Training the Piaffe
Part 1: the beginning
I wanted to train Jackson to do a correct piaffe. I knew this included having him able to lower his haunches. Because of this, I never attempted the piaffe until I saw that Jackson had the ability to do this somewhat.
A lot of strength came originally (I think) from Jackson’s learning to sit on a couple of hay bales. Which I believe is a great exercise. Then I saw his ability to “squat” when he was doing the terre a terre at liberty. I tried to capture this lowering of the haunches, first at liberty then on long lines. I did this by using clicker training when he would squat.
Then I began to see if I could use endotapping to get some steps of the piaffe from the trot. My endotapping is rather a bad example as I do not quite have the hang of it. I have learned how to do it better through this work, though.
If I were to start over again, I would do a lot more of the beginning work from the walk. Now that I know how to do the endotapping better, I think starting from the walk would have been a lower pressure way to train.
However, with all the training that I had done on Jackson, he quickly learned to go slower on the long lines. I would tap his rump and ask him, with the reins, to slow down. My tapping was very fast, too fast even. I should have slowed down and matched the tapping with his stride. If I had done that, it would have slowed the tempo down.
I knew enough that the piaffe was a forward movement to allow Jackson to go forward after slowing him down, but I should have kept him in a better frame when he went forward.
Also, I should have worked Jackson more evenly to both sides as well as doing more lateral work with him to help him balance and bend correctly. I also worked Jackson too long at a time. JP Giacomini says to keep piaffe training to about 5 minutes a day. Even today, I still want to make lots of progress and make my sessions too long.
Early on, I would keep going too long and Jackson would get frustrated. I try harder now to not let that happen.
Another thing that I tried to do was to release the pressure on the reins as much as I could. Certainly I failed at this many times, but my goal was always to allow the horse to piaffe not provoke him into doing it. A worthy goal, but still hard to keep sight of.
It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t beautiful. All I can say is that I have a wonderful horse who tries so hard to please me. And I have wonderful friends who are so helpful and want me to succeed.
Until next time…