|Lady Fergie (as I call her) at her first show competing in Intro Test A, where she received praise from the judge for her steady rhythm.|
Long before I ask a horse for any kind of contact with the bit I want to make sure they are moving in a steady rhythm at all three gaits: walk, trot, and canter. Once she had a steady rhythm she began to relax, then look for a connection to the bit and to feel for my hands. Occasionally she now stretches and creates some impulsion in a few of her strides before she physically needs a break and to rest, focusing again on rhythm and relaxation. This is great progress for her particularly because she has also been a rehabilitation horse. She needed muscle development and flexibility due to her having broken her withers as a youngster and the consequential scar tissue that developed. When she first arrived we wondered if she would be physically able to do the things we'd like of her, but she has proved a very willing and happy horse, and tries her best to do everything we ask of her, as she is able. We never ask for more than she can do, and anything she offers us above that is really commendable on her part.
This process sums up the several months of under saddle training Fergie has had here, and it also illustrates EACH RIDE. When I first get on a horse, or when I first have Fergie's owner get on her, I tell her not to worry about being straight, or going deep into the corners, or even steering at first. The only thing that matters at the beginning of each ride is that the horse finds her rhythm. Once that is established she will start to relax, and then look for the rider's hands through a connection to the bit via reins. As her warm up continues she will add impulsion, and then steering suddenly works better to achieve straightness with that connection to the bit, and ultimately the horse will achieve some kind of weight shift onto her haunches, which is collection.
So not only is the training pyramid a philosophy for training a horse through a lifetime, but also a guide for training the horse within each ride.