I get this movement in different ways, let me explain. The fastest way to get a Passage is from the Spanish March which I covered in last month’s article. Keep doing the movement and do it faster and faster until he no longer walks, he will have to go to a trot, which will be an extended trot with high elevation in his front legs and to a degree with his back legs. After all the Passage is an extended trot in a collected position. Another way that I get this movement is first collect my horse which you can do with my techniques and double reins, then I extend his trot from a collected trot and then accelerate the speed remembering always to stay collected and don’t ever post (for those of you that don’t know what posting is), it is when you stand in the stirrups in an interval during a trot for most people it keeps them from bouncing in the saddle during an extended trot. Some like to think that it keeps them in rhythm with their horse; it is a method that I never use. I don’t recommend it because you lose contact with your horse when you are posting and you don’t want to do that.
This fast extended trot will be uncomfortable at first but you must time every step with leg pressure, allow me to explain. In a trot his left front leg is extended, pressure should be applied by your right leg at the lower part of your right calf, then as he pulls that leg in and he starts to move out the right leg, immediately release the pressure off of the right leg and put pressure on the left as he extends his right front leg. Don’t worry about his back legs because they will automatically be in time with the front legs. At first this maybe a little difficult to time the pressure from one leg to the other, the reason for the pressure of your legs is for him to associate this pressure with his own leg movements. This is important because you will want to regulate the speed of the Passage later. Now as he his trotting, do not let him go into a lope. He will be trotting so fast that he will have a tendency to go to the next gait which is the lope. Putting both your feet forward while he is in that lope is to cue him to slow down or stop, getting back into a trot and continue to extend that trot as fast as he can without going into a lope. You want to do this for 15 to 30 minutes a day, no more. Let him rest every five minutes by walking and you showing him your approval that he did well and as time passes and you feel that he has the trot down well and that you are in perfect timing with his legs. What will happen next might confuse him at first but the object is to keep the same cadence with your leg pressure. You are going to slowly slow his forward speed by slightly pulling on the reins but remember don’t put your legs forward at the same time because that is an indication for him to stop or slow down. It is very important that you keep the same cadence, the only thing that you are doing is slowing his forward speed not the movement so at first it will be a little confusing for him. But he will understand because your leg pressure is still the same, so it is just a matter of speeding him up and slowing him down until his forward speed decreases without slowing down the movement. You will begin to see and feel the beginning of the Passage which is an extended trot with elevation. Each day slow him just a little at a time because this movement takes time and we don’t want to lose the high elevation of his legs. So by far the easiest way to teach a good Passage is from a Spanish March but instead of walking the Spanish March, trot instead the Spanish March which in turn is the Passage. Then by slowing the Passage but keeping in rhythm with the movement but slowly slowing the forward speed in time he will be trotting in place and this is called a Piaffe or trotting in place, which I will cover next month. There is still another way that I use to get these movements but I don’t want to get into it at this time because you will have to be doing four movements at the same time, this is called fourth and fifth level of Dressage. I am just trying to get you started in the movement. This method I have used for over 30 years and it has worked with every horse that I have ever tried no matter what breed. Some breeds have higher elevations and others vary in speeds but they can all be taught the Passage. Have fun with your horse and he will enjoy something new. If you are going to try the second way that I just mentioned to get the Passage using an Austrian Saddle with knee pads, because you can stay more comfortable in a saddle than on a saddle and a lot safer too. Remember the right equipment makes the movement easier and faster and at the same time develops more comfort for you and your horse.
Since I announced last month that I would be giving private lessons, so many of you have already booked and several are horse trainers themselves, which tells me a lot about their open minds. I know we will both learn a lot from each other as there is so much to learn about this wonderful animal called the horse. Also there was some confusion as to Saturday and Sunday only. I put the weekends simply because most people don’t work during the weekend, but the training can be any two days. The first day we will collect your horse and the second day apply my techniques and practice my movements. Then when you go home just practice the way that I taught you, it is just that simple. Of course if you want more days of practice with me there is no problem, we can add as many days as you want. You will love the Valley and we will work as long as it takes for you to understand my technique. But like I tell all of my students pass the technique on to others so that they will enjoy riding in a more comfortable and safer way. See ya!