Having recently started putting “piaffe” in Batialo’s mind, I began reading up on piaffe, and realised that there are many ways to teach piaffe, and of course this depends on the type of horse you have.
If you have a horse that is naturally tense and “jig jogs”, your approach would need to be a lot different from a horse who does not naturally trot on the spot. The golden rule is to make the horse want to piaffe, and never force him to do it, or make him associate the piaffe with fear or tension, and always find the right way to approach the piaffe, for that horse!
Having taken the week off riding due to an inflammation after a very tidy spin (Batialo reminding me that nothing good comes easy), I decided to try some new things with B to help him learn the piaffe and thus make it more easy for me when I am riding him.
I am of course talking about work in hand, which is a vital teaching method and one that all riders should at least be aware of and understand in order to know how that transfers to the work in the saddle.
I asked master Carlos Tomas from “Picadeiro Quinta das Cabanas” (click to like his page) to come out as I am not confident in work in hand, and I’m not allowed to ride for a few days so possibly walking around in the sand wouldn’t help either. And let’s face it, better to ask a rider from the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art!
Carlos was really great, and as Batialo has never really done much work in hand, I think he was surprised as to how quickly he understood what to do. You could see his ears thinking, hmmm, yep he wants that, and by the end Batialo would begin the piaffe steps just on Carlos voice commands, with no need for the light touch of the whip.
As he is only just beginning, you can see he still hasn’t learn to come up in the shoulder and allow more shoulder freedom, but in training piaffe you cannot ask for all at once, and must allow the horse to learn, and develop.
The key with working in hand is also to keep the horse straight by bending the horse towards you away from the wall, in order to keep his shoulders always in front of his haunches.
Then you begin to ask the horse to lift his back legs and sit under himself as he starts to find the rhythm of the piaffe. Again the key is to always reward, and not ask too much, as you must have the horse WANTING to do the piaffe.
We see riders in the Grand Prix spurring every step of the piaffe because the horse has been taught to do it with strong aids, and never learnt to do it alone.
The horse, if correctly trained, should stay in the piaffe alone, with only the riders legs touching each stride to keep the rhythm.
In order to achieve this, you must ask little, and stop before the horse stops, stop before he says he has done enough, so he always waits for you to say when to stop.
By the end of the lesson, B was starting to say well “ok that’s easy what’s next”, and Carlos says he is not a horse that will need to do this sort of work for too long. Some horses get tense, or stressed, but B sort of got a bit bored of it really.
If you have a horse with talent for the piaffe, don’t overdo it. “Ask little, reward often” and you will hopefully end up with a horse who enjoys piaffe, and therefore wants to give it to you.
Stay tuned for piaffe on the horse…