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posted by Horse Owner Today    |   June 17, 2011 10:49

Have you heard the saying “Herd Pressure” versus “Predator Pressure”? Both are methods of communication that many horse owners use today on the ground and in the saddle. One of which is too often used in the wrong way or more used in a language the horse does not fully understand.


Let us outline two different situations that will help you better understand this concept,  allowing you to develop a willing partnership that will transform the way you communicate with your horse- you being the leader, you feeling safe and empowered with your horse’s trust.


Situation One: You are working a nervous or fearful horse in a round pen, you are equipped with a lunge whip or whatever tool you generally use for training. As you step to your horse you begin to swing your training tool and your horse moves off loping around the round pen, your body is chasing and all you are really focusing on is the driveline and that your horse is moving forward. You increase more pressure through your aid and you see that your horse is looking out over the rails, possibly pushing on the rails and seems to be running “away” from you, their reactions are quick, fast and possibly fearful. You have now tapped into predator pressure where your horse is only thinking about getting “away”, it may not be fearing for it’s life but it is moving away from you because it does not know what is coming next and nature is telling it to run. The horse in not “yielding” to you; we will discuss the concept of “yield” in a later issue.


Situation Two: You are working the same horse with the same tools but this time you step towards with intent leaving your training tool to the side only to use it if necessary. Too often people ask with an aid or tool instead of using their body posture and taking ownership of the space around them. As the horse moves off, your body and emotions own the space meaning you’re calm and sure of what you are doing. Being careful of how much pressure your horse can handle, but at the same time not backing down and giving your space away.


Watching their body will tell you a great deal. Think of horses herd behavior in the pasture, when a horse wants another horse to move they will take ownership of the space “not use an aid”. You will see this through pinning their ears, a stretched out neck and their body moving forward towards the other horse. That horse responds by moving away and “yielding” to the pressure out of respect and has understood that the other horse is the leader, as opposed to it moving away in fear.


It is my goal as a horseman to establish and maintain clear communication with my horses in the purest form. “Striving to communicate just as horses communicate with one another.”


Keep these two things in mind when communicating with your horse.

1)    Never tap into predator pressure if you want to establish leadership.


2)    When communicating; think of what you want your horse to do, have meaning and intent, present it and then follow through.


This will allow you to have a horse that respects you and will move freely from your space allowing you to stay safe and have an enjoyable partnership.


Jonathan Cooper

Trusted Training



posted by Horse Owner Today    |   June 11, 2011 10:00

Welcome to the blog for Horse Owner Today.


Tom Dorrance

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 12:01

The following quotes are by Tom Dorrance, taken from his book "True Unity"

There are remarkable similarities between Tom Dorrance's philosophical approach and the German "Scale of Training". Both Dorrance and the "Scale of Training" produce an outstanding riding horse by creating an environment the horse can relax and thrive in, both force the human to confront themselves and their beliefs, ultimately they become more than they were.

"Before you ever start to reach to ask your horse to do something  you should have in mind what you are asking and where you are trying to direct."

"I like to see the rider try to work with the naturalness the horse is born with and put it to use."

"The first important thing is to think about riding the horse straight out-between your hands and your legs.  Have the life come straight through his body."

"The horse knows where the person is all the time.  Now we are trying to help the person know where the horse is al the time.  The horse knows where the person is; the person needs to learn to catch up with the horse on that."

"We are trying to build up the horse's confidence.  We're trying to get him brave in his feet.  His feet are really scared so we are trying to get his feet to be brave."

"Try to take the uncertainty out of it for the horse; let him get more secure."

"When the horse gets to yielding through the back quarters, the front end will be easy."



posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 10:48

The aim of all gymnastic training is to create a horse which is useful and ready and willing to perform.  For the horse to meet these conditions, its weight, plus that of its rider, must be distributed as evenly as possible over all four legs.  This means reducing the amount of weight on the forelegs, which naturally carry more of the load than the hind legs, and increasing by the same amount the weight on the hind legs, which were originally intended mainly for creating the forward movement.

In collection, the hind legs (the hock and stifle joints) bend more, stepping further underneath the horse in the direction of the center of gravity, and taking a greater share of the load.  This is its turn lightens the forehand, giving more freedom to the movements of the forelegs.  The horse looks and feels more ‘uphill’.  The steps become shorter but without losing their energy or activity.  The impulsion is maintained in full in the trot and canter, and as a result the steps become more expressive and ‘stately’.  The horse is built in such a way that there is more weight on its forehand than on its hindquarters.  By sitting just behind the shoulders, and so placing even more weight on the forehand, the riders makes the weight distribution even more uneven.  Hence training the horse to carry more of the weight on its hindquarters also makes it safer to rider (allowing it to balance and keep its footing), and helps to keep it sound.  Every horse will therefore benefit from some degree of collection.

