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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2008

    Default I think I have determined the way to figure out if a horse can get to GP... or not

    Have any of you noticed that there is a decent amount of horses that have gotten to Prix St Georges but for some reason or another, they are up for sale? Have you ever sat there for a second to contemplate why?

    I have. And I think I have a viable reason.

    I have met many PSG horses that just for some reason can't seem to figure out how to do piaffe or passage. I have seen quite a few (not a huge number) that can do the ones.

    So... it makes one ask the question, why can so many horses get the half passes down, shoulder in, haunches in, canter pirouettes, and even the extended trot, but still not able to master the piaffe or passage? Also, if you were picking out a young horse, what would indicate to you that the horse had the ability to do the GP, seeing that is an age old question?

    I think I have figured this out.

    One of our horses, who is my daughters horse, has been excellent thus far up to PSG and I1. However, we have been trying to work with him for quite a few years now and he is just not getting it.

    On the *other* hand, we have another horse in the barn, who is a little appaloosa, who has figured out how to do the spanish walk. Humm

    So... to do the spanish walk, he had to learn, through on the ground training, how to do it. He also has started learning how to piaffe (go figure) he is already doing it much better than our horse after only a few weeks, yes weeks. It also should be known that he knows a million "in hand" tricks so he has already figured out that by performing a "trick" will result in a treat.

    We have also tried to teach our gelding some little tricks like "bow" or "spanish walk" without success. Its like we are starting from scratch every day.

    So, I get from this situation is this, some horses can figure out through trial and error how to get the treat for the trick they perform, where some horses can't seem to figure that out.

    This does not correlate to in the saddle training in my eyes because it seems that the horse only has to contort its body to follow the riders movement, and when being trained to do something like the half pass, it just needs to be encouranged to go forward and bend at the same time verses having to go through the trial and error of figureing out what people want to get the treat.

    Does anyone agree?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun. 13, 2001


    Spanish walk can be used to effectively develop passage, but needs to have three pure gaits first, and must the s.w. be ultraclear four beat first.

    I try all young horses out (before purchase) just to see how they take pressure of work in hand (not piaffe, but closing their stance or touches with the whip). Those who do so the best are the easiest trained to P & P. Imho all horse can learn piaffe, not all are so talented in passage expression.

    But in general imho learning tricks/etc has more to do with the handler's techniques in applying them, and how they pursue it/them. My mom (who had a circus act/etc) said some of the horses which were the most difficult for a short period integrated the exercises the best.
    I.D.E.A. yoda

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 10, 2006


    Sorry I disagree with dsgshowmom. Most piaffe is taught on the ground first, with trainer teasing the horse's legs with the whip. It is rarely taught just from the rider. I do agree the huge difference between a GP horse and non GP, is the piaffe and passage.

    I agree 100% with ideayoda. Basically the more the horse understands the in hand work and whip as a program, and respond to it, the better the chance.

    I would also like to add, not that I am any famous trainer, I find most horses who can go to GP, and learned how to piaffe and passage, they have qualified trainers who train them as GP horse right from the get go, instead of bringing them through the levels. I find that's the most deciding factor. They are taught a few steps of piaffe and passage, early early in their training... they go right to flying lead change without dwelling on counter canter, if the horse offers them.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2008


    Hey MyReality, I think we are all on the same page here. I said that I felt that if a horse can learn things on the ground like spanish walk, piaffe, they have a better chance of getting to Grand Prix.

    I just think its interesting that some horses learn so much faster than others.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2000


    Yes it is common that many horses go to PSG. I think holes in the training and lack of strength keep most horses from going further.

    I feel the other work - half pass, extended trot, etc, are easier than piaffe and passage, so many more horses can learn that work.

    Respectfully, I don't feel teaching spanish walk on the ground translates to learning piaffe and passage or indicates future ability. I feel what separates the grand prix from the non grand prix horses is physical ability and access to expert guidance.

    I feel piaffe and passage are a culmination of basic things - half halts, collection, engaging the hind legs. But they are to such a degree that it really challenges a horse physically.

    I feel an expert trainer can teach just about any healthy strong horse the concept of piaffe and passage though he may not do so if he feels it would be too hard for the horse physically. Too, doing a few 'soft' steps now and again is not as hard as practicing it much more often, and competing doing piaffe and passage, so a great many horses do this work, but only schooling.

    I feel that ability to piaffe and passage is connected to strength in the back and hind quarters, which certainly can be developed, but the horse must have enough natural balance and strength.

    Others will say the Spanish walk is a valuable exercise, but I look at Spanish walk as a trick that teaches the horse to lift his forelegs without maintaining a correct back or hind quarter. I don't feel it has use except for exhibition. If the shoulder muscles were weak I would rather teach the horse to paw, which would develop more muscles more correctly, without the effect on the back and hind quarter position.

    I think if one horse is learning, and the other isn't, the one that's not learning probably needs a different method.

    Too, horses very often take a long time to learn one specific thing, and coast along thru everything else easily. It's normal for them to learn different things at different rates.

    I don't feel that the intelligence or ability to figure out what the rider wants is what holds most horses back from learning Grand Prix. Grand Prix I see conceptually, to the horse, as being based on the same concepts he started learning at training level, though that only really gets clear at third level.

    The piaffe and passage should be not tricks but 'other trots' to the horse, that are extensions of what he already knows.

    I think what holds most horses back is that the rider doesn't have access to skilled guidance. I think an equal number of horses do not go to Grand Prix because they simply do not hold up physically.

