The difference between making and teaching the piaffe is only one second. Do you know how to teach the piaffe to your horse?
A horse that is very laid-back and maybe extremely lazy, often struggles to get himself motivated. How do you get those horses to be in control of themselves, how do they learn to give themselves a feeling of having energy, of being athletic, of being something that is feeling good? That’s where my Groundwork Wednesday comes in!
Leading your horse safely is vital when you have a hot horse or work with a lot of different horses. So I set out and recorded a video to show people how what I do to lead my horses anywhere safely and how to respond when your horse has a lot of energy and wants to run over you.
During TRT Live in the Netherlands, I had the pleasure to meet Electric Pleasure. This mare really lived up to her name! It took me quite a while to teach her that she didn’t have to rely on her natural instincts, but that she could manage herself instead.
You can see clips from the demonstration in the video below.
Do you have problems with tension and spookiness? Check out this FREE video series to help you solve these issues!
During the FEI Dressage World Cup Finals in Gothenburg, Sweden, I’ve been talking about the horse’s SMS: Self-Management System.
Do you want to learn about a horse’s Self-Management System and preventing tension at competitions? Check out this free video series!
One of our online members asked me what she should do when her horse is spooking and she feels that she is reacting in her body to when her horse spooks.
If you have a horse that’s a little bit nervous or that’s prone to spooking, your anticipation to that spook is creating tension in your body. It’s a natural reaction, but it will definitely create tension and anticipation in your horse’s body as well.
So what can you do to prevent that?
You can try to create a simulation of the situation where you think of your horse spooking and then going through the steps of what you would do in that situation.
You can do that as follows. The next time you’re riding your horse in the arena, pretend there is a scary corner and ride your horse towards it.
When you arrive there, and even though your horse hasn’t spooked, just think: ‘My horse has spooked’ and start going through the steps (see module 3 of the online program) of creating a relaxed posture and therefore a relaxed mindset.
Your body will then go into the action phase where you go through the motions of what you might do in that situation. In that way you’re taking positive action in knowing what it is you have to do.
When you’re doing this simulation, you’re preparing yourself and creating in your mind the knowledge of what action you need to take in that moment.
It’s like a fake fire alarm. Everybody does a drill and when they hear the alarm, they know that they have to go outside the building towards the meeting place.
Now you can feel what it’s like to gain control of the situation. So unconsciously you start to feel confident that you know what you have to do the next time your horse spooks.
Secondly, you have to tell yourself that you’re not going into this action plan unless there really is a fire.
I understand you want to be prepared, but don’t enter the building and practice the drill every time. Just wait until there actually is a moment where it requires you to take action.
Therefore you’re not preempting the expectation that the horse is going to spook. You have an action plan and now you’re just going to focus on your riding and what you’re doing.
That’s relieving that tension in you and giving you purpose and knowledge of knowing what you need to do when there actually is an emergency.
It takes away that anticipation of trying to prevent it. Because when you know what to do, you no longer have to prevent it.
Do you have problems with tension during shows and competitions? Check out this FREE video series to help you prevent that!
I often get the question what to do when a horse all of a sudden ‘explodes’. Before the explosion it seemed as if everything was under control, but then you get a burst of tension that you didn’t expect and it felt like it came out of nothing.
It’s a very unpleasant situation, because how can you prepare yourself and your horse for a situation that you don’t feel coming?
Protection through a state of readiness
Even though it seems as if your horse explodes out of nothing and has gone from a pressure level of 2 to 10 in a split second, there’s often something else going on. Very often, the pressure has been slowly building up in your horse through his posture.
Tension builds up in the body as a means of protecting himself. A tension or posture gives a heightened state of alertness or readiness to flee. When the pressure or threat in the environment becomes higher than the horse coping level, it’s then that the explosion comes.
Some horses can become almost comfortable in this heightened state or readiness in their body through a feeling that they are protecting themselves to a certain level and therefore seem relaxed and normal while under there’s a pressure level barrier.
Often the biggest contributor to this pressure barrier being created is desensitizing where the horse becomes desensitive or numb, ignoring the pressure in his surroundings up to the level he was desensitized to or gotten used to. Everything will be fine until the pressure in the environment passes that level.
It can be difficult to notice that building up of pressure when riding. Because it’s not easy to ask all the right questions in a safe position from the saddle, we go to the groundwork. On the ground you can see more clearly all the signs from the horse.
If he is acknowledging all the questions being asked of him and making good, positive decisions in the reactions in his body. Or if he is mentally going to another place in the back of his mind, ignoring or blocking out the pressures in his surrounding.
As soon as I start to present the horse with an object to begin to ask a question I want to see that the horse is present and gives an answer even if it’s the wrong one. At least then I can continue teaching him what is right and what is wrong. What we don’t want to see is the horse standing like a statue, staring into space hoping that if he ignores the pressure that it will go away.
You can see this happening in the video below, filmed at a demonstration I gave recently. The problem with this horse is that he’s afraid of other horses and is used to blocking out the pressures in his environment to being able to cope.
It’s of importance that a horse stays present and that he doesn’t shut down and ignores the situation. I often find that the longer a horse shuts down, the more intensive the response will be once he can’t ignore it any longer.
You want a horse to be looking for the right answer and looking for the right way to handle the situation. It’s alright when it’s not the right answer straight away. It’s alright if a horse first tries to move away from the pressure. You then have the opportunity to tell him that’s not the right answer and teach your horse what a better response would be.
You don’t want it to be like someone who’s in the classroom thinking to himself: ‘don’t pick me, don’t pick me. When this question gets any harder, I’ll run out of the classroom!’ I often say that not giving an answer is not the right answer.
Find that switch
When you have a horse that explodes all of a sudden, try finding a way that you build up the pressure in such a way that he has to give a reaction, but not too much of a reaction that he runs off. So carefully look how much pressure you should give for him not to be able to ignore it any longer, but also not that it becomes too overwhelming and that you get the explosion.
With the TRT method I first teach a horse how to relax himself in the body giving him good body awareness and how he can find that relaxed place in his physical state. Then I start asking questions to the horse of how he would respond to each individual pressure he will face in our human environment. I’m teaching him the right physical action in his body that gives him the ability to control himself which gives him an empowering feeling of stability and control in his mind.
Even though you might only have the problem while riding, try fixing the problem first on the ground. You might say: ‘well, he doesn’t explode on the ground. I can wave a flag all day and nothing happens.’ Make sure you’re then applying the right type of pressure for that horse and the right amount of pressure to try and encourage active participation in the horse.
It has no use to wave a flag all day and not get a response. Get a different tool or use it in a different way so that you find that pressure level that creates the switch in his body. Invite your horse to go from not wanting to give an answer to giving the wrong answer. You can then show him what the right answer looks like.
Do you have problems with exploding, tension and spookiness? Check out this FREE video series to help you solve these issues!