By training and developing the relevant muscles, it is possible to increase the carrying capacity of the hindquarters.  On the other hand, the forelegs, which support rather than push, can only be strengthened to a very limited degree through training.  It is therefore more sensible, and indeed necessary, to transfer some of the weight to the hindquarters.

The increased flexion of the hind legs results in the neck being raised.  The horse is then in a position, if the carrying capacity of the hindquarters is sufficiently developed, to move in balance and self-carriage in all three gaits.

“Through”, “Letting the aids through”

Being ‘through’, or ‘letting the aids through’ means that the horse is prepared to accept the rider’s aids obediently and without tension.  It should respond to the driving aids without hesitation, i.e., its hind legs should ‘swing though’ actively, creating forward thrust.  At the same time, the rein aids should pass through, i.e., be ‘allowed through’ from the mouth, via the poll, neck and back, to the hindquarters, without being blocked by tension at any point.  The horse can be said to be ‘through’ or to ‘let the aids through’ when it remains loose and responds obediently, and equally on both reins, to the driving, restraining and sideways-acting aids.  This quality is the hallmark of the correctly schooled horse.

A horse which can be collected at any time and in all three gaits has attained the highest level of Durchlässigkeit.



posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 10:40

A horse is said to be straight when its forehand is in line with its hindquarters, that is when its longitudinal axis is in line with the straight or curved track it is following.  In Germany, the horse is then also said to be ‘covering the track’.

Straightness is necessary in order for the weight to be evenly distributed over the two halves of the body.  It is developed through systematically training and suppling (‘gymnasticizing’) both sides of the body equally.

Most horses are naturally crooked.  Like right- and left-handedness in humans, this crookedness has its origins in the brain and is something the horse is born with.  Also, the horse’s shoulders are narrower than its hindquarters which further encourages it to be crooked.

In most cases, the right hind foot is set down further to the right than the right forefoot.  As a result, the right hind leg has to push forward more while the left hind leg is required to bend more.  Also, the left foreleg is subjected to more wear and tear.

If more weight is transferred onto the hindquarters, so that the hind legs are required to bend more, the left hind leg will be able to bend but the right leg will try to avoid doing so by stepping sideways, outside the track of the right forefoot.

Straightness is necessary for the following reasons:

• So that the horse’s weight is evenly distributed on both sides, and to avoid excessive wear and tear on the limbs on one side

• So that the horse can push equally and effectively with its hind legs (to optimize the forward thrust)

• So that the rider can keep the horse on the aids properly and develops its suppleness (Durchlässigkeit)

• To enable the horse to have an even contact on both sides

• In order to obtain collection

Only if the horse is straight can it be equally supple an’through’ (Durchlässigkeit) on both reins.

If the horse is straight, the hind legs will push exactly in the direction of the center of gravity.  The restraining aids will then also pass through the horse correctly, via the mouth, poll, and neck and back to the hindquarters, and they will act on both hind legs equally.

Straightening the horse is a never-ending task, since every horse has some degree of natural crookedness.

Straightness is a precondition for collection since only if the horse is straight can the weight be transferred onto both hind legs equally.



posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 10:28

A horse is said to have impulsion when the energy created by the hind legs is being transmitted into the gait and into every aspect of the forward movement.  A horse can be said to be working with impulsion when it pushes off energetically from the ground and swings its feet well forward.

To be able to work with impulsion in trot and canter, the horse needs first to be able to show looseness (Losgelassenheit), a springy, swinging back, and a soft, correct contact.  Impulsion is only possible in the trot and canter.  There can be no impulsion in the walk because there is no moment of suspension.

The impulsion is of good quality if the hocks are carrier energetically forwards and upwards immediately after the feet leave the ground, rather than being carried only upwards, or being drawn backwards.  The movements are absorbed by the horse’s back muscles, so that the rider can sit softly and ‘go with’ the movement, and while still feeling the powerful forward thrust of the hind legs: the horse is said to ‘take the rider with it’.

Impulsion is created by training.  The rider makes use of the horse’s natural paces, but ‘adds’ to them looseness, forward thrust (originating in the hindquarters) and suppleness (Durchlässigkeit).

If the horse is pushed too hard so that it quickens its steps, the moment of suspension (suspension phase) is shortened because it puts its feet down sooner.  Even if the rhythm is maintained, if the tempo is too fast, the impulsion will suffer as a result.



posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 10:20

Contact is perhaps the least understood concept in the riding world, and unfortunately perhaps the most (for lack of a better word) abused.  The following explanation is the beginning of a journey of understanding...

Contact is the soft, steady connection between the rider’s hand and the horse’s mouth.  The horse should go rhythmically forward from the rider’s driving aids and ‘seek’ a contact with the rider’s hand, thus ‘going onto’ the contact.  As they say in Germany, ‘the horse seeks the contact and the rider provides it’.

