In our school, the basic training of a horse involves three phases. The first is kindergarten, or work in a small pen, called a picadeiro, like the round pen work as seen on RF D/TV. It is the initiation of a horse to the saddle and to the aids, and is the time required to make sure the colt doesn’t develop bad habits like bucking or bolting. Usually this phase lasts from 30 to 45 days, and is slow, detailed work.
The next phase begins when the colt appears to have all the basic controls in place such as, go forward, stop, turn left, turn right, side pass, walk, trot, and canter (or gait). This phase is a time of consolidation. We call it the “campaign” school. In this phase which could be months or even years, the colt goes out into the open with the rider. At first it is helpful to have a buddy, or “Padrino” (Godfather) in the form of an older experienced horse, ridden by another Horseman. General George Decarpentry, a famous French cavalryman, and one of the writers of the rule book for dressage competition, was a great believer in this field work, even for a horse who would eventually go into “manege” or high school work. The horse has to deal with terrain: hills, mud, rocks, water, bushes,vines, and trees. There will be monsters to deal with, oil wells, tractors, highway noise, malignant mineral feeders, cows and dogs. He is allowed time to investigate, he is encouraged to be obedient to the aids without specific dressage letters on cones on the ground. He develops wind, bone and muscle. He learns to look at what is stepping on, not the white cow three pastures away. He becomes a partner.