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desire for choco- late (at least in this house!). The same goes for horses: we need to educate horses’ bodies so they can feel good as they work, not when they quit (by creat- ing an intrinsically rewarding mecha- nism for endorphin release, comparable to the runner’s high). When I watched my trained horses play- ing at liberty in the arena, they show their enjoyment in displaying the move- ments they have learned—and the flexibility they have gained—for their own amusement: frequent changes up to one-tempi, short turns, a lit- tle passage, extended trots and half-pirouettes in the midst of bucking and half-levades. The purpose of training, as understood by most


Commandant Duthil, Student of d'Aure from whom he learned every- thing concerning sport riding and of Commandant Guerin from whom he learned the high school methodol- ogy of Baucher. He invented a true form of dressage gymnastic that was based on the complete control of the position of the head and the shape of the neck (elevated or extended, forward or down). His work as head of the Cadre Noir was the first sig- nificant attempt at integrating all the dressage applications.


experienced trainers, is to produce a horse that dis- plays seven essential qualities: willingness (to work), readiness (to do it now), roundness in his top line (to better carry weight), symmetry (in his actions and responses), self-carriage (to maintain balance), self- propulsion (to maintain energy) and relaxation (to fa- cilitate it all). Through progressive gymnastic exercises and ‘operant conditioning’ (the science behind the As- sociative Learning method, using rewards and ‘bridg- es’), improvement of the essential qualities occurs and the horse appears more willing. In fact, this willingness requires less effort because training has facilitated the expression of the horse’s desire to work by providing increased skill, emotional comfort and physical ease to perform. Let’s take a look at the analogy of a jumper rider who has an account in “The Horse Bank” with limited funds, to be used as wisely as possible. In that bank, there are “willingness credits” and “soundness credits.” Here is a prac- tical example: on June first, Speedy


Bunny is asked to jump 1.0m and he needs five willing- ness credits to do the job (on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 be- ing the most effort required). In order to jump 1.50m on that day, he would need all the willingness he has (or 10 credits) and even that might not even be enough! Once his account is overdrawn, he becomes a stop- per—because he was discouraged by an inappropriate demand at the time. Instead, let’s assume the jumper rider started to train the horse by developing the seven essential goals men- tioned earlier and everything becomes progressively easier physically and emotionally for the horse: elbows move forward and withers lift through increased round- ness and bending of the topline (helped by muscular relaxation of the back and shoulder muscles), front end and hind end get more vertical lift through the repeti- tive practice of the jumping effort, etc. On September first, jumping 1.0m may now only take one or two will- ingness credits, and 1.50m only takes five credits. There is also a more limited use of soundness credits, because a supple and relaxed horse is a lot less hard on his own body. A year later, Speedy Bunny has become a quali- fied international jumper and 1.50m courses are his bread and butter, only requiring a few credits to jump a whole course at speed. If you observe the warmup at a big show, good jumpers are hopping repeatedly over 1.40m as if it was nothing. In our story, Speedy Bunny carries on into his twenties and retires sound. Willingness reflects a biomechanical aptitude and an emotional state, meaning the willing horse has learned to move in a way that fits the job most efficiently and makes him feel good. It is not an intellectual or moral quality, separated from the movement practiced. Will- ingness to improve behavior may appear to be just a matter of goodwill, yet the body has to be ‘convinced’ that it is capable of the work (even for apparently sim- ple tasks, such as trailer loading). The physical dispo- sition that will result in willingness is the tool and the result of the other six essential qualities, all of them ex- pressed physically and all of them acquired a little at a time, rather than only counting on the horse’s natural talent. For each new exercise (or new level of difficul- ty) presented to the horse, his relative willingness diminishes for a moment (because he thinks it is hard or even impossible to do what is asked of him) and it must be rekindled by facilitating the job physically (cutting the problem down into small increments) and using no-pressure repetitions (no insistence on more than one parameter of the


Warmbloods Today 61


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