Nina de Luca
What is the Judge looking for- Part 5 Large Tour
The large tour (Intermediare II & Grand Prix) levels are the ultimate stages of the development of the thoroughness and carrying power of the hindlegs to produce a very high level of self carriage and the highest level of responsiveness to the lightest aids. The familiarisation phase still has importance as there needs to be a clear level of confidence from both the rider and the horse as to how to achieve the required movements with increased power and straightness by the continued development of both pushing and carrying power. So the basic requirements do not change but need to become physically and mentally stronger with greater cadence in the steps.
Whilst the movements in trot small tour are little different from the tests at medium and Advanced Medium level at Large tour they require much more elasticity, suppleness and elasticity with half passes at the very steepest angles and the development of the passage and piaffe which produces a much higher demand for even greater collection. The increased power which has been developed through the levels by adhering to the principals of the scales of training will all come together at this level. The work in the canter also becomes a more demanding with the increased carrying power evidenced by the requirement to complete the full pirouettes of 6-8 strides on the centreline. In addition the counter changes of hand (the half passes) are now ridden counting the number of steps so require more even suppleness and accuracy which can only be achieved with this additional engagement and self carriage. The developing straightness and both pushing and carrying elements in the changes are shown in the sequence changes every second stride and every stride). Once again the demands of the transitions increase with an expectation that the horse will be able to show clear and direct transitions between the paces and between the collected paces and extended paces in both trot and canter. The horse also needs to show that these transitions can be achieved in canter with a clear sequence from the extended back to the collection and with a flying change all on the diagonal – so without the support of the track – and in 2-3 strides. In the Grand Prix Special test there is an increase in the number of transitions from collected to extended and back again.
The Passage is the most highly collected of the trots and must always be even with lift and true stepping under the body without tension or loss of evenness and rhythm. The Piaffe must always be straight with the horse stepping well under the body with lowered hindquarters and a forwards feeling to the movement- in the Intermediare the horse is permitted to travel forwards for about 1 metre whilst in the grand Prix the horse should remain as close as possible to the initial step. The quality of the transitions from the passage into the piaffe are also marked so it is important that the horse does not shorten his base too much in the piaffe otherwise the transition to the passage cannot be fluent.The poll should always be the highest point with the neck a little more lifted and arched than at the previous level and able to show a greater degree of self-carriage and ability to keep the frame more consistently forwards and higher without there being any stiffness created in his back. This will help to continue the development of true cadence in the work . A horse that has reached Grand Prix level is expected to continue to train according to the scales of training to continually improve the quality of the work and the movements and not just to reach a position where they can complete the movements without a developing athleticism. In this way the beauty and harmony of the development of a partnership along classical dressage lines can be clearly seen.
Kim On Late O'Leary - Winter Championships
Understanding the movements: Piaffe
Like the passage, the piaffe is a movement that should only be attempted when the horse has achieved a true and consistent level of Schwung and Durchlassigkeit, the energy and thoroughness with straightness.
The movement is similar to the trot as it is carried out with alternative diagonals but unlike passage there is no moment of suspension. The weight of the horse should be taken back as much as possible onto the hind legs by bending all of the joints which enables the forehand to be lifted with the poll as the highest point. In the
very best piaffe, the forearm is lifted approximately up to the horizontal then puts the leg down vertically while the diagonal hind foot is lifted above the height of the other hind fetlock which is on the ground. There should be a feeling of the horse staying on the spot but the horse must appear to be moving imperceptibly forwards and never backwards.
The main problems that occur are. Loss of rhythm (so the diagonals are broken),insufficient lifting of the forelegs (often with a lack of lowering of the hindquarters), a lack of balance (with the horse swinging from side to side) or the horse not placing his forelegs down vertically (so either well behind or well in front of the vertical), finally if the horse brings his hind legs too much under his body the horse will not be able to lift the hind feet off the ground above the opposite fetlock. All of these issues will cause the horse to drop his back, evade the bit and stiffen the neck and poll. The piaffe can be started from halt, from increased half halts in the walk or in hand. The idea is to produce the lowering of the haunches in half steps which will move forwards but this is acceptable providing the hind legs increase their articulation.
