The Classical Training Scale is the Dressage
trainer’s guideline for developing a horse and rider. Classical training
is done using a proven method developed over hundreds of years of military
Knowing how to plan your schooling is a tremendous help and a wonderful
guideline as you train a horse for hunter/ jumper shows. The elements
of the dressage training scale can be applied to a jumping horse with
a few modifications, as we ride in a forward seat and need a more relaxed,
stretched out frame.
The first Classical Training Scale guidelines are: Rhythm, Relaxation,
and Contact. Whenever we have a problem with our riding or training
program--- it is usually because one of these foundation elements is
weak-- or missing completely! The best way to make steady progress with
your horse is to review these training ideals, and apply them with each
ride. I use rhythm every moment I ride and in every aspect of my training.
A Hunter needs to be in Rhythm and Relaxed to show the form necessary
to place well in Hunter competitions. Rhythm is how we make the strides
smoother between the jumps in a show. Contact for a jumping horse can
mean we take a flexible feel of our horses mouth and by keeping the
horse balanced in front of our leg, create positive energy and balanced
Riding a Dressage Training level test is a great warm up before jumping
and can tell you where the weak spots are in your flatwork. I recommend
that you invest some time to learn about USDF ‘ training level ‘ tests
and apply their guidelines to your forward seat training -- the results
will amaze you!
The rest of the Dressage Training Scale is: Impulsion, Straightness,
and Collection. These ideals can also be applied to our hunter/jumper
training. Straightness is very important! A straight line in the horses
body results in a straight line to the jumps and around the corners
of the arena. There is a lot to schooling for “straightness’’ in a horse,
and this type of “straightness’’ also means the correct bend around
the corners of the hunter and jumper arena! True straightness in a jumping
horse means the horses body is not falling in or out of the track to
the jumps which is the foundation for balanced jumping!
Impulsion in a jumping horse can mean he has energy and pushing power
from straightness in his body and well developed carrying power in the
haunches. This attribute is more useful in a Showjumper who must jump
higher fences. Too much Impulsion will destroy the calm look of a Hunter,
yet it is useful for a rider to know how to ‘create impulsion,’ as this
skill will also help the Hunter rider learn to dissipate it!
Collection to a jumping horse can mean his stride has become smoothly
adjustable, making it easier to balance him to the fences and adjust
his stride for a long or short take off spot at the jumps. Once again
-- too much collection in a Hunter can destroy the “flowing forward
soft look” of a long relaxed stride and that is the style of a winning
hunter! But to learn how to train a balanced horse will help with every
aspect of jumping --- in a hunter class or jumpers! Have fun with these
training ideals and learn to apply them systematically to each ride!
See you at the shows!