We got the following email from former working student Daniela:
Könntest du und Rupert mir nochmal schreiben wie genau ich mit piaffe beginnen kann am Boden. Bein hebt Amigo schon gut. bin jetzt drei schritte zurück alle Beine heben und wieder paar schritte vorwärts. ist das richtig?
Could you please ask Rupert how I should start Piaffe? Amigo is starting to pick up his legs for jambettes. He also goes back 3 steps picks up all legs again and goes back forward. is that all correct?
Ru, daniela is asking for details on how to fish for the piaffe in hand. she says amigo is picking all legs up, backs up a few steps and then picks all legs up again. i suggested to next search for a half step trot and then put those together.
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yes do what iliane says for about a week/ten days - you might get him offering some steps of piaffe naturally - the thing then is to get it on cue
then it becomes a thing of combining the forward and backward movments and timing a hard, sideays 'click' with the tongue and using the stick either on his croup (for elevtion - sometimes a small buck) or on the quartes halfway down the buttocks (makes them sitand bring the kind legs under).
when you go back - do two or four steps only - the point is to put the horse's hind legs under him. then tickle his quarters with the stick and click with the tongue and see if he can creep forward a bit in a slow trot.
then teach him how to trot next to you while you walk (you walk at his shoulder, keeping him collected and tapping a little on his croup). this shows him how to get a 'half step'
then you go back and put it all together (week 3): forward, backward, lift the legs, forward backward, tickle on the croup or butticks - whatever he responds to; forward, backward, trot two-four steps and halt (with the stick on the neck); forward backward, tickle, click for a trot but hold him a little - he should offer two-four steps of piaffe
then you just build it slowly until you can get six steps, then eight, then ten
then you put a rider on and repeat - i will tell you later how to 'bridge' the cues from the ground to the saddle
its will be easier if you use side reins quite tight - easier for him too. also give him a treat every time he gives a good step or several steps. the moment you get something good, quit. come back again tomorrow.
once he gets the idea he'll be very very happy to offer it
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I have been following the exercises Ru and Josh have shown me for working towards piaffe and the bit I am struggling with is the Jean Betts (sp?). My horse sometimes lifts a leg before I get the piaffe stick to make contact and other times totally ignores any amount of tapping regardless of firmness or position on the leg, this happens with both fore and hind legs. Do you have any comments or suggestions?
ok piaffe in hand and ridden - there are 8 exercises to do and you should do them all even if one seems to work better than the others because they stop the horse getting bored/thinking about ways to evade you (which is what hes doing now because hes a clever boy)
exercise one (in hand): forwards, backwards.
can do this in a bridle, a cavesson or even a halter BUT if he tries to run through you, use a side rein on the outside. if he still runs through you use two side reins.
start with him on the rail/edge of the arena/house wall etc. youre a little in front of the shoulder. ask him to come forward 4 paces (count them out loud). then backwards two paces (count them out loud). we use even numbers because these will help the horse diagonalize his steps eventually, which results in the true piaffe rather than a shuffly wuffly (thats the technical term) in place.
now ask for a walk in hand and then a couple of steps of trot in hand. stop him before he runs through you. praise him.'
then do 2 steps forward, 4 back, then forward into the little trot. praise him.
then do as above but when he is waiting between his backwards steps and going forward again, ask him to pick up the two back legs. dont worry if he kicks out or swings his quarters in, just get the legs up one and two, then immediately forward into a few steps of the little trot (you may need to tap his flank to get it and remember to put the whip on the shoulder to help stop him).
put these pieces together a few times going around the arena, with a shorter and shorter time between the backward and forward bits, and a more immediate trot forward after his backward bit. at a certain point he will anticipate the trot and do a trot step or two in place. praise him.
remember to count out loud every time and say clearly - 'back' and only click your tongue to bring him forward. dont click too much. and dont be afraid to tap pretty hard to get your trot the first time or two. once he understands youll only have to lift the stick and click and he'll trot forward as long as you keep your legs moving. if you stop moving your legs (even in place) he will stop moving his. a lot of people forget this. also treat it as something of a game. if you dont get it today youll get it tomorrow. dont sweat it - all horses will piaffe if you repeat the exercises enough.
as soon as you get the first steps, end the session.
next day repeat, and then once youve gotten a couple of steps, take a break, give him a treat.
then go to exercises 2-8
these are: exercise 2: travers in hand to piaffe
exercise 3: first ridden exercise 'just keep walking'...
exercise 4: second ridden exercise: travers/renvers figure 8
exercise 5:third ridden exercise: the slowest walk in the world game
exercise 6: fourth ridden exercise: canter/halt canter countdowns
exercise 7: the long lines (this REALLY confirms the piaffe, gets you not just steps but the first 'expression' and readies you to go on to produce it for show)
exercise 8: second lines - tap the withers, tap the pelvis and GO!
if you do all these exercises you will get the piaffe. we describe them in detail, with all equipment, timing, vocal and stick cues, stick placement etc on our Stress Free Dressage Home Study Course, open to gold members, here: