I have been using elements of John Lyons style groundwork for years, but have had difficulty transferring that work to the saddle in a way that is compatible with the dressage training scale. Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend a clinic with Grand Prix dressage trainer, Tristan Tucker, based in the Netherlands. His “conditioned response system” was developed out of an eclectic background as a games, eventing and jump rider and working alongside his mom in a racing barn before relocating to Europe. His program progressively raises a horse’s tolerance for pressure, improves their proprioception, enhances suppleness and improves their fore and hind limb range of motion. Tristan worked with each horse/rider combination 1 hour per day which began with mobility work then transitioned to de-spooking exercises where standing still was the correct response and finished with fore and hind limb range of motion exercises. I found his communication style to be especially effective and was impressed how much he accomplished in a short time frame. Tristan has not published books or DVDs, however I found these online videos in which Tristan introduces some of his work. I gleaned so much but here are a few encouragements I wanted to share with you:
- When beginning the de-spooking exercises shown in video 1, Tristan encouraged us to begin slowly and gently to insure we do not create more reaction on the end of the lead than we can manage. Slow and steady is just as effective as the “shock and awe” approach found in other systems.
- Tristan worked with an FEI horse that was beautifully trained and conditioned according to the training scale and yet struggled with the turning exercises demonstrated in video 2. He discerned that the horse had a weak hind end and low proprioception of his hind legs which was interesting given the horse’s excellent training. The horse made great progress over the weekend illustrating how some horses need more than the training scale alone imparts.
- When teaching sensitive horses the spanish walk and piaffe steps demonstrated in video 3, Tristan only works on one side of the horse’s body until the horse is peaceful and confident, thereby making the opposite side much easier.
- Tristan shared that a horse with slow reactions is not of lower intelligence, rather the horse has a high instinct level which varies considerable among horses.
You may also enjoy watching Catherine Haddad Staller and Hotmail, train with Tristan Tucker at DressageTrainingOnline.com. If you are not a member you can sign up for a free 30-day subscription using code “CHResponse0914” which expires 11-10-2014.