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Thinking Outside of the Triangle

I can rarely find a picture of the training pyramid which I truly like, but most of you who have studied at least some dressage know what I’m talking about.

I’ve written about the pyramid of training or the training scale before, but a recent conversation after a lesson made me think of another way to explain its purpose. Two of my students were talking about the scale and one of them said, I know it, I just don’t really know how to use it. I thought of my previous blog, which was about how we in America interpret this scale of training. You can find it here Out of my mouth came the words, “think of it as a guide for each ride, not as something to climb”. The ladies really liked that answer, but of course, I thought there should be further explanation.

Any horse, at any level of training, can work on any aspect of this pyramid at any time. Collection is merely a collection of things we’ve taught the horse over time. We never want our horses traveling crooked or unbalanced, making straightness an evolution. Most people are encouraging their horses to go forward from the very first step, in hopes of having impulsion. Connection begins before we even get on the horse and in my opinion should be the base of the pyramid. Of course, in this interpretation the word is being applied simply to the bit, which is not even necessary for collection; but I digress. Relaxation is something every horse person hopes for, not that they work on it much, but they always hope it is there! Rhythm encompasses so many things that it is impossible to ever “master” this base of the pyramid. Most people think of rhythm only in terms of the horse’s movement and gaits. Rhythm is something we all carry, and our rhythm must be in harmony with our horse before we can get relaxation or connection. Regardless of whether our horse has impulsion, is straight, or knows how to collect.

Try writing down all the exercises, movements, and “things to work on” thoughts you use with your horse during a training ride. Can you assign each exercise to a piece of the pyramid? Which part do most of your exercises fall under? How good are your rhythm and relaxation? What other connections do you make with your horse besides the bit? While I think each part of the pyramid can be utilized every day with horses, I think rhythm, relaxation, and connection go much further than our physical bodies. Can you think outside of the triangle to make progress on the training scale?

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