By Sharon Camarillo & Donna Irvin
The six building blocks of the Training Pyramid are essential elements in creating and reinforcing the skills necessary to produce balanced, athletic performance horses for any riding discipline. Like building a house the basement or foundation must be well constructed and secure before moving to the next level. All serious riders should incorporate flat work exercises into their daily training and conditioning to master and review each level of the pyramid. Selecting training exercises and equipment specific to your horse’s level of training is key in securing the building blocks from the bottom to the top!
Rhythm and Forward
Rhythm combined with the ability to move your horse forward without resistance is the foundation to everything we do. The cadence of the walk should be smooth and four beat; the trot is two beat, square and diagonal; while the lope should be consistent and three beat in both leads. When the movement of the horse becomes erratic or rough adjust the speed until rhythm and cadence return to the gait.
Suppleness begins with the ability of the horse to learn to give and move off of rein and leg pressure. Suppleness includes flex in the head and neck along with bend which incorporates the horse’s shoulder, rib cage and hip. The ability to be supple both laterally and longitudinally combined with rhythm and forward is what builds the foundation for the next level of the training pyramid! Many trainers believe that spending as much time working lateral as longitudinal after a solid foundation in rhythm and forward is crucial in mastering suppleness!
Contact requires the horse’s trust and acceptance of the bit in the rider’s hands. This includes the willingness to move forward into the bit enabling the rider to connect the hindquarters to the forehand. Consistency, patience and timing in applying pressure and release is key in establishing confident horses that are relaxed and willing to move forward into light contact. Whenever a horse gets stiff in a bridle or throws its head it is a good idea to go back and review rhythm and forward with lateral maneuvers such as yields, arcs and reverse arcs and maybe even round pen work. Please be confident that your horse is sound physically and dentally as well.
Impulsion is forward propulsion created from the power generated from the hind end forward. This movement creates more powerful forward energy for maneuvers such as transitions, laterals, rating, stopping, backing and turnarounds!
Straightness is the ability to align the horse’s body on both straight and curved lines. Straightness requires attention by the rider. The application of the rider’s seat, legs and hands and the skills provided by the prior levels of the pyramid allow the rider to position the horse’s entire body aligned and balanced between their legs, seat and hands. Positioning and control of the hindquarters is imperative to initiate straightness!
The ultimate reward of applying the skills provided by the training pyramid is to teach a horse to carry its body with an athletic frame for balanced, efficient movement. When truly collected from head to tail the horse can elevate its shoulders, round its back and engage its hindquarters for power. Collection allows the rider to lengthen and shorten the horse’s stride, rate, and control speed while having the ability to consistently place the horse’s body in a balanced position for athletic maneuvers such as turning at a high rate of speed!
Through seventy years of combined experience we have learned that there are no secret bits or short cuts that replace the hard work and diligence of following the guidelines in the Training Pyramid!Strengthen your performance results by understanding and evaluating each level of the pyramid. Realize that skipping steps will not shorten the process as it begins with rhythm and forward and it requires all the levels to get to the top of the pyramid! Do not be afraid to seek the help of a coach or trainer to assist you with this journey. Investing in good horsemanship produces huge rewards!!! Ride On!
Published in July issue of Rodeo News.