Training on your own is like working in a laboratory, where you have the freedom to experiment within the boundaries of proven training principles.
I’ve been working in my liberty laboratory – my ‘lib lab’ – a lot lately to investigate training at liberty with multiple horses. Because I believe that the more I can understand a horse’s brain, the better I can train.
Now in my lab I’ve been experimenting and therefore I also made ‘mistakes’. So sometimes my approach was working, sometimes it didn’t, sometimes I had all horses nicely lined up, sometimes I ‘lost’ a horse. Or one of them didn’t understand what I meant. Or one horse put much more effort into the task than the other two. So I had to figure out how to get all minds aligned to the task.
Many riders with gaited horses think they don’t need to do the ‘common’ dressage exercises, because they practice other gaits.
But a gaited horse is just a horse, it has the same muscles and the same bones and the same asymmetry. And no horse is made to carry a rider – no matter what breed, no matter if it’s a gaited horse or not – because by nature most weight is on a horse’s fragile fore legs.
So all core exercises of ST are needed for any kind of (gaited) horse to help the horse transform from natural balance – the picture on the left where the horse is caryring more weight on the front legs – to artifical balance – the picture on top of the ladder, where the horse is carrying more weight on the hind legs. And this rebalancing can take place by transforming the ability from the hind legs from ‘pushing’ ability to also a ‘carrying’ ability.
Now for a clean tölt you need free shoulders and hind legs that are equally strong. That’s why tölt is at the same level of piaffe.
ST Instructor Meg Brauch and ST Mastery Student Carolyn McEvitt made it into the magazine ‘Dressage Today‘ this month in an article about online training. Last year Meg and Carolyn were interviewed by this American magazine for the online Mastery Program.
Prince Elmelund even has a photo with Marijke and Meg from the 2014 ST Live Event in Amsterdam!
Is your horse spooky in a certain corner of the riding arena?
Then you might be dealing with ‘conditioned fear‘.
With ‘true fear‘, the horse might have never been in that corner in his whole life and a good horseman let this horse investigate the ‘scary’ corner and then the horse will learn that it’s not scary at all.
But with ‘conditioned fear’, the horse might have been hesitated to go through a corner in the past and he might have then be pushed by the rider when he was not mentally ready. Then he associates the corner with ‘unpleasant’. And when he’s always pushed when approaching new things, at some point the horse starts to expect ‘stressors’ every time a new thing pops up. Then with every new thing he faces in life he starts to get less or more into a state of flight or fight. Then his fear is conditioned.
Now when you’ve baught a horse with conditioned fear, it’s hard to explain to the horse that punishment and ‘stressors’ are not going to come out anyore when he approaches a new thing. Then you need to do some counter-conditioning, and this is how you do it:
When a horse is always spooky in a certain part of the riding arena, start to make this a pleasurable area by giving the horse a ‘release, reward and relax’ moment in this particular area of the riding arena. After a while the horse starts to associate the ‘spooky spot’ as a ‘sweet spot’ and that’s the power of counter-conditioning. With counter-conditioning you can ‘overwrite’ your horse’s feelings concerning the corner and your horse will start to look forward to being in that corner.
Check out the video to see how to do it in practice: