Thursday, March 31, 2016

Alfredo Hernandez, Day 3: Piaffe and passage

The moment you've all been waiting for... piaffe and passage! I mean, that's why we all sign up to ride with Alfredo, right?

It was honestly kind of anti-climactic. It's not like a horse that's never done those movements before is instantly going to be able to do 15 steps of brilliant piaffe with a rider on board. It's also not how you train that sort of thing. I was lucky to be able to watch Alfredo work with a number of horses over the course of the clinic, and his method was simple - you ask until you get the response you're looking for, and then you immediately reward. In some cases, I watched him warm a young horse up in the round pen, then ask once for 2-3 steps of piaffe, and that was it for the whole session. Literally, a 10 minute longe session with perhaps 5-10 seconds of asking for piaffe, getting a few steps, then immediately done.

It's kind of an interesting concept for those of us who ride and think "that circle was great, just ONE MORE and I'll be done..." and things start to fall apart. The take-away for me was, shorter session and more rewards when it's right.

My lesson started out with more in-hand work, this time with turns on the haunches as well as turns on the forehand. The goal was to get Taran stepping under and stepping around, with quick transitions  ("No stopping! Why are you stopping!!") between the two. I found it hard to keep Taran's feet moving AND be correct with my aids AND make sure he's correct. More practice is definitely needed on this - Alfredo made it look easy because his timing is so amazing, and I struggled so much.

At the end of our in-hand work, Alfredo took Taran and asked for piaffe along the rail. I didn't get the whole video, but Taran was confused about what he wanted so the first 10 seconds or so weren't very pretty ('Trot but don't move forward, WHAT? You crazy, mister!'). However, Alfredo kept asking and letting him take a few walk steps when he got a bit too tight, and eventually this happened:

Don't blink, you'll miss it.

No really, it happened! Alfredo is already rewarding him.

Next up was ridden work. We kept it to walk and trot as before, and really just focused on him being round and through. We had some sticky bits (being round and through is HARD!), which we addressed by making him move his haunches (which is HARDER!), but we ended on a really good note, as we had on day two. I need to remember to keep the trot slow and round, and if he doesn't bend when asked, think haunches out.

Moving the haunches creates some really spectacular laterals that I didn't know we could do. I don't think Taran knew he could do this either, lol!

A short clip of the end of the ride - this was after about 5 minutes of ridden w/t work

So fancy. Sorry about the ponytail, Aimee. My hair thingy failed halfway through.

As our grande finale, we took a few minutes to work on passage. Taran started off REALLY skeptical about this pole that was in his way, but Alfredo just encouraged him to keep moving forward and gently tapped his shins. You can see him starting to get with the program about halfway down the long side of the arena.


We walked for a bit, and then Alfredo asked me to trot:


Obviously we're not doing this at the FEI levels any time soon, but Taran got the idea and it was SUPER cool to ride! I think as he gets stronger in his back and more able to sit and step under himself, he'll find this easier to do. At this stage, we're just sort of playing with the concept. 

How many people does it take to get a horse to passage? 


I've got a few more thoughts to share on riding with Alfredo (including a cool way to teach changes), but this post is already long. In short, he's very demanding of the riders but so rewarding to the horses, and we made some really big breakthroughs. I will definitely be signing up to ride with him again when he comes back!

28 comments:

  1. I really like how he teaches, especially the fact that he will do short sessions when learning new movements. Very cool about the passage, I have always wondered how they learn. We played with a couple of our horses on the ground on piaffe. Once they find the rhythm it is amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the key to piaffe seems to be them figuring out what to do.

      Delete
  2. Ok I get points for watching videos two days in a row. I appreciate their brevity. ;-)

    So fun to watch him work! Your videographer is excellent.

    PS Your hair is gorgeous and ponytails don't offend me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first one is 2 seconds, so I figured it would work for you. ;)

      Delete
  3. Neat!!! And I'm totally on board with the short short sessions and lots of praise. I'm very interested in the cool way to teach changes. I'm trying to get all the ammo I can for that because I failed so spectacularly with Mikey that it became the devil's movement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His version of a short session can be REALLY short. I can see the advantage, especially if you work a horse twice a day. Unfortunately that's not an option for most of us.

      I'll post about the changes, but no pictures because it wasn't my lesson. You'll just have to imagine!

      Delete
    2. I shall second this request for changes info. Always up for more on that.

      Delete
  4. Yay!! Poor Taran, the bamboo is so confusing for some of them at first. Rico really had to be shoved up into it too, but Alfredo was too quick for him to think about leaving. He did run away from Heidi though.

    Taran is so fancy, I'm so excited that you went!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, he kept wondering why this thing was in his way and why it kept coming back. Poor confused pony! He got the hang of it in the end though.

      Delete
  5. errrrrrmahgodd!!! he just looks so wonderful - i love Taran's thoughtful expression! so glad you guys got so much out of it, can't wait to hear more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Taran's expression was probably more like "Someone please call for help. This guy is nuts!" I wonder what stories he and Brego traded back in the barn!

      Delete
  6. It is so cool that he is willing to play around with those movements with Taran. I feel like a lot of trainers wouldn't put that on the table. His timing and understanding of how the horse learns must be amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this is actually a problem with a lot of trainers - they don't really consider the upper level movements until you need them. Alfredo seems to teach a lot of young horses how to do it - just a few steps - so that when they get to that level of competition it's not a huge new thing for them.

      Delete
  7. Omg. Taran's trot was just awesome. Talk about a huge change in a short time!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yelling with a Spanish accent is definitely the key.

      Delete
  8. It is so fun to watch his transformation!

    ReplyDelete
  9. How freaking cool is this horse?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say he's amazing, except that Brego is actually better at pi/pa than Taran.

      Delete
  10. Please do post on the "cool way to teach changes" I am in need of some new ideas, the usual methods are not working so well...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Will do! Good luck, I hope it helps.

      Delete
  11. He is looking so fancy! Looks like his brain really got a workout, but what a good boy for trying so hard to do new things three days in a row. I'm also impressed that you were able to learn so much. Usually after two days, my brain is at capacity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not so much we were doing new things, just that we stepped up the level at which he had to do them. Except for pi/pa of course. Totally new!

      Delete
  12. I want to take a lesson with this guy!

    ReplyDelete
  13. It looks like a lot of work but a ton of fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel like that when I read about your clinics with GM!

      Delete
  14. Demanding of the riders and really rewarding of the horse's sounds like the best balance imo

    ReplyDelete