Frank Grelo: Bit by Bit, Lateral Movements In-Hand…

… & Leg Yielding Under Saddle. This DVD features Riding Master Frank Grelo.  I would have provided a link to a website but evidently he doesn’t have one. The long title pretty well sums up the content which is aimed at providing an introductory look at learning and developing beginning lateral steps.  Mr. Grelo demonstrates a basic turn on the forehand in-hand and then shows how he develops that into a “leg yield” in-hand toward a wall.  He also shows leg yield in-hand in “head to the wall” position, along a wall.  This is followed by demonstrating the same under saddle. What struck me as unique about this program was the fact that some of the demonstrations are done by a variety of skill levels and abilities in both horses and riders.  So, viewers don’t always see just a finished product where it appears the rider is doing nothing and the horse dances along under mind control.  It is helpful to see how some horses will not find the work easy to begin with and how the presentation may need to be adjusted for each horse.  The film also shows riders, on the ground and under saddle, making those little mistakes that get made by novices and how they can be corrected.  So, lots of “regular” horses and riders are in the video.  It seems like the participants are probably some of his own students at his training facility. Mr. Grelo points out that riding a “simple” straight line is actually the result of numerous fine control adjustments and doesn’t happen by magic.  Throughout the program he makes an...

Horses for Life–Free Issue

Anybody remember the old Dressage & CT magazine?  It’s been defunct for years–a fact that is very unfortunate.  It was a magazine that marched to its own drummer and included articles about such controversial topics as French lightness and how to train the Spanish Walk.  I miss that magazine, I learned so much from it. Making a good effort to fill the gap in support of classical dressage is an online magazine called “Horses for Life”.  The recent Blue Tongue controversy gave the magazine a platform to show their stuff.  They launched a campaign to support Dr. Gerd Heuschmann by giving him a petition signed by 41,000 people to take to the special meeting with the FEI to discuss Rollkur. In light of the rollkur controversy the publisher of Horses for Life has made their special “Enough is Enough” edition free.  If you have any interest in subscribing to the magazine this is a great way to get a feel for...

Motivation of Dressage Horses: Richard Hinrichs

I just watched this DVD. I really enjoyed it! I didn’t learn anything earth-shatteringly new because I’m already on the positive-reinforcement-works bandwagon. However, it was a delight and inspiration to see and hear of someone who trains horses to an advanced level insist that gentle positive methods are best. So, on that alone I can recommend it. The video isn’t really a how-to program. Instead, a variety of topics on how to inspire horses in the most effective manner are discussed and illustrated with him as well as his pupils working a wide variety of horses in hand and under saddle. The video consists of the following sections: Motivating Factors for the Horse Working with Novices Work in Hand Work with an Advanced Horse Praise Variety in the Daily Routine I’m not going to try to describe every section. I’ll just share some of the points I jotted down. I’ll start with his final point of the video, that the film should be used to inspire creative thinking. I like that! He says this as a Friesian stallion is ridden bridleless on screen. 🙂 He is a decidedly open minded man which I so appreciate. One thing that is evident throughout is that he’s not opposed to hand-feeding treats including from the saddle. Although the specific option of using food as a reward is only mentioned once, he quite obviously uses food as a reward. He also uses ‘brav’ or ‘good’ as a verbal marker. He states that a trusting relationship begins in the stall. I noticed that he entered the stall quietly and waited for the horse to...

Does your horse have the right to say No?

Much of my appreciation for classical dressage training comes from my lessons with Karl Mikolka. One of the (many) things I remember him saying (probably while my horse was having a fit) was, “the horse is allowed to say NO!” I’m not saying that fits are desirable! Of course, what we’d prefer is a resounding YES. But if you want to be more than ‘just’ a rider you need to be willing to listen to the horse and if he says No then you need to accept responsibility for that feedback. Then you need to ask yourself, What’s it gonna take to get a Yes? What got me thinking about this topic today was reading Mary Hunter’s blog post about her encounter with Steve Martin (the bird trainer!) at the 2010 Art and Science of Animal Training Conference. I love hearing about how people are successfully using positive reinforcement with all manner of species. Especially species that can just fly away so you’d better be right on the money with your training philosophy. It is a real inspiration to learn that good training practices are Universal. So it wasn’t much of a surprise (more of a validation) to read that Steve had made the very same point as Karl did: “A good trainer is able to give the animal power over their environment. This builds confidence and trust. We can do this by taking responsibility for what the animal does and giving the animal the right to say no. When things go wrong, it can be really, really easy to blame it on the animal. The animal is being...

If I Knew What I Wanted

Those who have hung around me for some time will know that I’m very fond of saying, “If the horse knew what I wanted and believed he was able to do it, he’d BE doing it.”   I used to say “…and was able to do it…” but people would just say that they knew a horse who knew very well thank you very much what they wanted and simply didn’t WANT to comply.  So, I adjusted the phrase to include the word “believe” because it is my opinion that those horses who “don’t want to” usually have something else on their mind, something that is preventing them from going along with our ideas.  In that state of distraction they really don’t believe that they are able to do …whatever. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter how we word it, if we approach each horse assuming “they would if they could” (rather than looking for ways to make excuses) well, things have a way of working out for the better. Recently, on the Classical Dressage group on Yahoo, someone posted this quote by Colonel Carde–Ecuyer en Chef (Chief Rider), National Equitation School, Saumur, France: “If I knew where I wanted to go,and was clear and precise in my requests, with my aids, that I would achieve everything I wanted.” This, to me, is basically the same sentiment as mine only expressed from the rider’s point of view.  It is our clear and precise requests that convinces the horse to believe he can do what we...

Transformations

A few weeks ago I wrote about a mare I’ve been working with. I’d only had a handful of sessions with her at that time. We’ve since had a few more sessions together. Each time the mare has improved dramatically. I just love seeing these kinds of transformations. When we first started the mare, Cheyenne, was very distant. Mentally, her thoughts were so back with her buddies. As you may recall, the first time with her in the round pen was spent mainly with her wanting to hang out in one part of the pen closest to where she might be able to see her friends. The entire focus of that visit was about convincing her that looking at me might actually work out pretty good for her. Since that day, things have steadily improved each visit. By improved, I mean instead of her resisting looking at me and telling me in no uncertain terms that really she had no use for me, she has become soft and attentive. During the last visit I was able to even ask her for a little bit of trot on the line. In the past, she would be rushing, crooked and always looking to the outside of the circle. Not so, today! She kept an ear on me and when I asked her to pick up a bit of speed to go to trot it was nice and soft and with me. It is easy to see how gymnastically valuable a circle can be when the horse is choosing to relax into the circle work Her owner could not be more pleased....