French School "Workshop!"
This French School thread is intended as a technique-focused information source for those riders looking for practical applications of the theories of Francois Baucher (1796-1873) as practiced by the lineage of ecuyers of the Cadre Noir de Saumur and transmitted to me directly in person by the late Jean-Claude Racinet from 1992 through 2000.
Let's keep this thread tightly focused on "using" the method and reporting your results, good or otherwise, and "troubleshooting" your experiences. Please confine debate of the relative merits of various riding systems (German, Western, Vienna School, etc.) as well as posts of primarily historical or biographical interest to the other, ongoing French School thread previously running.
DISCLAIMER: Riding cannot be taught over the Internet, and neither myself nor COTH will be held liable for the use, misuse, or failure of techniques which by definition require individualized judgement, a high level of study, training and interpretation. My impressions and experiences may well be an incomplete understanding or at odds with what Jean-Claude taught others, or developed later until his death in 2009. I was given a "verbal license" to teach his complete method but all mistakes and misinterpretations are expressly my own. USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!
Quotes from M. Racinet's groundbreaking series of articles, which appeared in Dressage & Combined Training (D&CT) magazine No's. 74, 75, 78, and his book Racinet Explains Baucher, published by Xenophon Press, will be italicized and references fully cited. They are quoted here for educational purposes only, for the sole private use of COTH forum riders who find them of interest. Neither I nor anyone reading here may use them for any other purpose whatsoever. :)
(1) BALANCE BEFORE MOVEMENT!
"As concerns the function of locomotion (movement), a horse's anatomy presents two different sets of muscles. The first set assures the locomotion as such. But it could not work without the other, which keeps the "carcass" together and provides the necessary "fulcrums."
The goal of dressage, it's "raison d'etre," is the enhancement of the gaits of a horse. So to train a dressage horse is, basically, to perfect and fortify the second muscular set, the "fulcrum," in order to allow it to give the other set its optimal chances of "expression."
The old--"classical" (La Guerinere's) system, as well as the contemporary FEI-adopted one, works this set #2 (the fulcrum) indirectly by putting to work system #1 (locomotion) in a series of exercises articulated in a carefully studied progression.
Constraint is not absent from this progression . . .
The purpose of the progression is to carefully break down the global constraint, each new movement bringing its share of acceptable constraint. . . Hence the notion of "working" gaits.
Baucherism, by contrast, tries to work set #2 directly. . . Baucher seeks, in his own words, to "separate force from movement" . . . He will then introduce movement with an eyedropper, drop by drop . . .
--Jean-Claude Racinet, Baucherism: Philosophy and Proceedings, D & CT, No. 75, December 1992.
My comment: The "fulcrum" he refers to is the horse's skeletal muscles--what we would think of as the "core," his attitude of balance as expressed in the articulations of the entire top line. We first set these in the balance we want--a collected balance--then let the horse go forward ONLY so far as he can maintain the original balance we set. For a beginner, that'll be a "counted walk." For an old hand, a canter is just as easy. The main principle is the horse stays BETWEEN the legs and the hand without bearing against either with "actions of weight or force." The moment the horse responds, the aid that elicited the response must cease, to tell him he's "right" by reward. Burn this in your brain NOW:
Stimulus (your aid).
Response (horse yields to pressure)
Reward (you yield by ceasing the aid in return).
The yielding of the hand is not throwing away or even slipping your reins; it can be as slight as relaxing or opening your fingers. Fix your hands in one spot and use a squeezing, not a pulling, motion of the fingers alone. When the horse yields to this pressure, you do likewise, and immediately! If you must use your legs to keep him from backing, open your hands while you send him forward. He must have an open door SOMEWHERE.
Do not pay the slightest attention to "headset." He can put his nose anywhere he likes for right now while we get him thinking through this separation and moderation of the aids. Flexion will be the next lesson! DO NOT HANG ON THE BIT!!!
EXERCISE: The "Counted Walk." Be sure to separate your leg and hand aids. Please refer to JCR's book Another Horsemanship, available from Xenophon Press, for the exact way to teach this to your horse. That's "the book" for this "course!" ;)
DESIRED RESULT: The horse is collected (rassembler) at the halt, then allowed to walk forward on command, one "counted," cadenced step at a time, staying between your leg and hand without bearing. Practice this exercise no more than a couple of minutes a day; but after doing so, the rest of your ride go "legs without hands, hands without legs" and DO NOT push onto the bit. If need be, bring the horse to the walk and try again. Report back here how it's working for you!
Now go play, everybody! :D