    It is very common these days for alot of the old time trainers to say, 'I used to teach the youngsters piaffe in hand at (3, 4, 5) and I don't any more because it's a waste of time' (doesn't translate to later success or indicate later success). Carol Lavel states this in interviews in 'Dressage with the Experts' if one wants confirmation, but it's something one hears quite often.

    Too, people vary in how they teach piaffe. While it's not popular with ideayoda, quite a few people do teach piaffe and passage from the saddle from the start to finish, and some only do a little in hand work for polish, but quite a few start teaching the CONCEPT of piaffe very early on thru half halts, transitions and half steps, all taught under saddle. Which method a person champions really depends on what he's been exposed to; one method is no more 'right' than the other.

    You can see Isabel Werth doing this with her horses on her video - it's quite common and those who have worked with specific european trainers that are good at this, can be seen having a great deal of success this way. The piaffe tends to be very relaxed and much less tension, and the transitions tend to be very good as well.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar. 10, 2006


    I saw most people taught piaffe via trainer tapping the legs, with the rider on. I regard that as teaching from the ground... because most of the work is done by the trainer's whip... the rider prevents the horse from going forward. In more classical settings, it is taught in hand first, with 1 to 2 handlers.

    I do believe at the beginning, horses understand piaffe as moving their legs but not going forward. In that phase, the biomechanics are not as important as the horse understanding the program. That's why some people are able to teach a version of "piaffe" to horses with no dressage training. And that's why most trainers who teach on the ground, use the whip to disturb the legs themselves, not necessarily aiding for more collection.

    I do agree that the horse needs to be intelligent, and responsive. They need to be intuitive, about making good guesses of what the handler wants.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun. 6, 2005
    The Big Mitt


    Just curious about p/p being the qualifier for GP as from everything I've read in classical training, one needs steps of passage to teach canter pirouettes. I've also seen WAZ teach passage steps just from having the rider do certain excercises.

    It is an interesting discussion, because I do wonder if one can tell if a horse has the potential for GP.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2003


    Quote Originally Posted by ideayoda View Post
    I try all young horses out (before purchase) just to see how they take pressure of work in hand (not piaffe, but closing their stance or touches with the whip). Those who do so the best are the easiest trained to P & P. Imho all horse can learn piaffe, not all are so talented in passage expression.
    This makes sense: a russian olympic trainer worked with my horse on the changes, and did some work in hand. After about 6 sessions announced my first/second level horse can do grand prix. His exact words were, sitting astride and looking down at my horse's withers, "Your horse is very special, he can do GP. It's all in there [long deep pause] somewhere."

    No spanish step, tricks, piaffe or passage for his evaluation. Can't say many believed his announcement that day, some with magnificant and fancier (but more limited) horses were actually royally ticked off, but he was correct. My horse moved steadily up the training scale as we have it in the USA, no diversions along the way.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 31, 2003


    I think that as usual, it's about trainability and how does the horse naturally carry himself. My personal horse has been waiting all his life to finally get to piaffe and passage undersaddle.. he probably won't, but that's another story.. but it is in there. My three year will NEVER piaffe or passage. NEVER. He will do everything else and do it beautifully, particularly his changes, but that will be it.
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar. 8, 2008


    I asked my FEI trainer this question when I was selling a talented young warmblood because buyers wanted to know if the mare had Grand Prix potential. Her comment was that she can get any horse with 3 decent gaits to PSG but after that most horses just don't have at least one of the three movements:
    one Tempi's, Passage, or Piaffe.
    Usually they will be able to do one but don't get all three.

    I forget what % she thought actually had all three, but for some reason I am thinking it was 1 in 4.

    I do have to say, that my Andalusians all give moments of piaffe and passage plus through in lead changes, if the rider is not careful to work them very through. The above mentioned trainer kept getting changes on my stallion every time she put just a bit too much leg on one side or the other. They also give very nice lavad's in the cross ties.(much to my surprise, thought those pictures from the spanish riding school to be a myth...) my one mare did 4 capriole's because she wanted to back to the barn- never lost my balance- it was an incredible feel.

    so alot of it has to do with what the horse was bred for also.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2008


    I disagree.

    I have a Haflinger who has just about got piaffe down in hand, but no way could be do GP... He also know a few "tricks".
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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb. 26, 2008


    I do not agree with the OP at all. I have known many horses that can spanish walk/piaffe/passage, and be an exhibition horse but most I have seen are not very correct.

    The horses are often "pinging" around at the passage, showing no carrying power what so ever. They literally jump from the diagonal pairs of legs in piaffe, making it look like they starting training the piaffe from a passage. To me it looks braced.

    What separates the GP horse from a non-GP horse is the piaffe, passage, and 1 tempis.

    I think what the OP is describing is not the actual athletic ability, but the ability to be able to figue out what the rider is asking. Of course that is, my Haflinger has all the smarts in the world to go to GP, physically he will probably top out at 2nd level.
    "Let the fence be the bit." - Phillip Dutton

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug. 7, 2005
    Southern California/Muenchen


    I was very sceptical opening this thread but I must say I was very positively surprised. I think GP horses are those that:

    1. are genuinely healthy in body and mind
    2. have a 'above average' IQ for a horse
    3. have quick hindlegs...(as Ideayoda said she tests in hand- good way to do it...)

    You can (but it's painful) train the ability of the horse to 'contract its hind' to produce the required skills for FEI-but it's so much faster and easier- if that ability and ease is there naturally...
    So yes- you can select a GP horse when selecting a 4yr old- but you have to have luck with having a GREAT vet and a really good eye- and you have to have BIG luck with reading their minds...LOL!
    "the man mite be the head but the woman is the neck and the neck can turn the head any way she wants..." -smart greek woman

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