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In the January 2010 issue of Dressage Today magazine, Dr. Cesar Parra was featured in an article titled the “3 Stages of the Training Pyramid” where he explained how Piaffe Performance uses the Training Pyramid in daily work.

In the below video, Dr. Cesar Parra demonstrates an abbreviated training session with Grandioso moving through progression toward collection.

During Phase 1, Dr. Parra guides Grandioso as they begin stretching through the topline in walk, trot, and canter. During Phase 2, they begin building impulsion, working on transitions both between the gaits and within the gaits. The session ends with the horse stretching into the contact, swinging forward into the hand and showing relaxation.

This type of training is very similar to how the average person would work out in a gym or on a track. It’s a progressive process that requires time and repetition in order for the horse to build strength and mastery of each movement and transition. As with the mastery of any physical task, warming up, cooling down, correcting mistakes along the way, adding in more difficult movements as one adapts, and recovery are all important to building up the best quality and healthiest movements of the horse over time.

It’s important to keep an eye out for new mistakes as higher levels of coordination and control are required. As you can see in this video, with greater collection the neck of the horse can begin to get too short. This is neither uncommon nor unfixable. It simply requires awareness of the tendency and continued reinforcement of proper form over time. As the horse gets stronger behind, this will happen less and less.

As Dr. Parra rides, he always keeps an eye on the ground to identify and correct mistakes as quickly as possible. The more immediate the feedback, the swifter the process will be to fixing the issue.

Mistakes should never be seen as a reason to avoid a piece of work with a horse, but rather an opportunity to work with their specific shortcomings and weaknesses to build them up. With consistent, quality training, Grandioso will become a stronger athlete and be able to perform these tasks with less and less effort.

Dr. Cesar Parra has decades of experience competing and training for dressage. He competed for his native Colombia at the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2002 and 2006 World Equestrian Games, and the 2005 FEI World Cup Final. In 2003, he placed fourth individually at the Pan American Games and, in 1999, he won a Pan American team silver medal.

Now a U.S. citizen since 2008, he continues to both compete in dressage while also running a premier dressage training facility based in both Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and Jupiter, Florida called Piaffe Performance.

To learn more about Dr. Cesar Parra and Piaffe Performance, please visit his main website.