Several things have happened in the past two weeks:
1. I’ve been playing with Zelador creating an on the spot tiny trot under saddle (the beginning of a piaffe) and taking this two-beat movement forward into a very slow trot.
2. Our coach, Alex Reinfels, pointed out that transitions back and forth from the piaffe and the passage are very challenging for the horse because the horse has to shift his balance from the hind end to a bit more on the front end and back again.
3. Last week in Zelador’s session with Alex he asked me to bring Zelador from the forward tiny trot steps back to the on-the-spot little trot. Zelador did it!
4. I’m reading Mark Rashid’s book, “A Journey to Softness.” Mark’s clinics are mainly with Western horse people. He mentions the teeter-totter. He ran into quite a few of them starting several years ago. At first he figured they were a fad and didn’t see the point of having a horse play with them. But, after some thought he could see quite a few applications that would help a horse. One was the inner balance the horse achieved when standing at the fulcrum, balancing the teeter-totter perfectly. There was a subtle shift of weight (from the hind end to the front and back again) keeping the board horizontal.
I figure Zelador is successful at these tiny trot transitions not because I’m riding them correctly, but because he’s had opportunities over the years to play on the teeter-totter. I haven’t asked him very often to stand in the middle and keep the board horizontal to the ground. We certainly haven’t drilled this skill. But he has done it and been praised mightily for his brilliance. So, I’m thinking that a teeter-totter just might be a valuable training tool for dressage enthusiasts and their horses.