Here you can see very early beginning of piaffe at liberty trained with positive reinforcement.
This is not finished behaviour..this is the behaviour we are still shaping, but I would love to share this picture with some further thoughts from me.
Here this young, 6yo horse, beautifully shifts the pelvis, but is not ready yet to carry his weight mainly on the hindquarters. That’s why the front legs are not vertical – they are still helping the horse to maintain the balance. In my eyes during the good balanced piaffer the front legs should at all times remain vertical to the ground.
My observation is that in time horse starts to trust more and more that he can really carry himself on the hind legs, and he beautifully free the front legs. But this needs patience from the trainer, and time.
If you want too much too fast at this early stage, the horse will feel oppressed and will never truly develop a comfortable and easygoing body and mindset in the exercises that require pelvis shift and weight carried by hindlegs. It’s very crucial to understand that your horse may be even afraid to carry himself on the hindlegs at first. If you push him to do this, without giving him time to explore and understand this new situation, and feel comfortable in this new body position he will have no other option than to start being tensed, and mentally blocked. What we need is to give them some time, and through safe, joyful and goal-directed atmosphere let them find themselves willingly and easily in the exercise.
In my eyes, positive reinforcement is the best way to do that.