The Scala of dressage

When you want to train a horse you should know how he learns things and what his natural reactions are. And we’ll get to that. But first I want to introduce you to the guidelines that helped horse masters for centuries.

In Dutch and German it’s called ‘the Scala of dressage’, which can be seen as a pyramid of steps you have to go through to reach the ultimate Lees meer

The use of whips and spurs

We use hands, seat, legs and voice to give a horse signals, we call them aids. We can also add whips and spurs. If used well, they are an useful extra. But there is a downside to it.

Let’s start with a whip. Take one and give yourself a good whack. It hurts. Think of this, when you ride with it. A whip is an instrument to point Lees meer

Make a fist

Look at the top dressage riders. Their hands are closed in a fist.

Some trainers tell riders to ‘play with their fingers’ as to make the horse softer. I don’t agree. I don’t like to fumble with the bit. Your Lees meer

Pushing down

Some riders push their hands down unto their thighs, holding the reins as to force the horses head down. It means you have to tip forward –out of balance- and brace your back. I have even seen instructors advising this. But if you need such force to get the outline, there is something very wrong.

The harder you pull him down, the more a horse wants to push his head up. If you use draw reins with force and you take them off, a horse will stick Lees meer

Hands up

As horses tend to go on the forehand when we board them, to some rider the logical thing is to lift this part by holding their hands up. And as the neck is as supple as a garden hose, it will come up. But that doesn’t mean the back end lowers.

If you go onto the internet and you google a picture of a skeleton of a horse, you’ll see the neck looks like a swan neck. If you pull his head up, Lees meer

I need the support

People are ‘handy’, we use our hands all the time. Being on just two legs makes us wobbly, so if we lose balance, we stick out a hand or two to correct it. This is firmly lodged in our brain. So if we sit on something as wobbly as a horse, and someone gives us reins in our hands, we use them immediately to steady ourselves.

Reins are attached to a bit in the mouth. Pressure on a bit gives an unpleasant feeling. Horses react by sticking their tongues out or opening their Lees meer

Uneven hands

If your hands are not level, it is very likely you have a different feel on each side. The horse gives you an uneven contact, which means he’s crooked. But who started, you or the horse?

That’s a difficult question. Point is, you are making each other worse if you don’t do anything about it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Almost Lees meer

Piano hands

Ever heard of piano hands? It means a rider twists his wrists in such a way, the knuckles point down.

The problem with this being that you can’t move with the horse anymore. Your lower arm is no longer a straight line with the reins to the bit. You Lees meer

The correct hand position

Just like the leg position and your upper body, the way you hold your hands and arms is important for a reason.

The correct way is the only way in which your shoulders, elbows and wrists can move, so you can have an elastic contact with the mouth. If you sit upright, Lees meer