For those who don’t know, below is the USDF training scale:
Classical dressage training follows this order from bottom to top. Of course, sometimes you work on a step above to help get a step below, but for the most part, this is how a horse progresses in his training.
When I get frustrated with our progress I think about this pyramid because it helps me see that PJ really isn’t all that behind in his training. What do I mean? Well, PJ has never really had a problem with rhythm, which is the basis of everything else. We also don’t have a problem with relaxation. Tension seems to be a common problem but not for us.
But where I’ve been the most stuck, and not just with PJ, is connection. That’s what we worked on today. Looking down helped me. So did putting my knuckles on his whithers so I didn’t move my hands. And low and behold, when we (more correctly, I) got it right, PJ actually developed some impulsion, the next step up.
One of the greatest lessons of looking at the training pyramid is that when things start to unravel, go down a step. More an issue with my last horse, when I had problems with relaxation, I thought of keeping a steady rhythm and the problem usually corrected itself. And don’t try to skip steps. For example, don’t go for an all out medium canter if you don’t have the horse on the bit or else he will loose his balance.
I’m so excited to be working on connection, and even more excited that I saw an improvement in PJ’s whole way of going once we got it. I sure got my work cut out for me, though.