The basics of the rider must come before a rider can really train the basics to a horse. This means that riders progress the most easily and completely when given lunge lessons and practice riding horses that have been trained in their basics. The basics of the rider is an independent seat without needing the reins for balance or support. This takes time and patience depending upon the ability of the rider and the time the rider can spend on a horse. Once a week lessons makes it slow and hard to teach the rider a great deal unless the rider can practice on a horse more than once a week.
The basics of a horse can usually only be taught well with an experienced rider, or on rare occasions under constant supervision of a trainer while the rider is training the horse. Many people now in this country have someone who gets first start a horse and ride the horse for its first rides and teach it the beginning of the rein aids to steer it, and install a whoa and a go. However, this beginning is not even really the basics of a dressage horse, unless done under a rider who while beginning the horse understands the basics needed in dressage.
The Germans came up with the scale of training which has been a guide to the steps for the horses to go through to be trained. The Principles of Riding has been adopted in this country for our Instructor’s program and is on all reading lists for trainers and should be familiar to judges also, from L graduates to advanced judges. The first step is rhythm. Rhythm is the correct gait at walk, trot and canter. The way the horse moves can be improved with Dressage. The horse must be ridden in balance, for that particular horse. These two first steps (rhythm and relaxation) in the scale of training are probably the most complex and intertwined.
The horse must respond from the leg and driving aids but these must be developed correctly. The aids should become lighter, not heavier. When the horse is in the correct tempo and balance, this allows the horse to be supple. The horse can be relaxed because he is in balance. The horse must go forward from the driving aids to establish either of these criteria. In this country, the establishment in the horse of the correct reaction to those driving aids is rarely understood, as a light aid should be all that is necessary, not a stronger and stronger aid like a leg that gets stronger and stays stronger. This must be taught to most horses. When the horse is able to be in correct tempo and balance that allows him to be supple (we often say relaxed, because his balance must be secure enough to be relaxed and not tense his muscles), this is important, in order for the horse to become stronger and develop correctly. Then the horse arrives to the third part of the basics.
The third part is connection. This is the acceptance of the bridle, or the horse reaching into the bit from the driving aids. Then the horse is able to be adjusted through use of the reins, not be using the reins for balance himself, (the horse leaning upon the riders hands or being above or behind the bit). This does not mean the horse is yet on the bit, as that is more complex development. That becomes the result of building on the basics to develop the horse through the next steps of the scale of training, impulsion, straightness and collection.
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