Synergistic Riding

The Elements of Synergistic Riding

Our horses will do everything for us when we show them through the correct aids, given at the right moment. The best aids will not be successful if they are not given at the right moment. – Walter Zettl (German Riding Master)

Opening Remarks

The original topic of this article was going to be a straightforward presentation of the footfall sequence of the horse; the cycle of movement of the foot and leg, and lastly the bio-mechanical relationship through all gaits of the horse’s hips, ribs, and shoulders and what it all means for the rider.  Thus, the title would have been something like “The Feet-Where Are They?”

However, as you can see, that is not the title of the article because as I began to write it, it dawned on me that there were other things which needed to be included; such as, the importance of a balanced position of the rider, what lightness, flexibility and softness is and how they are related; what the principles of riding in lightness are and how to school the horse for them; understanding resistances on the part of the horse and what to do about them; with all leading to the original theme of footfall and what it means for the rider.  So, I started all over again and after much thought decided on the current title which I believe needs a short explanation.

Everything mentioned above are all elements. An element is a fundamental and essential part of a whole. When all the elements are pieced together, as in a puzzle, they can create synergism. This is defined as the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements.  This is what all riders should constantly strive for in all their work.

Inter-related Aspects of Riding 

Initially, we need to be aware of what I call the four inter-related aspects of riding.  They are:

  1. First of all, the concepts of riding. The concepts will evolve from a study and understanding of the horse and of ourselves which means gaining knowledge of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual makeup of each one plus figuring out the all-important motivational aspects of each one. From these concepts then some guiding principles can be developed to provide a direction and boundaries for our relationship with the horse. Here are a few principles which I believe are important when working with horses:
    1. The horse has no fault insurance (no horse will make a mistake on purpose). What the horse does is provoked by either a strong sense of self-preservation or it is his best guess at what we are asking him to do. Horses are generally not really good at guessing what they are asked to do and if we are not too sure what and how to ask for certain actions from the horse, then it may not turn out in our favor;
    2. Make yourself worthy of the horse; i.e., he is an athlete—make the effort to become one also; his mind is clear – make yours so also; don’t criticize or punish – teach him and treat him with dignity and respect but with firmness when necessary;
    3. Become a leader (someone who encourages another being to develop the best in themselves)–not an authoritarian (someone who says do as I direct because I am in command – even though sometimes the power to command inhibits the ability to think).
  1. Intertwined with the concepts is the theory of riding which comes from the study of the works of the masters of the past and without which steady progress will be nearly impossible to achieve.
  2. Next comes the mechanics of riding (which entails combining correct practice with the study of theory supported by the guiding direction of a knowledgeable teacher) i.e., learning how, when, where and why to place the various parts of your body to influence the horse to perform the movements we need him to do in whatever discipline in which we are involved.
  3. And lastly, the dynamics of riding–the time when the concepts, theories, and mechanics must all come together in the moment when astride the horse who is using all of his 205 bones and 436 muscles to either work in harmony with us or to create his own agenda because of our lack of clear communications or his believing that he must resort to a self-preservation mode, for whatever reason.

The Learning Curve

Another thing to recognize and acknowledge is where each of us is on the Neuro-linguistic Programming Scale of Learning (a school of thought about how people think and learn) — at least as it applies to riding horses.

  1. The first level is being unconsciously incompetent, i.e., not knowing that we don’t know. Perhaps because we have been around horses all our lives or we have ridden all our lives or we have won prizes in competition.
  2. Then, perhaps a life defining moment occurs and we reach the second level namely being consciously incompetent, i.e., realizing now that we don’t know but are wise enough to seek help to rectify it.
  3. This progression now leads us into the third level – namely becoming consciously competent. At this level we are thinking our way through the process of the mechanics of riding and we recognize that we know what we know.
  4. Then, in fits and starts, little by little, while still at the third level we incrementally start to reach the last level of becoming unconsciously competent, i.e. we don’t consciously think about the process of ‘doing’, we just ‘do it’. As we continue to blend theory with correct practice in our riding we will move continuously between the third and fourth levels but will, over time, spend more and more time at the fourth level and less at the third level.

Only time and the horse will provide feedback.  As Dr.Josef Knipp so succinctly puts it: “True riding is an endless search for synchrony and harmony. You can get it today and lose it tomorrow. This search is no overnight affair but a progression of steps, measured in tiny increments of success in an endless journey of challenges and discovery.” However, central to all else is the position of the rider, so let’s begin there.

