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View Full Version : The aids for Piaffe; how do you ask?



Melyni
Dec. 17, 2010, 01:39 PM
We have been working on Piaffe/Passage for while now.

I work with a number of different clinicians/trainers, I am getting some mixed messages regarding the aids for piaffe. one trainer wants me to do it one way and another trainer prefers another approach. Both methods appear to work and certainly both trainers are well respected, experienced trainers with a number of GP horses to their credit, but it is confusing for me, and I suspect for my horse as well. I am trying to work my way to common consensus of approach and aids.

So I was wondering how to do you approach the piaffe, both to teach it and to ask for it.

Fire away.

MW

Velvet
Dec. 17, 2010, 02:10 PM
Meaning you need help with starting from the halt or the trot? Teaching piaffe or passage first? Or more about the leg and seat aids? That has the biggest disagreement, and often depends more on how your horse learns and how you use your aids at other times (for clarity with the horse--to help it understand piaffe). I prefer alternating leg aids (timed with the hindleg as in all lateral work, etc.) that lightly encourage in the rhythm of the gait. Some have horses swing from this application, so they prefer both legs at the same time (I use that for passage, they use alternating for passage). I've never had my horses swing or rock.

Some use a strong seat. I believe in a soft seat that allows for the back to come up.

Moogles
Dec. 18, 2010, 06:28 PM
I have limited experience, so take this with a grain of salt;) My instructor wanted alternate aids for piaffe, but upon reading an article from another trainer I used both legs at the same time in a rhythmical bump bump way but didn't let the horse go forward with my half halts. I also had to keep a very light seat. I found that worked better for me and kept the horse straighter. Also I had to remember not to hump the saddle....
I approached the piaffe either from a collected walk or sometimes a really collected canter to walk to piaffe. I liked coming from a really good canter to walk as it made the horse really sit, and I had his back better that way.

Beentheredonethat
Dec. 18, 2010, 06:52 PM
I also start with collecting the passage, because that's generally easier. Just thing collected piaffe. In general, you're "supposed" to use both legs together. My other horses I had to alternate because that's what they understood. There can be some swinging, which is why you can have problems. This mare is so oversensitive I use both legs very lightly together and a little scooping motion with the seat. The idea is that it is a more collected passage aide, which would be both legs together.

I also usually start them with the concept in hand on the ground just with a whip and asking them to jig/piaffe so they learn the concept. With my App, who never really had a a passage, the only way I could teach him the concept was to get ready for a gallop on the trail, then hold him back.

I think as with many things, everyone does it a little differently, and different horses need to be taught in different ways.

mjhco
Dec. 18, 2010, 08:08 PM
It all depends on the horse.

Whether the horse has forward tendencies or not.

For my horse it worked GREAT to WALK into the Piaffe. Asking him for more. Legs behind the girth and light seat. Voila! Piaffe.

Medium trot to passage. Deepen seat. Voila.

Now just a SLIGHT of more seat seat to move from piaffe to passage the lighten to come back.

I have been told it is very horse / rider specific. Works for us.

Melyni
Dec. 19, 2010, 09:12 AM
the alternating legs is one I had heard of in a discussion but neither of the two trainers I have worked with use it.

And working in a lesson yesterday we definitely got a better result coming into it out of a collected -walk. The trainer I was working with didn't like the alternative legs idea at all, but he did have some interesting exercises to help build up the sit and lift.
I guess it's a pretty individual thing and not many get to work at it and practice it so there just are not that many with experience.
Plus of course some horses take to it easier than others.

I like reading all the different ways people use to get it though.
MW

leilatigress
Dec. 19, 2010, 12:44 PM
Supermodel has a tendency to swing her but out so I do the alternating legs to keep her straight. I cannot get the piaffe from anything other than a walk though right now. I just started asking for it this week and her walk is the best thing to ask anything from. The other gelding I got to try on prefers both legs slightly bumping behind the flap of the saddle. He'll do it from any gate just cause he's a show off and loves doing it. He'll piaffee for the little tots if they ask him correctly. Trainer just rolls her eyes and calls him show off with this huge smile on her face. :)

Velvet
Dec. 19, 2010, 01:18 PM
the alternating legs is one I had heard of in a discussion but neither of the two trainers I have worked with use it.

And working in a lesson yesterday we definitely got a better result coming into it out of a collected -walk. The trainer I was working with didn't like the alternative legs idea at all, but he did have some interesting exercises to help build up the sit and lift.
I guess it's a pretty individual thing and not many get to work at it and practice it so there just are not that many with experience.
Plus of course some horses take to it easier than others.

I like reading all the different ways people use to get it though.
MW

It's never a one size fits all with training horses! Remember that, even if your trainer disagrees because they might not want to get out of the comfort of the box they've been living in for years. It's worked for them, so for some reason they don't understand exceptions.

