The Training Scale is separated into three parts.
The phase of understanding and confidence focuses on the maintenance of the rhythm, relaxation and the development of suppleness, and the acceptance of the contact and connection. Mental anxiety and physical tension are intimately related yet too often overlooked or unaddressed in the quest to progress quickly up the levels. Impatience has ruined far more horses than patience ever could.
Impulsion and straightness lead to the development of pushing power. Classically, impulsion is a question of training. "The rider uses the horse's natural pace and adds looseness, forward thrust and suppleness to it." (FEI Dressage Handbook for Judging) Through the trust and partnership already established, the desire to move freely forward into a receiving, recycling rein has been firmly established. Desire, not force, is the key component to creating a willing horse.
As the horse's physical and mental aptitudes allow, the rider can introduce engagement for the development of carrying power. The rider has prepared the horse for collection by focusing on straightness. The horse is supple and through, ridden equally into both reins. Now, we are able to shift the balance to ask for more weight on the hindquarters, lightening the forehand, and improving the quality of the natural gaits.
The Training Scale is not a linear progression; one step is not mastered before the next is introduced. Steps are not taken in isolation but are taken in conjunction with one another. Elements are reviewed and refreshed constantly throughout the course of training.
In the last two weeks, I've turned a corner with Decadance in our under saddle work. From reluctance to move forward, resistance to the contact, and a self-protective defensiveness, he has become willing, trusting, and tries. He moves forward into the hand and does his best to please. If what I'm asking is too difficult, he communicates that fact, but without attitude and after initial compliance. He knows I will listen. My agenda is dynamic, no exercise is so critical that I have to master it today. I will touch on it and then move on to something that is easier for him to perform at this stage of his rehabilitation. I'm laying the foundation for our future.
We've spent a great deal of time working on understanding and confidence, and it shows. We have faith in one another. We have cooperation and partnership. We have rideability, which I can then make brilliant, not brilliance at the expense of rideability. I'm enjoying the process and loving my horse!