Saturday, January 16, 2010

....playing with the new plan Coach Rachel* helped me lay out for Nigel.

Wow it was a great call. We were talking about Nigel and developing Piaffe. Rachel really helped me break everything down into teeny tiny pieces. In the final analysis its all about the Principle Games (Friendly, Porcupine and Driving). Plus, developing a more excellent Life up, Neutral and Life down.

Sometimes Nigel gives me the bad face...ears backish. He used to do it a lot...instead of worrying about it, I've just tried to be progressive and fun. Sure enough, he is doing it less and less. I asked Rachel about it, wondering if she had any other ideas.

She said that there are a few reasons that could be contributing to "the bad face". Yelling at him by not having a quiet enough phase 1 and yelling at him by not having a good enough neutral. Ah ha. So with this in mind we returned to the subject of Piaffe.

I needed to be reminded that I can run through my phases (not necessarily getting the exact desired response) and then stop. Then, start again. As we know horses learn what happens before what happens happens. Phase Four can be pretty soft in this situation.

My aim now is to get a very very good driving from zone 2/3* with snappy departures and downward transitions. First halt-walk-halt. Next walk-trot-walks. Next halt-trot-halts. Next walk-backup-walk. And finally backup-trot-backup.

A big light bulb moment was Rachel explaining why backup to trot is the most perfect for developing Piaffe. Its two beats to two beats! I mean duh! Walk-trot is four beats to two so automatically we'd have to have a change in rhythm. With Nigel, very soon I think, the first steps of going forward from back-up to trot will be Piaffe/Passage-ish steps. So I'll just need to recognize them and reward the slightest try so he'll figure out that ultimately that's what I want.

BIG IMPORTANT THING THOUGH: I must cue the Piaffe. It has to be more than just asking back-up to trot. So if I think he's going to do it I need to back-up...then cue the Piaffe...then ask for a snappy forward departure...then reward the Piaffe or beginning suspended steps

In order to get these precise snappy departures I needed to be more clear myself in my phases. For an upward transition:

Phase One: Life up in my body with my stick resting behind his withers.
Phase Two: Slide the stick to zone 4.
Phase Three: Lift the stick.
Phase Four: Tap zone 4.

So the other day I started the halt-walk-halts with Nigel. Eeeeek! It was so much more of a mess than I thought it would be. I mean, we've done the Touch It Pattern* so I thought this would be easy. Nope. He figured out the walk forward with phase one pretty quickly but the halt with just my life down without an obstacle to stop at took quite a few tries. Also he tends to want to really come around me in a tiny circle so I had to keep asking him to stay straighter. Ai yi yi. We quit when we got one decent walk-halt. ONE!

I think this is actually pretty dang cool. We found a hole in our development. Which, as Karen Rohlf reminds us, is a gift. Getting him more in tune with me and my energy instead of just seeing the obstacle and stopping.

Another nifty thing, I think, is that this progression towards Piaffe will just be another level of excellence in our foundation. It doesn't even really seem that advanced because Piaffe is so natural for Nigel. Its just another gait in his daily life. For Lil it would be asking a lot more because although an elevated trot comes naturally to her when she's on adrenaline...not so much if we're just calmly practicing transitions Online* or if she's playing out in the field.

Phew! That's a lot to spit out. Fun times ahead......


  1. Very, very insightful. So what cue are you going to give specifically for the piaffe?

    Thanks for posting!

  2. omgosh! I DON'T KNOW! i've been playing with it a little...trying to come up with something that comes naturally to me and looks cool and is obvious. any ideas?