Using the 6 Training Scales

SonicMurf01In my last blog I went over what the 6 training scales are. In this one I want to delve a little deeper and look at the three groups – PRELIMINARY TRAINING, DEVELOPMENT OF PUSHING POWER and DEVELOPMENT OF CARRYING CAPACITY.

Preliminary training consists of familiarisation, natural balance, confidence, basic understanding of the aids and basis of communication. When horses are first broken in to ride, they are taught to go when the legs are applied and stop/turn with the use of the reins. Once the horse is familiar with these aids, we then need to look at how the horse is going. The first three scales are – Relaxation, Rhythm, and Contact.These three go hand in hand and you cannot have one without the other two. When a horse is moving freely forward in a relaxed state, it will find its natural balance (not rushing or behind the leg). With a natural balance, rhythm is created. The forward rhythm along with relaxation means the horse will be more into a light seeking contact. By contact I do not mean outline, and at this stage I wouldn’t be too concerned about getting a correct outline, that will come in time. Once the horse has found his relaxed rhythm and contact, his confidence will grow.

Using voice commands as you would on the lunge can help to reassure the horse and encourage concentration. Change direction frequently and lots of transitions will all help to build the basis of communication, and rest breaks on a long rein to encourage relaxation. As the horse gains strength, the use of smaller circles, serpentines and loops can be used. This is also a good time to introduce leg yield and steps of turn on the forehand.

The second group, Development of Pushing Power consists of 4 scales – Rhythm, Contact, Straightness, and Impulsion. These again cannot happen without the others being correct. Once rhythm and contact are achieved it will be easier to get the horse straighter (all horses are crooked to a certain degree and mostly to the left). When the horse is going straighter, more impulsion is achieved as the horse can step under and push from the hindquarters in an economical way. Exercises to help with this is shoulder fore and shoulder in, travers, renvers, moving on to half pass. The use of half halts to help balance and prepare the horse for a movement, encourages the hindlegs under more. Counter canter can help to strengthen and relax, with an introduction of walk to canter encouraging impulsion. Using trot poles or cavalletti help the horse to shorten and lengthen the stride as well as elevation.

Then we come to the third group, Development of Carrying Capacity. This is where we start to get to the pinnacle of training, and not all horses will achieve it to a high level. The scales in this group are – Impulsion and Collection. Provided the training done in the lower scales has been carried out correctly in a relaxed way, impulsion (not speed) should be readily available and the horse strong enough to introduce more collection. Although some degree of collection will have been achieved throughout the scales, this is where the horse really learns to sit on its haunches.

Exercises like turn on the haunches then straight into canter is great for freeing up the forehand and transferring more weight onto the hindlegs. (We aim for the horse to carry 60% of weight on the hindquarters and 40% on the forehand) Canter-to-walk transitions will also help this providing the horse is straight. This is also where spring and suspension come into play in the higher movements like pirouettes, piaffe, passage, flying changes and tempi changes are taught, and self carriage is achieved. It is also where true extension can be established as the horse needs the strength in his hindquarters to be able to push through to extend.Sonictraining04

The final creation of all the scales is THROUGHNESS. This is the transference of the created power from the hindquarters over the back and into a soft contact and back to the hindlegs in a constant flow.

The 6 Scales of Training

When training a horse, preparation is everything. The groundwork and initial familiarisation are the foundations for progress and success in the riding horse.

The training scales are a systematic programme of schooling and development of the horse psychologically and gymnastically. By using the scales the horse is able to progress in his training with as few problems as possible, no matter what discipline the horse is intended for.
Although the scales are in a particular order for correct development, they are flexible to a certain degree. Each scale doesn’t have to be perfected, however, the horse must be confident and competent before introducing the next scale. If schooling starts going wrong, then going back a scale or two can not only identify where the problem stems from, but reasures the horse with a more familiar task, and regain confidence. Even the top horses revisit the lower scales as part of their schooling sessions!
The 6 phases (or scales) are sub divided into three overlapping phases of development. The first phases are grouped together in ‘Familiarisation – Preliminary Training’. This consists of RELAXATION, RHYTHM, and CONTACT. These three can then be broken down further to the understanding of Natural Balance, Confidence, Basic Understanding of the Aids, and the Basis of Communication.
The second phase – Development of the Pushing Power, has four sub phases, two of them overlapping from the first phase. These are RHYTHM, CONTACT, STRAIGHTNESS and IMPULSION. These are developed by the understanding of Forward Thrust, Strength / Elevation, Educated Gaits and Educated Lateral Balance.
The third phase – Development of Carrying Capacity, has the final three phases, again two of them overlapping from the second phase. These are STRAIGHTNESS, IMPULSION, and COLLECTION. The development of these is from the understanding of Spring, Suspension, Educated Longitudinal Balance and Self Carriage.
The overall achievement of the scales is ‘THROUGHNESS’. This basically means that the energy produced from the hindquarters is allowed to flow freely over the horses back and neck into a recieving hand (without being blocked by the horse or rider) and vice versa.
All horses can benefit from this training programme, even if they never reach the end of it. You will however have a horse that is well behaved through the creation of calmness and cooperation, and be a pleasure to ride. Also, the development of his physique in a correct way will help prolong his health and working life.
Click on the diagram below:

Training Scales

Master your Mind so your Mind Doesn't Master you!

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