I recently read with interest in a Horse and Hound article that the German Dressage Federation has published an updated version of the well-known Training Scales. (http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/the-principles-of-riding-book-627462)
The origin of the training scale is unclear, but it has become widely adopted by the dressage community. The training scales identify some of the major elements required in training horses, and attempts to display the scale pictorially show how difficult it is to portray the complexity of dressage training as the qualities are very interconnected. Add to this the variety of alternative elements used by different authors as well as differing terms, it becomes confusing.
The diagrams tend towards a linear format that encourages the reader to follow a linear approach to their training, however, dressage training is not linear. Each element affects the others and progression is more circular than linear. Some authors have tried to portray a more interconnected version of the training scale, but these diagrams are, necessarily, very complex.
It’s easy to see how all this can be misinterpreted, however, the key is that each element is dependent on the others, and trainers should be conscious of this throughout their riding, e.g. ask for more impulsion and the cadence changes and needs to be readdressed.
The latest version in the “Principles of Riding: Basic Training for Horse and Rider” (above) shows that the elements are connected, but still implies a linear training system. The text that accompanies the diagram is much more informative. Each element has a relevant description and the main focus of the writing is that the steps influence each other and that the rider should understand and respect the natural abilities of each horse, never pushing them beyond what they can achieve at any given time. There is also more emphasis on the rider taking responsibility for the problems that occur, looking to themselves first before their horse. This is an improvement to previous versions, but despite efforts to clarify and refine the training scales, it remains a linear process; a good starting point but not necessarily the whole picture.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer