High Col­lec­tion with Help from the Ground

Dressage Today - - The Clinic -

Col­lec­tion can be de­vel­oped with the as­sis­tance of a ground per­son— ei­ther with the rider on top or not. There are pros and cons to these two meth­ods. If you have a skilled per­son on the ground with­out a rider and the horse trusts the han­dler, you can take the pres­sure off the horse by hav­ing no con­flict of aids. In this case, you never dis­turb the con­fi­dence of the horse-and-rider part­ner­ship and their com­mu­ni­ca­tions al­ways have the same mean­ing. The horse can learn the con­cept of com­press­ing and lis­ten­ing with­out dis­turb­ing the con­fi­dence of the rider. In some sit­u­a­tions, this is ex­cel­lent. In other sit­u­a­tions, the horse might be nervous with­out the rider, and ten­sion makes the horse worse. The horse might tighten his topline, lose rhythm or even bolt for­ward. In this case, a skilled rider can pro­vide sup­ple­ness, sta­bil­ity and con­fi­dence while the ground per­son as­sists by pro­vid­ing the in­cen­tive for the ac­tual pi­affe. The per­son on top is do­ing ex­actly what we dis­cussed through­out this ar­ti­cle, which is pro­vid­ing the har­mo­nious, sup­ple topline be­fore ask­ing for pi­affe.

Work in hand is not just a learn­ing tool; it’s also a fit­ness tool. Some peo­ple say, “I’ll do ground work un­til he learns it and then I won’t need it any more.” In my opin­ion, that’s not quite the right think­ing. When you have a ground per­son, the rider’s aids can be very re­fined be­cause the ground per­son is a vis­ual for the horse that he re­acts pos­i­tively to and as a re­sult, you never get into the sit­u­a­tion in which the horse is strug­gling and the rider rid­ing with harsher aids. The ground per­son can just be the in­cen­tive pro­gram so the rider can stay soft and sup­ple and the horse can get fit­ter un­til the work is ef­fort­less.

I’m a big fan of fig­ur­ing out what’s the best way for each horse to learn. Some horses shouldn’t have ground work be­cause they get nervous. There­fore, they shouldn’t have to do it. It’s a mat­ter of ex­plor­ing and fig­ur­ing out what’s best for your horse.

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