Beentheredonethat
Dec. 19, 2010, 02:08 PM
I think the idea is to avoid the alternating legs if possible because it's not terribly correct and can cause problems, but in the end, you have to figure out a way to get to the result. Initially, you just have to get the concept across, which can be the hardest thing to do. Once you get them to understand, you can refine it.

And, through different aspects in the process, you will change the way you ask for it. A lot of people will start from the walk with someone on the ground tapping a whip on top of the butt. That works really well for some horses. Some horses will blow a gasket if you do that. I've done the walk, too, but try to get away from it most of the time because horses tend to look at it as a walking exercise more. I prefer them to "think" of it as a trot exercise, so do a lot of it from the passage, and as soon as I feel a loss of rhythm, back to passage. Also, if your horse is strong enough, or to get them strong, a good exercise can be piaffe, extended trot, piaffe. That really encourages the sitting and correct feeling of carriage versus making it a trick type thing, because they have to be correct to actually go to ext. trot. And, again, one of my favorite ways to get the strength and muscling memory for this is a good hill. There's nothing like riding straight down a hill on the bit to feel the carriage. Then, you gradually ask for a few trot/piaffe steps going down the hill. They are already sitting and carrying in the correct way.

Velvet
Dec. 19, 2010, 03:04 PM
I think the idea is to avoid the alternating legs if possible because it's not terribly correct and can cause problems, but in the end, you have to figure out a way to get to the result. Initially, you just have to get the concept across, which can be the hardest thing to do. Once you get them to understand, you can refine it.
.

I don't believe that one is more correct than the other. It depends on which school or country people have trained in. There is no absolute. They both work very well. Just because you learned only one way does not mean it is the only correct way. You might want to get out more with other trainers.

Beentheredonethat
Dec. 19, 2010, 04:01 PM
I actually have gotten this from a lot of trainers, from many Olympic riders to Olympic trainers like Lindgren, Kyrklund, etc. The consensus seems to be the both legs together, and it makes sense as that's the same aid as for passage and trot. You wouldn't use alternate legs in a trot or passage. The piaffe is basically trot on the spot, so . . . the aides are basically the same. Technically, it is more correct. I agree with this.

That is not to say we ever do anything technically, and sometimes you just do what you need to do. I could never get one horse to passage without using alternate legs. But, I've never seen any recent top rider or any Olympic/WEG horse being cued alternately. So, that's where you want to be, ideally. I would be VERY surprised if someone said the alternate leg aides is a preferable or equal way of cuing. I saw the WEG almost 20 years ago and you did see some horses at the top level being cued this way. This was when Rembrant was the amazing best piaffer, and rarely did you see one on the spot, let alone in correct rhythm. You could tell because, instead of being the straight, SO much better piaffes we see now, you would see swinging side to side, or hopping. There was one horse who would put one leg in front of the other and rock back and forth.

So, what is it you want? If you just have a horse you want to get to a piaffe, then you do what you want to do. Who cares? It doesn't matter for most people. And I'm not being snarky about this. Truly who cares if you get the result you want. If you want to try to get to do it at the level of what would be more correct and understand why, then you would want to do it the way that is more "correct." Velvet--Are you really getting trainers that are telling you this is preferable or an equal option? Or has it just been a way to get the concept across when others didn't work? I am certainly not the be all or end all, but have been fortunate enough to be in with being able to watch a lot of people go through this process, so I'm just surprised.

Sonesta
Dec. 19, 2010, 07:49 PM
Just remember: There are many roads to Rome. And your horse will learn if you chose a method and use it consistently.

Much as you can teach a horse to "go" by closing your legs (dressage and most English disciplines), by shaking the reins (many Mexican and South American cowboys) or by clucking. Just be consistent. Reward when they are correct or make the effort and let them know (I use a sound like "a-a-a-a-a") when they are not right.

Melyni
Dec. 19, 2010, 07:59 PM
Just remember: There are many roads to Rome. And your horse will learn if you chose a method and use it consistently.

Much as you can teach a horse to "go" by closing your legs (dressage and most English disciplines), by shaking the reins (many Mexican and South American cowboys) or by clucking. Just be consistent. Reward when they are correct or make the effort and let them know (I use a sound like "a-a-a-a-a") when they are not right.

How you do YOU ask for it. Eg what method do YOU use.
You here being the plural you.
I'm interested to hear and learn all the various different methods people have used.
MW

Sonesta
Dec. 19, 2010, 08:35 PM
I've only ridden two horses at piaffe. One was definitely trained with alternating legs with half-halts at each leg. The other was more seat and half-halts with a tiny bit of both legs together. (Gads, I miss Anya. What a horse!)

suzy
Dec. 20, 2010, 09:05 AM
You wouldn't use alternate legs in a trot or passage.

