The proposed paper reports how coaches in dressage riding describe their methods for teaching riders to communicate with their horses, an ability which is considered paramount to an equipage's success at all levels of dressage test riding.
The dominating description of dressage riding is anchored in a behaviourist paradigm, where the rider is seenas aprovider of signals to the horse through a combination so called aids (weight, leg, reins and voice), to which the horse responds. The rider's combination and timing of the aids is thus the focus of the training. The role of the horse is simply to react to these signals. This paradigm, together with the close ties to the uses of horses within the military, has favoured command-oriented methods in the training of horses and riders alike. However, during the last fifteen years, the interest in alternative ideas about training horses as well as when it comes to the role of the coach and their communication with the riders, has begun to grow.
To begin examining how this shift-in-process affects dressage training today, data has been collected through semi-structured, in-depth interviews with five dressage coaches. Transcriptions of the interviews have been analysed from a phenomenographical perspective, an approach favouring qualitative investigations of how people experience and think about a phenomenon. The analyses reveal that the coaches work within a field of tensions between ideas pertaining from different theories on learning as well as different 'horseologies' (a termwhich we introduce to describe ideas about the role of the horse, about how horses learn and about horse-human relations which form an ideological core inthe various traditions within the equestrian communities). All coaches stress that their primary task and goal is to improve the riders' ability to communicate with their horse and thus to improve their 'equestrian feel'. They also point to the importance of involving the rider in the communicative work of the coaching situation. Some seem to be basing their work more firmly on the traditional understanding of the role of the horse as an object responding to the rider's signals, whereas others emphasizea some what more symmetrical relation, where the rider's role is that of aguide rather than that of acommander. In the coaches' accounts of their training practices, adaptions to the needs of each equipage arealso central. Such adaptions take into accountaspects such as the equipage's educational level, the short-and long term development goals and the current shape of horse and rider alike.
The study reported in this paper is a part of a larger study concerning communication in the horse-rider-trainer triad.
20th annual congress of the European College of Sport Science Sustainable Sport, Malmö, June 25-27, 2015.