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The piaffe is a highly collected, cadenced, elevated diagonal movement, giving the impression of being on the spot. The horse’s back is supple and elastic. The quarters are slightly lowered, the haunches with active hocks are well engaged, giving great freedom, lightness and mobility to the shoulders and forehand. Each diagonal pair of feet is raised and returned to the ground alternately with an even cadence. in which the click meant “Yes!” However, you can use any signal. For me, with Robin Hood (one of the competitive Grand Prix horses I trained, who is owned by Louise and Doug Leatherdale), I cleared my throat as a reward, which is something you can do in the ring. It’s a vocal cue that means “Good!” which is recognized more quickly than patting, walking or releasing the aids.
Finding the moment to reward gets your horse thinking and working for you. That moment might be a stride, a feeling in the hand, an improvement in the rhythm because the horse engaged his tummy and lifted his back or maybe he truly accepted the shoulder-in balance for a moment. However you reward your horse, he will know you appreciate his effort.
uhe aoncentrated Rider
Concentration isn’t just about shoulderin—it’s about everything. Instead of feeling unfocused, you need to stay in the zone. When you lose concentration, you can’t be consistent. He won’t understand if it’s sometimes important to do a quality shoulder-in and sometimes not. You’re wasting his time if you’re not totally concentrating. Concentrate on finding positive problem-solving solutions to frustration and other negative emotions.
Frustrated? Maybe he doesn’t understand. Be enterprising to find a way to approach your exercise so you get a different result. Re-explain a letter to him. Or is the problem pain? Lack of strength? Is it the bulldozer working next door? Maybe horses get headaches like we do— we certainly know that horses are often better one day than another. It’s best to remember that tomorrow’s another day.
Feeling negative? Your horse can’t see his way through negativity. He must experience a joyous influence when he is with you.
Olympian Kyra Kyrklund says that those who truly excel simply don’t give up. I would add that they consciously utilize tools that will help the horse understand and enjoy the work. They are aware of and attentive to the horse’s physical and mental needs. They are theoretically knowledgable, experienced and able to concentrate on the positive job at hand. They’re kind and fair. The fortunate horses in that position feel proud to work for the rider and are physically able to do the best job possible.
Sue Blinks started her dressage education while growing up in Rochester, Minnesota, with trainer Marianne Ludwig. She then spent two years working with Walter Christensen in Germany. She was a member of the U.S. dressage team in the 1998 Rome World Equestrian Games (WEG). She was also a member of the bronzemedal U.S. team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and the silver-medal team at the 2002 Jerez WEG, riding Flim Flam, owned by Fritz Kundrun. During that time, she trained with Dr. Uwe Schulten-Baumer and Isabell Werth. She also rode with U.S. coach Klaus Balkenhol leading up to the Games in Jerez. In 2004, Blinks began riding Louise and Doug Leatherdale’s horses and currently rides Habanero (His Highness), owned by Louise Leatherdale. Blinks lives in Wellington, Florida, and Columbia, Connecticut.
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