Guest Blogger: Cyndi Wylie, Trainer
Cyndi Wylie is hosting the Markel/USEF Young Horse Training Session with USEF Young Horse Coach, Scott Hassler June 28th and 29th, 2012. Applications to due June 22nd. For application and more details see the Clinic Page.
With the first day of summer, and young horse training underway, Cyndi’s post from her blog offers good advice.
A friend once gave a great lecture regarding teaching our students that covered What, Why, and How as applied to teaching dressage. There’s also now an article on it in the USDF Teaching Manual called “Teaching for Understanding” that discusses just that on Page 5. It gave teaching a methodology to help make sure your student walked away from the lesson with an understanding of what they’ve actually learned by making sure you answered the questions “What Why How” during each lesson.
So I was thinking about how these three keywords are important to understand during training sessions on your horse to help improve the quality of your training when you’re the trainer. The prerequisite: a good basic understanding of the Training Scale as well as even the most basic progressive classical exercises. Remember, the test movements are not the be all and end all, but part of the progressive gymnastic routines that we put our horses through on a daily basis. Don’t school a leg yield for the sake of going sideways, school it because you know how it helps your horse become a better, more ride-able, and freer moving horse!
Hopefully, we all have our goals, because riding without goals becomes simply mileage. The best training involves the quality of your work, not quantity! When you walk into the ring each day, you should know precisely where your horses are ‘at’ in terms of the training scale, you should have a clear picture on what you need to work on now, and where you’re going with it. “What- Why-How” is your road map for attaining goals and climbing the training scale.
When thinking about using What Why How, first to consider “Where”. This is the assessment of the horse, and is generally done during your 10-15 minute warm up. So I guess we’re now talking “Where-What-Why-How”.
The Where – Where is your horse at in the training scale? Is this a younger horse still working on Rhythm, Relaxation? Do you feel your current Where is suppleness? It’s a good idea if you always keep the Where in the back of your mind for every horse you ride, Where you feel he could be stronger, better, and more confirmed. Where is the barometer that helps you answer the questions of What Why How.
The What – What is the exercise that will most help this horse today to help work towards that goal? Knowing the What means not only understanding the exercise itself, but also the goal of the exercise. What is a shoulder in? What is a pirouette? Even if you don’t have an extensive classical library, the USEF has great definitions of all the basic exercises in the rule book if you want to get a clear picture of “What” it is. There’s also some great books out there on classical dressage exercises to help you if you feel like a little extracurricular reading.
When you know the What, then you can start thinking about the Why.
The Why – Once you understand the What of an exercise, the Why can be clear with a little thought. Why you do an exercise is because of How it improves the horse. For example, when teaching a horse to collect, we use shoulder-in to help increase engagement while maintaining suppleness through the body BECAUSE it puts the horse’s inside hind further under the body, helping increase the bending of the joints in the hind leg and thus the carrying power, etc. That’s Why!
The How – knowing how you’re going to do the exercise. You must know the aids, as well as the pattern as well. You could even apply combinations of exercises to give them a little more bang to the buck. A very simple example, using the exercise of a shoulder in combined with the exercise of a circle to help increase the suppleness and through-ness while further engaging and collecting. Hey you could even through in some transitions to walk as well for a little more throughness and engagement! And while we’re at it….we could…
OK you get the point.
Yeah, it’s not easy to do until you get a good grasp on not just What the exercises are, but also the Why’s and How’s, but once you do, you will see a clear path to better quality training on your own!