Position of the Rider

The goal of a rider in order to obtain a secure position, sine quã nõn, is to stay in balance with the movement of the horse by keeping the distribution of his/her own weight in harmony with the equilibrium of the horse.  It is critical to do this in order to achieve the horse’s best performance. Any imbalance is a major obstacle to impulsion and balanced movement.

Both Francis Dwyer (On Seats and Saddles, Bits and Biting, 1868) and Waldemar Seunig (Horsemanship – a Complete Book on Training the Horse and its Rider, 1941; English language edition, 1957) specifically mention the area around the fourteenth/fifteenth spinal (aka – thoracic or dorsal) vertebrae as being the center of motion (or the balance point but not the center of gravity) of the horse’s body and thus the point where our Ischia (seat) bones should rest, realizing that the upper body is constantly adjusting itself to stay in balance with the horse, i.e., weight in motion, so to speak, just as it does even when we think we are standing perfectly still.

Another way to look at this is that if we sit correctly in the area of the 14th/15th thoracic vertebrae, we will have a position that can continue to influence the horse (through activating signals) but not have the seat be influenced by the movement of the horse. This is a big deal.

The Importance of a Rider’s Balance 

When we sit in balance so that our skeletal structure is allowed to do its job of fighting gravity, then we are free to use our muscular system, tendons and ligaments with great elasticity.  However any deviation from this balance by unnecessarily leaning forward, backwards, collapsing one side or the other, transfers responsibility of fighting gravity from the skeletal to the muscular system.

The first place this imbalance shows up is in the pelvic girdle area when our hips start to lock up. This causes us to grip or squeeze (as opposed to having an elastic firmness) with the thighs, knees, or lower legs and sometimes all of them together. This, in turn, results in us using the reins as a third stirrup causing a loss of feel and the ability to follow the rolling motion of the horse’s hips as they alternately move forward and up and back and down in a shallow figure eight configuration.

So it is absolutely necessary for us to strengthen our core muscles in order to be able to sit in balance over the seat bones with hands and legs completely relaxed, i.e. with tone so that we are not loosely flopping around.

This will allow us to isolate only those muscles which we want to use to accomplish a response and to then put them into action at the correct time or to increase or decrease the power and rapidity of their actions and to not use other body parts that are not required for the movement.

Being relaxed and secure in our position and hands is the only way that we will be able to listen to what the horse is saying to us and for us to begin the process of developing lightness in the horse.

The degree of steadiness and softness of the hands (primarily through the use of the fingers) is an indication of how independent and balanced our seat is. But, sometimes, it is not the fault of the rider’s hands, but of the rider’s legs. So it is important to remember not to push more horse into our hands than we can regulate.

Conversely, a good horse is only as good as the hands holding on to it so it is also important to not let our hands override our legs. In other words, we should not keep using the hand brake when we step on the gas pedal. The rider and horse must use the connection between the rider’s hands and the horse’s mouth, through the bit, in a ‘feeling’ manner because the degree of what we feel in our hands reflects what is happening everywhere else in the horse’s body.

As an example, if we hang on the reins and use the bit as a blunt force control piece of equipment, then the horse will not be very responsive to our requests because his mind will be focused on the pain in his mouth and how to relieve it and not on us.

Remember that the better we learn to ride, the better the horse will perform. When things don’t progress as we expect, we can only look to ourselves as the source of the problem.

Lightness, Flexibility and Softness

These three attributes work in harmony with each other and if one is missing the other two will not work.

Lightness is very difficult to obtain but it can be accomplished. It is a consequence of the general flexibility of the horse. It can be defined as the perfect obedience of the horse to the lightest indications of our hands and legs.  It is a physical, external thing.  This lightness can only be achieved if the horse is balanced in all his movements which will come from his gaining strength and suppleness through the progressive and appropriate use of gymnastic exercises over time.

Flexibility has the goal of making the horse so handy that he will be able to quickly accelerate forward into a canter from the walk, halt or rein-back; make sudden stops; rein-back; perform turnarounds to the right and left without stopping to rebalance himself; move his forehand or his hindquarters to the right or left or move laterally with the greatest of ease. Most importantly, the horse must move from one movement to another without stopping and without losing impulsion.

