I think I mentioned yesterday that I've been letting Moo help me plan Chaps early training days. Part of this difficult task has been to ascertain exactly what I need to be training. In my previous life it was easy, lol, written down in every classical dressage book ever written. Now truly not much has changed except the lack of contact inside the mouth (to be fair that's quite a biggy if you talk to a true classicist) and many (read that as most) of the tenets that have always bound me to my training are still in place. No, what really has changed is the how, the method in other words. My buzz words are still ...light, energy, soft, together, power, engage and so on but now I have to reinvent my methods of achieving this nirvana.
I would love to sit here and just spew, it's all in my head but not beautifully formed as yet. I imagine I'll manage to put my thoughts down better when Moo has explained them more fully to me (rolley eye smiley just here). So I will try to give a general feel of what we've been working on and specifics as and when. I was hoping to have some video for tonight but as Claire so kindly sent me her rain it wasn't really the weather for filming.
I was given the task on the bitless forum of becoming more precise on my exercises, maybe using poles and markers to stop/turn at very specific points. Now I see the benefit of this but I also see the huge downsides; go look at Parelli type 'gamed' horses (sorry to all Parelli type trainers but the horses look dead and physically unhingeds to me) and that's one reason I don't want to be getting over accurate at this point in time. I still want there to be room for us to converse rather than beating ourselves with a ground pole (scuse the pun).
So I have marked out an area in the school with cones; it's roughly circle shaped but it could really be any shape. It doesn't touch the sides or the ends and sits roughly central in the school about 12/14 meters diameter. This is what I'm going to call my 'area of influence' and I started using it in-hand to begin with and then lunging and finally ridden. The rules are simple, you can only apply any aids/cues within the area of influence, outside of the area the horse gets to think for himself and develop the balance required to perform the task in hand; outside of the area you must not use any influence except body turning in the case of riding; no contact AT ALL through the hand (I am still using the cordeo in conjunction with the bitless). You can mark the area with anything, cones, poles, ropes etc, basically anything low level and relatively inconspicuous. It's not the size of the marker that trains the exercise but the intent of the rider. I'm finding cones work best as I use them for yielding around, turning and so on but different things would be good just to keep it bright and alive.
The main benefits of the area of influence are rider focussed (well most training is) but the big plus is the confidence the horse gains when working for the periods outside of the area. Things that seem to work well within the area (unsurprisingly) are transitions (direct and within the gait), reinback, turn on the forehand/giravolta, yielding (through the shoulder, through the quarters or leg yielding), any lateral movements.
Yesterday I played more with this and had an incredible session with Moo. We worked on changes of direction in the area through a transition and sometimes reinback (figure of eight) and it all got so light that he 'offered' a walk/canter transition that was so light and with bags of energy...I'm still smiling.
If you have lasted this long then take a medal, it's just really to help my memory but feel free to feedback, god knows I need all the help I can get ;-)