A correct steady contact allows the horse to find its balance under the rider and find a rhythm in each of the gaits.  The poll should always be the highest point of the neck, except when the horse is being ridden forwards and downwards, i.e., in an extended outline.  THE CONTACT SHOULD NEVER BE ACHIEVED THROUGH A BACKWARD ACTION OF THE HANDS.  It should result from the correctly delivered forward thrust of the hind legs.  The horse should go forward confidently onto the contact in response to the rider’s driving aids.

Taking a contact gradually evolves into being on the bit, which entails flexion at the poll.  This should not be considered as an aim in itself:  the horse should come onto the bit as a consequence and byproduct of correct schooling.  When working with young horses at the basic stage of training, or when performing ‘loosening’ work with older horses, the trainer should avoid trying to ‘get the horse onto the bit’ prematurely.  If this is achieved by use of the hands alone, it detracts from the looseness and the activity of the hind legs and so defeats the object of the training.




posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 10:13

Looseness is a prerequisite for all further training and, along with rhythm, is an essential aim of the preliminary training phase.  Even if the rhythm is maintained, the movement cannot be considered correct unless the horse is working through its back, and the muscles are free from tension.  Only if the horse is physically and mentally free from tension or constraint (in German: Zwanglosigkeit) can it work with looseness and can it use itself to the fullest.

The horse’s joints should bend and straighten equally on each side of its body and with each step or stride, and the horse should convey the impression that it is putting its whole mind and body into its work.

Indications of looseness (and mental relaxation) are:

• A contented, happy expression (eyes, ear movements)

• A rhythmically swinging back

• A closed but not immobile mouth (the horse should mouth the bit gently)

• Tail lifted slightly (‘carried’) and swinging in time with the movement

• ‘Snorting’, which is a sign that the horse is mentally relaxed

Looseness has been achieved when the horse will stretch its head and neck forwards and downwards in all three gaits.  A horse working with looseness should swing through its back and move with rhythmic unspoilt natural paces; it should not rush forward, quickening its steps, i.e. ‘running’.  It should accept the forward-driving aids, and the rider should be able to sit the movement and not be thrown out of the saddle.



posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 10:05

Rhythm refers to the regularity of the steps or strides in each gait: they should cover equal distances and also be of equal duration.  For example, in working trot, the step taken by one diagonal should cover the same amount of ground as the other, and the beat should be regular.  To be able to judge the correctness of the rhythm, the trainer needs a good understanding of how the horse moves in the basic gaits.  Count your horse's strides, are they consistent and of equal duration (much like a dancer counts steps).


The German Scales of Training "purpose is to develop to the fullest the horses's natural physical & mental aptitudes"

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 29, 2011 09:27 has had numerous requests on training (from english and western disciplines), how do I achieve a horse that is a pleasure to ride?, how do I achieve collection?  How do I...the list goes on.... is committed to providing current, relevenet information to help you on your riding quest.  Below is the first of many articles from reliable sources that will help you achieve your goals of a better ride regardless of your discipline, enjoy!

Adapted from “The Principles of Riding”Official Instruction Handbook of the German National Equestrian Federation (Book 1, pp.136–141

The purpose of dressage training is to develop to the fullest the horse’s natural physical and mental aptitudes, making him into an obedient riding horse that is a pleasure to ride.

The Training Scale sets out, in the order they are obtained, the basic qualities of the riding horse and the phases in the development of these qualities.  None of the six qualities can be considered in isolation, however—they are all interdependent.  They must be developed in accordance with a systematic plan, though not singly and in a rigid order.  There are, instead, three main stages of training that overlap (preliminary ridden training/familiarization, development of forward thrust/pushing power and development of carrying capacity) that are links between the different concepts.

Rhythm, looseness and contact/acceptance of the bit (the first three qualities in the training scale) will be of primary importance during the stage of familiarization, but as the horse is to develop thrust and pushing power, impulsion and straightness will also become important, and collection will be necessary as well for the development of carrying capacity.

The six qualities are:

1.  Rhythm (Takt)

2.  Looseness (Losgelassenheit)

3.  Contact and acceptance of the bit (Anlehnung)

4.  Impulsion (Schwung)

5.  Straightness (Geraderichtung)

6.  Collection (Versammlung)

These qualities are essential for the dressage horses, however all horses (show jumping, cross-country and even leisure horses) should still receive the same systematic basic training to ensure that they are sufficiently supple and ‘through’ at all times (Durchlässigkeit or ‘letting the aids through’).  This ensures that they can be ridden harmoniously and also helps to keep them sound.

The training scale can be used for both the systematic basic training of the young horse or as a basis for a training session with an older horse (i.e., each individual lesson contains this training plan in a condensed form).