V – IS FOR VARIATION
What is variation ?
It is “a change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically within certain limits.”
Everyone knows that there are 3 recognised gaits in dressage – walk, trot and canter. But we also have variations within these gaits – medium, free, collected and extended walk; working, medium, collected and extended trot and canter.
It is the phrase ‘within certain limits‘ that you must hold in your mind when training variations within the gaits. You need a holistic approach to teaching your horse variations because, whilst the lengthening and shortening of your horses steps is important, this element (the length of the steps) is only important in relation to the overall outline or frame; elevation of the steps; raising of the forehand and neck and lowering of the croup.
All these elements are thoroughly interconnected and should be considered as the ‘certain limits‘ you must set yourself. So, you would not set out to simply lengthen the stride when beginning in with the working to medium trot, you would set out to lengthen the frame, encourage more power from behind, raise the forehand and so on. This is an important point for you to get into your head, because too many people send the front legs flicking out without engagement of the hind quarters and the way you approach the training will set you up for success.
Developing your horses ability to vary the gaits relies on your ability to do your transitions well and this in turn relies on your ability to recognise the absolute purity of the footfall within each gait, consistent tempo and regularity of the rhythm at all times – especailly throughout the transition.
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Here’s what to do …
When executing your transitions, concentrate on maintaining everything described above through the transition; tempo and rhythm should not falter.
Be aware of the frame you are looking to achieve in each of the variations of the pace, so if you are going from working trot to medium, half-halt before the transition and create increased power, allow with the hand after the half-halt so that the horses frame can lengthen (along with the steps) think about the encouraging the hindquarters, look up to where you are headed and take your eye OFF the front of the horse!
Remember, U is for UP.
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster
HaHa,, why is it so many times I learn something from someone like yourself & I realize the horse has been offering it to me but I just didn’t know that is how the horse works,, they really are a treasure. cheers,,, really enjoy how I am learning about half halts & how they empower the hind quarters & forming a frame/ frames,, & about how I learnt in one of your other articles about raising my torso & breathing ,,, thank you. I have had several lessons with several dressage instructors & they allhave had different ways, eg, one wants you to keep your hands still all the time,, one wants me to move my elbows with the movement of the horse & one wants to keep the elbows still & move hands up & down & sort of let them hang down,,,,, trying to let my mare tell me,,until I find what is correct,, any advice on this would be appreciated,,, cheers Stu
My way of working is to allow the upper arms to loosely hang from relaxed shoulders. This is a difficult subject to explain but essentially ‘still’ is not going to help you and neither is ‘hands up and down’. Allow with your elbows in walk and trot, along with the movement of the horses head and neck. In canter your hands will be ‘stiller’ because the horses head has less movement. Read the post … REIN CONTACT – A CONTROVERSIAL SUBJECT! This might help. Px