Who says?

Alternating leg aids would not be appropriate for an inexperienced rider who hasn’t learned to feel which hind leg is leaving the ground when. Or, the rider who may be able to tell where the hind legs are but has not yet developed enough coordination to use his/her legs in an alternating fashion.

For riders with good feel and coordination, they will be able to use alternating leg aids to gain more expression in the trot (or piaffe) by activating each hind leg independently or, if the horse is a bit lazy with one hind leg, to more effectively engage that leg. If the horse gets swingy in the piaffe, the rider is either using too strong an aid, too long an aid, or both.

One of my horses (who is a bit lazy) will actually suck back if I apply both legs at once. If I alternate my legs, he shows far better articulation of the joints and a much greater willingness to move forward from lighter aids. The horse can only push with one hind leg at a time, which is why the alternating leg aids are better with some horses. For the best results, you have to be empathetic to your horse and find what works for him.

The best trainers in the world do not always agree on the aids to use for a particular movement or even the equipment to use. I remember watching a Rudolph Zeilinger videotape years ago in which he says he never uses side reins when longeing a horse. About a week later, I read an interview of another trainer in Zeilinger’s league who said exactly the opposite. A certain amount of open mindedness is quite helpful when training horses.

suzy
Dec. 20, 2010, 09:26 AM
Melyni,

To answer your question…

I have three methods for working half steps. In all three, I always put my horse in a shoulder-fore position before asking to encourage him to lower his hindquarters. After all, that is the crux of a good piaffe. You have probably witnessed horses doing “piaffe” but in a croup-high position which is not correct.

The method I find works well for a lazy horse is to develop a good quality collected trot, put him in shoulder-fore on the long side, give repeated half halts to make the trot as small as possible, and tap him in the hock area or, occasionally, on the croup. I give a firm half halt immediately before tapping him so that I am actually softening the rein aid in the moment I tap. As far as my position, I have both legs slightly behind the girth and am alternating the pressure based on which hind leg is about to leave the ground. I maintain a somewhat light seat and stay soft through my hips and lower back. As an earlier poster said, you don’t want to “hump” the saddle as this means you are actually tight through your hips which will block your horse. However, you don’t want to sit absolutely still either as that is part of the half halt aid. Imagine bouncing softly like a rubber ball in the saddle. I keep my reins short with my hands forward on the horse’s neck.

The second method is identical to the above except that I develop the half steps from a very collected walk. With a lazy horse, you may want to have someone on the ground, handling the piaffe whip.

Another method is to develop a good collected trot, halt, rein back half a step, and immediately ask the horse back into a hyper-collected trot. Use the whip as described above as you ask him to go back to trot. This method has worked well for me with horses that are a bit hot.

Your horse’s personality type is your best guide as to what method to use. And there are certainly other methods than those I just described. No matter what method you choose, be sure to praise your horse lavishly for even the smallest effort.

ideayoda
Dec. 20, 2010, 09:29 AM
Very few riders are timed enough to do alternating legs. Let the horse find itself and the tempo/balance will tend to be better. Save the unilateral action(s) for piaffe pirouettes (to gain better use of one hindleg if needed).

Ideally the horse starts to learn piaffe first in hand (and starts at the end of elementary work...first level), and in the end of medium levels control is slowly passed to the rider. For me, it is merely stretching down/back with both leg for piaffe (not into the horse), and tilting the pelvis to start it. Any touch with the leg(s) is to 'enflame' the energy. Ideally starting from walk (or even rein back). Why? Because then it is adding energy with hh/demi arretts keeping horse up/open, and the is a forward response (rather containing the passage into a piaffe, which is more likely to cause closing/incorrect use of forelegs). And why up/open? Because that keeps the hindleg joints compressing more effectively. Certainly once the horse learns piaffe/trot/piaffe it should be only from sitting up taller, posterior tilting the pelvis a couple of times and maintaining one's posture...but at that point the horse should be held by the seat alone (one could drop the reins and sustain the piaffe). A refinement rarely seen.

A horse swings for one of two reasons: they are not straight or they are onto the forehand/closed or too compressed (and therefore the shoulder do not have freedom). Rarely are alternating legs going to repair this but rather mask the primary error.

For what it is worth Remmie did not have an amazing piaffe, a light type horse with a steady tempo but little lift and especially little lowering of the croup (which was a big criticism of that movement by all judges). And he technique was somewhat modified after HB rode the horse briefly.

There are some horses who work from passage back to piaffe, but those have rarely been worked in hand first, but it tends to create added tension.

