Throughout my riding and training career, I have been in a position to observe many hundreds of riders and trainers working their horses and see how training problems arise and the many different ways that people approach possible solutions to these difficulties.
It is clear that the primary causes of difficulties during training occur through either a lack of understanding between the horse and rider, or physical difficulty for the horse. Retrying the same exercise rarely produces the desired result, often the horse can become more resistant, and the rider or trainer more frustrated.
It is necessary to step back from the problem and for the rider/trainer to establish why the movement is not working. Is the horse blocked, is the exercise physically too difficult, does the horse understand what is being asked?
Solutions can more often be found by going back to a more basic exercise. Where the basic movements have been correctly trained, they not only provide a solid foundation for progression to the next level of training but can be used to re-establish the rider’s connection with the horse, to correct a lack of engagement or balance, or to set up the more difficult exercise again.
For example, your horse is falling onto their shoulder and running when you ask for a lengthened stride in trot. Riding a very correct walk or trot shoulder-in will help to reengage the horse’s hind legs and bring balance and lightness back to their forehand.
Once the fundamental problem has been resolved, returning to the original exercise is usually more successful.
Diane Followell - Training Riders, Transforming Horses
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer
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