate to keep the same rhythm.
    What we aim for is for the horse to be able to lengthen and shorten(collect) the stride keeping the same rhythm, keeping balance, keeping the outline and with a soft contact in the hand.
    Increased collection is actually increased ability to carry.
    The more you train, the stronger the horse gets. And with correct work, the ability to collect increases. But it’s a long, difficult road, both for the horse and the rider.
    When a horse collects you can see that the moment of suspension gets longer, more ”air under the stomach”, the hind legs bend more in the hocks to get the legs more under the body, and the front of the horse elevates.
    I believe it is easiest to illustrate increasing degrees of collection with the different dressage movements in trot:
    Working trot – collected trot – passage – piaffe.
    Passage is what the dressage horse in the you-tube video executes when they come into the arena.
    Piaffe is when the horse “trots on the same spot”.
    I believe you all have been sitting on a horse when it sees something spooky? And felt the horse grow under you? Suddenly it’s two sizes larger than it was just a second ago.
    This is in a way the feeling you get when you sit on an educated dressage horse.
    It kind of turns your average Ford into a Ferrari.
    I love it.

  63. Oh, I forgot one important thing. A true collection actually requires more energy than a lengthening of the stride. A horse that just shortens the stride, but plods/shuffles along with the hind legs is not collected! What the horse lose in stride length it must compensate with engagement in the hind legs, as described above.