In any case, only a few steps in the first requests (in hand work first stop/go (halt/walk/halt/walk merely from lowering/raising the whip) and lots of reward for any effort. Then add energy, and always kept up/open. First slower, quicken as needed.

Shoulder fore in piaffe is for keeping straightness, and gaining control of the inside hindleg. There is less possibility for the horse to 'escape' the effect of the (outside) rein as well. Same thing works for renvers AND it protects the groundwork handler as well. (It does NOT apply for travers).

It is important that the lowering of the hindquarters is created by greater compression of all the hindleg joints. NOT by (as we often see) the hindlegs coming further under, if they are too far under the hindleg joints are not compressed properly and the forelegs are not straight but back under the girth (the goat on the mountaintop stance).

It is also important where you touch with the whip to enflame. Certainly a ground person can touch above/below joints to create specific actions of hind (or fore) legs. But rarely should the handler/rider touch the top of the croup. That is to make the horse spring up (if they are very compressed/almost stuck), done too early the horse will become straight legged). It is important that the horse really understand the leg and its various placements before starting piaffe.

suzy
Dec. 20, 2010, 10:15 AM
There are a number of trainers who don't like starting the piaffe in hand, which is why I made the comment about the value of staying open minded and exploring various techniques to see what fits *your* horse. Here is a quick quote relating to training piaffe in hand. It was made by the woman who works for Edward Gal:

Nicole explained that "we hardly train piaffe in hand. We want to sit on them, keep them forward and ride the piaffe. Otherwise it feels like they are doing their 'trick' and you're not able as a rider to control their forwardness."

The entire article is here:

http://www.eurodressage.com/equestrian/2010/10/29/judging-system-firing-line-2010-global-dressage-forum

Again, there are several roads to Rome. Of course, my natural tendency would be to first try methods of proven experts such as Edward Gal. ;)

Beentheredonethat
Dec. 20, 2010, 01:17 PM
As I, and everyone else has said, there are many ways to an end, and every horse and every person is different according to what they can do and what works best for them.

ideayoda--Just in reference to Rembrant, as I said, what I said was I remember when his was seen as "the best" piaffe, even though we look at it now and see it's not that wonderful, because he was SO rhythmic and no one else's was.

Melyni
Dec. 20, 2010, 02:35 PM
and I am really enjoying reading all the different thoughts and opinions.

Please do keep em coming.

MW

ideayoda
Dec. 20, 2010, 03:23 PM
Interesting that many piaffes which are not worked in hand first have a different character, far less compression of the hindleg joints or meeting the hand with an open throatlatch. A how many fulfill the guidelines of the FEI? Can it be done ridden? For sure? As methodically/correctly? Takes tact, but far more likely to be lifting up and down from the ground than using the ground as a trampoline.

suzy
Dec. 20, 2010, 03:40 PM
If you can believe Gal's assistant, they don't subscribe to teaching the piaffe in hand, and his horses look pretty nice in the piaffe. Of course, I know the fire storm will now begin. LOL

Regarding Rembrandt, I think what impressed people was his transitions into and out of piaffe. Of course, some would argue that he was able to do good transitions because the piaffe was not absolutely correct. My own opinion is that the rest of the test carried whatever was lacking in the piaffe. He made all the lateral work, changes, and transitions from and to ext/medium to collected look so easy.

joiedevie99
Dec. 20, 2010, 04:31 PM
On my horse... I bring both legs back, sit deep and hold the half halts through my back. It's easier for him from the walk - but when we work it from trot, it also involves stepping down into my heel.

I avoid the use of my legs in rhythm, and reserve them to be used as a correction. Just as in trot or canter, he's expected to maintain impulsion on his own until he's asked to change it. A bump from my calf means more articulation/suspension or more forward- not keep doing what you're doing.

However, like everyone said above- I've ridden piaffe on a few horses and none were the same.

Valentina_32926
Dec. 21, 2010, 09:30 AM
Current instructor has approached it in different ways depending on how my mare is reacting that day.

Usually it's from a trot - as rider does HH's (keeping legs on so horse remains in front of the leg) and lightens the seat - think of a string pulling you straight up in the air. Colonel Lindgren also taught it that way (rode in several clinics with him).

Sometime my trainer will stand by horses butt and tap lightly in trot rythm on top of butt to encrouage horse to sit, sometimes taps on her hocks to keep her engaged.

Best piaffe was walking back to barn from arena when my mare wants to "get quick",....so trainer used her natural energy to tap her on but while I did HH's and drove her forward - thus horse did piaffe from walk.

Since my mare uses passage as an method to evade other types of work I have never ridden her in passage, but my trainer has (I also don't know the cues so want my trainer to teach the horse and have it well established before I attempt to ride passage). Then trainer did HH's from passage into piaffe by slowly shortening the strides.