(by kind permission of ian Barr Images- see links
From the Archive Give & Retake v Letting the Horse Stretch
Exercises of giving and retaking the rein and allowing the horse to stretch on a long rein are both included in many dressage tests in preliminary to elementary level. It is important that to practise these moves regularly and to understand what are the different aims of the exercises.
Giving and retaking the rein is designed to show that the horse is working in balance and is not relying on support from the rider for every stride. The horse that leans on the bit will struggle to maintain his balance when the rein is released and similarly the rider that is relying on the reins for support will also have to grip with another part of their body (usually their thighs) to keep their balance. The rider must release the contact and judges are not fooled by the rider that lifts the reins forwards towards the horse’s ears without letting the rein become loose. The rider should keep upright and straight in the saddle, not leaning forwards but simply straightening their arms out towards the horse’s mouth which should create a loop in the rein which will indicate that the contact has been correctly released. To prepare for the movement, you should sit tall with a relaxed back and take a small half halt by taking your elbows back to their sides and giving a small squeeze with your legs immediately before stretching your arms forwards, counting “1 and 2” and then taking your elbows back to your side. Many riders make the mistake of not preparing correctly so that the elbows are already forwards and so the movement is so small that it is not clear to someone watching from 20-60 metres away. You can begin developing this exercise by giving and retaking the inside rein on a circle each time you cross the centre line and once the horse stays comfortable and in balance then give and retake both reins. Start by doing the exercise in trot and then build up with just the inside rein then both reins in canter. If you feel yourself tighten up in the thighs when you release the contact (this may cause the horse to break or slow down) then you need to do more work on your own core stability so that you are not supporting yourself on the rein.
The exercise of allowing the horse to stretch has a different purpose- to show that the horse follows the rein down, is working through a supple back correctly, can keep his balance and rhythm whilst on a long rein and that the rider can steer and keep their own balance on a long rein. If the horse is not working through a swinging relaxed back then he is unlikely to stretch down smoothly, he may snatch at the rein or poke his nose out but up rather than down (in which case he is shortening in the top line rather than lengthening). As a rider you need to ensure that you always keep a consistent and positive (but forwards) contact and that you do not let your rein length vary unintentionally so that when you do feed the contact out then the horse is sensitive to the change in the rein contact and starts to follow the rein down. Exercises to increase the suppleness of the horses back longitudinally, such as shortening and lengthening the stride, transitions between the paces and within the paces, half transitions (where you ask for walk from trot but then immediately ask the horse to continue in the trot) and riding the horse indifferent outlines (sometimes very round and stretched over the back, sometimes with the poll as the highest point as you would in a test and at various points in between) can all help in this respect. Riding the horse on a long rein for a20 metre circle in all 3 paces should be a regular part of your schooling, not just at the end of the session but every 5-10 minutes to check the correctness of the balance of both horse and rider and the suppleness of the horse’s back.
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Rona Willicott of Sound Schooling with Flynn
Goal of the Month -Apr 13 -Improving the turns
Your goal this month is to improve the quality of your turns. Many riders follow the same track regardless of whether they are riding a corner or are on a 20 metre circle at C or A, or perhaps more importantly, they allow their horse to follow the track. There should be a definite difference between the line that you follow before or after A or C depending on whether you are following a circle or going large. The line through the corner, which is the same as the turn across the school(say from E to B) and is also the same line you need to take to turn down the centre line.
The line will depend which pace you are in, obviously you can go deeper into the corner in walk than in canter and also the level of suppleness of your horse. So the most advanced horse in collected walk will describe the deepest line whilst the most novice horse in canter will take a much more shallow line. Start in medium walk and walk down the long side towards the corner- prepare with a small amount of flexion and bend (the bend should match line you are following) and your aim is to make the horse wait for your turning aids - if the horse starts to turn before you reach the corner then bring him to halt, still on the track facing the short side. Do not allow him to move until you ask. Repeat the exercise until he is waiting for your aids before starting to turn. Then move forwards into trot and repeat the exercise, again bringing the horse to halt if he anticipates the turn.
Then repeat the exercise at different places around the school , again bringing the horse to halt if he anticipates the turn. Make sure that you are not over preparing, think about what you have to do but don’t start to put the aid on until you want the horse to turn otherwise you will be confusing the horse and you will be encouraging him anticipate. Another exercise is to ride circles and squares at B & E and to vary them but being very clear which you are riding so that you don’t end up with “squircles”!!