Softness is the mental relaxation of the horse which is a product of muscular relaxation. If the horse is tense and anxious then he will not be able to soften mentally.  But as he comes to a better understanding of what we are requesting him to do (provided we know what, how, and why of what we are asking for) and he becomes more balanced, flexible, strong the horse will start to relax more. It is an internal thing.  A well-known western clinician used to say that if the horse is right in his mind then he will be right in his feet but cautioned that it takes very little to get a horse troubled.

Cue, Pressure, Response, and Release

Viewed from a procedural perspective of Cue Pressure, Response, Release, we would like to eliminate the “P” from the equation. But, at the same time, we must remember that in the beginning of the horse’s education we will have to work through its body to get to the mind by employing methods which support him with firmness and direction but never with harshness or punishment.

Aaid is providing physical pressure (of varying degrees) to the horse with our legs, hands or whip. While a cue is our preparation to use an aid prior to its actual use to which the horse responds prior to us enacting that aid. I use the word, signal, in place of cue and aid because it can be both, depending upon the skill of the individual. Regarding this, in 1885, Gustav Steinbrecht stated in his book Gymnasium of the Horse: “If you miscue or force the horse to perform a movement you will teach him to perform it with resistance. Then it will take more time to re-program and correct it which causes inefficient use of energy.”

I will also add that if we do not present the various gymnastic exercises to the horse in the correct sequential order of development it will result in the same problem. This is because each exercise has a certain gymnastic value on the horse’s way of going and we must choose what exercises to ride based on the horse’s current needs and abilities. If we teach these exercises without their gymnastic value in mind it will turn into a mere pedestrian mechanical way of riding.


The horse will create resistances (or ‘braces’) in his body on two levels and they need to be recognized and addressed immediately.

The first one is a social resistance. This means that the horse doesn’t understand where his position is in the herd (herd = you and the horse) or he does know and doesn’t want to give up his #1 herd position.

This type of resistance is manifested by the horse in the following ways:

  1. Pushing
  2. Leaning
  3. Charging
  4. Striking
  5. Kicking
  6. Turning its hindquarters to us
  7. Running from us
  8. Refusing to be caught
  9. Resisting being haltered, etc.

This type of resistance must be corrected immediately.  Boundaries must be set and the horse must be held accountable to adhere to them without question.

The second type of resistance is a training resistance. It is caused by any number of things, such as:

  1. Imbalance of the horse
  2. Lack of our understanding of the nature of the horse (remember that thought with purpose gives the horse direction. If what we present to the horse is not effective, then it is not understood; if it is not understood, the horse becomes confused; when he gets confused, he gets scared and when he gets scared then he becomes resistant)
  3. The horse not being given time to think and ‘explore’ its options
  4. The horse being pushed beyond its physical and mental capabilities at any given time
  5. The horse having a lack of clarity or boundaries upon which to base his behavior etc.


Examples of Training Resistances

Some of these resistances that are demonstrated by the horse are:

  1. Twisted poll
    1. ‘Locked’ or immobile jaw
    2. Rooting out the nose (resistance of force in our hands)
    3. Dropping his head (resistance of weight in our hands)
    4. ‘Nothingness’ or ‘hiding behind the bit’
  2.  Neck
    1.  Stiff
    2. Crooked or ‘banana-necked’
    3. Loose or ‘rubber-necked’
  3. Ribs
    1. Not ‘flexing’ or giving to pressure
  4. Feet
    1. Inertia
    2. Too much unasked-for movement

Finding Alternatives

Punishing the horse for these things can generally only create more resistances. So we must find ways to present what we want in a manner and sequence which is understood by the horse, but with the thought being to get to the point.

A couple of good guidelines to remember are:

  1. For the horse: the horse only learns as fast as it learns not as fast as the human wants the horse to learn, and
  2. For the human: where knowledge ends, frustration begins, followed shortly thereafter by force or brutality.

Schooling for Lightness

In schooling the horse, the following steps are offered:

  1. Get the horse to a minimum level of understanding which must then continue to be refined by doing a little bit often and a lot very seldom.
  2. Present whatever new movement or exercise you are working on for five days in a row, two sessions of 30 minutes each per day doing an odd number of repetitions (3-5), in an odd number of sets (3-5), in an odd number of locations (3-5), ― meaning different locations in an arena.
  3. Then give your horse a break and do nothing for one or two minutes to give him a mental and physical break.
  4. Remember that there is no watch and no calendar in horse training. We can get more done at the walk and the trot than we can at the canter or lope by pulling on the horse.
  5. After the break then we can return to the schooling process.

Armed with this general formula let’s examine the guiding principles for riding in lightness.

