Training ‘to the test’

Here in Texas, we have standardized testing. And there is much criticism and controversy about ‘teaching to the test’ instead of teaching critical thinking and logic.

However, I have discovered that with Fling, when it comes to flying changes, I definitely have to ‘teach to the test.’ Especially when it comes to getting her to learn to do the flying changes from the various places in the arena where they are required in each test.

Getting Fling to do a flying changes along a straight line is a challenge. She simply does not see the point in it, as she knows that in dressage tests, one does flying changes when one is changing direction across a diagonal, or going across a diagonal in half pass. Since she knows she is not changing direction on a straight line, in her mind, it’s a pointless waste of her time. 😉

So, I have to teach her to the test. She learns where the flying changes are in each test, and that is how she learns them. Theoretically I know that a correctly trained horse should perform a flying change wherever you ask for one. But, since Fling has always been a little ‘special’ – why should this come as a surprise? LOL. So, she’s learned to do single changes across the diagonal. She’s learned to do them from the half pass. She’s learned to do MULTIPLE changes by doing ‘baby’ half pass zig zags. That was easier than asking her to do multiple changes across the diagonal, because, again, in her mind, why should you have to do multiple changes across the diagonal since you are only changing direction once? the half pass zig zags made sense to her because each time you change direction in the half pass, you change, and even if you are only going three strides and change direction, you are still CHANGING direction, so of course, you do the flying change. It made perfect sense to her.

But now we are in a place in her training where she is going to have to learn to do flying changes three and four strides apart. That is what is required in Prix St. Georges, which we are aiming for next year.

So, last night I started by doing several changes from half pass in a ‘baby’ zig zag – sort as a ‘warning’ of what was to come and to remind her she really COULD do multiple flying changes. Then I went across the diagonal and I just started asking for changes and did as many as I could before we ran out of real estate. They were not pretty – in fact, each one got just a tad bit more crooked and ‘bucky’ – BUT – we did four. And now that she knows that is going to be a requirement, and that she CAN actually do four – going forward the quality of each change will get better.

Part of being a ‘horse trainer’ – even an amateur one, is realizing that not every horse has ‘read the book’ and not every horse learns the same way. And sometimes, even though ‘everyone’ tells you NEVER to sacrifice the quality of the flying changes for quantity – sometimes they ARE wrong. 😉


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