I’m continuing with Day 2 at Anja Beran’s. Now – back to the talk about the aids. I veered off track in the last post talking about the whip!
On the ground there are – voice aids, body language, whip aids and hand influence via the reins or cavesson.
While riding there are – voice aids, rein aids, leg aids – and instruments of support for the application of aids – which is, whip and spurs….. yes…. spurs.
This is what Anja had to say about spurs – they need a lot of training – they are not to make the horse fast. The horse is trained to recognise the use of spurs on different points of the belly. The horse should not ‘contract’. Much time is needed to learn the detail of spurs.
I watched this carefully – the use of the spurs was invisible to me. There were no flinching horses. I tried to imagine what it would feel like – correctly used. Maybe it would feel like the top of a pen or pencil gently pressed into the belly. Anja’s horses are not ‘shut down’. If I was going to put a label on them, I’d say ‘strong, proud and calm’.
Would I use spurs? Well, I’m not even riding!!! But if I was – and I was learning classical dressage – I would use them only if I was well trained with them – and if the horse was perfectly comfortable about it. And I can see that’s what Anja does. Photo below shows a close up of the spurs. Photo by Maresa Mader.
I decided to conduct my own ‘spur experiment’. I used a metal peg for my ‘spur’ and used clicker training to touch my horses. I had one quick run through first before I turned on the video camera. I started by just holding it there. Then I was just the tiniest bit firmer. They offered other behaviours they knew – until they realised all they had to do was stand there.
The video is long (sorry) but I wanted to show Magnum in particular. I am reinforcing them a lot – but that is always the case when introducing something new. And my clicker training is somewhat sloppy. I was focused on talking to the camera. Also you will see Danny rock back and forth and flex some muscles. This is to do with our usual training on the mat – not the ‘spur’. He was following my body language.
I have no idea what the ‘correct’ level of contact is and hope that a classical dressage rider can explain and add to comments on the blog.
So in my short and unscientific experiment I came to the conclusion that they could indeed be used in a non aversive way, provided the rider was very skilled.
And yes, you will see that Magnum is lame – he is on medication and still loves his clicker time!
Anja also talked about how the rider needs to prepare. Learn first from trained horses, develop an independent seat and practise daily for years!!! Factors affecting clear communication between horse and rider are – the weight and strength of the rider, sensitivity and feeling, height of the rider in relation to leg length and coordination of the seat.
Anja emphasises that we must be aware of our bodies. We need a strong core, good timing and good temperament! We must not contradict ourselves! Our hands and legs must work independently of each other.
Some final points I wrote down were that lateral movements build collection and stop horses falling forwards – and YOU CANNOT TRAIN OVERNIGHT!!! And you certainly can’t!
Phew!!! And finally – over two blog posts – I have finished that first morning session of Day 2!!
More to come!
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