Principles for Riding in Lightness

These principles are very important in schooling the horse. They can be used both separately and in combination with each other. The order of presentation is not necessarily to be followed in a rigid manner.

Always remember to prepare the horse for your signals before executing them; similar to the red, yellow, and green of today’s traffic signals.

These principles can be looked upon as establishing the essential communication system with the horse.

Executing these principles is not about getting them right when using them. It is a deeper process of not being able to get them wrong. There is a big difference between the two.

  1. The first principle is the separation of the signals. For example:
    1. Do not use your legs to ask the horse to go forward and, at the same time, pull the reins backwards with the hands to ask him not to go forward
    2. Do not squeeze with both legs with the same pressure when you want the horse to perform a half-pass, leg-yield, or a turning movement
    3. Do not use both reins with the same pressure to ask the horse to perform a turning movement
    4. In other words, the signals should not contradict each other, i.e. using restrictive signals and propulsive signals at the same time.
  2. The second principle is the release of the signals.
    1. This means softening not abandoning the signals as soon as the horse begins to respond.
    2. This involves a lot of feel, timing and balance on our part and balance, strength, suppleness and understanding on the part of the horse.
    3. A good guideline to follow is to begin our signals at a level of pressure we would like the horse to respond to eventually (a cue). But if there is no or a delayed response then we must quickly and smoothly increase the pressure to a level that the horse responds to (an aid) and then quickly release it — then start over again at the same level we started with. In other words, you are presenting him a choice, either ‘A’ or ‘B’. He will eventually choose the lighter pressure.
    4. It has been my experience that it doesn’t work to the benefit of the horse by going from heavy pressure to light pressure — nor for the human. The main purpose is to initiate an action or restore it, but never to maintain the action. Paul Belasik, a classical dressage rider who has schooled horses to Grand Prix level as well as Airs above the Ground, says “impulsion without lightness is only workman-like riding at best and a horse held up by the reins is still the antithesis of correct riding.”
  3. The third principle is moderation of the signals.
    1. For the hands, this means a duration of about ½ second for active use; keeping in mind that the hand can become active or resist or yield, but never pull. Hanging on the reins will only build resistance, so using a series of quick and smooth take and give actions to achieve a response is best.  The goal is to achieve a response by slightly adjusting the weight of the rein.
    2. For the legs, it means, in the words of Arthur Kottas-Heldenburg, former First Chief Rider at the Spanish Riding School, “A horse must be taught to listen and respond immediately to the leg before introducing transitions”.  This is achieved, not by pressing the horse harder or longer or nagging him into insensitivity with little ineffective taps, but by using a light touch and release of the leg. If the horse does not respond, then immediately follow up with a firm, but light and quick touch of the whip (or spur) just in back of where the leg acted upon the flanks of the horse.  The goal is to achieve a response from, as the French say, the wind of the boot.
  4. The fourth principle involves the setting of conditions for timely responses.
    1. This includes correctly aligning the horse’s structures for the movement or exercise to be performed
    2. Knowing the cycle of the horse’s foot in movement
    3. Knowing the sequence of leg movement in any gait
    4. Knowing the relationship of movement between the horse’s hips, barrel (ribs), shoulders, and, finally,
    5. Knowing at what precise time to activate signals so as to be in harmony with the horse’s natural movement so as not create physical or natural resistance.  It also (and this is very important) encompasses the other three principles.  They must be honed to an extreme of efficiency, which can be considered a condition for optimal execution of the signals by the horse.

The Importance of Understanding How the Locomotive Parts of the Horse Work

This article will not address the correct alignment of the horse’s structures to perform a movement since they change slightly with the requirements for each gymnastic exercise and gait change. However, it is important to remember that how, i.e., the quality, the horse performs a movement is more critical than what he does in order to be gymnastically beneficial. So the central question becomes “How will we know when to time the signals to be in harmony with the horse’s movement?”

The answer to this question is not so simple. It involves the last of the four above discussed principles and yet it encompasses the other three as well. We can school the first three all we want but if the fourth principle is not carefully set up then the other three will be diminished in value. We must first understand how the locomotive parts of the horse move that we want to influence for timely responses to our signals. Remember that the feet, legs, hips, barrel, shoulders are all tied together.

For the remainder of this article it would be best, for a clear understanding, to actually observe a horse in motion.  As understanding increases we should be able to replace the physical presence of the horse with a mental visualization as we read until finally we can feel and unconsciously know what I have written about. So let’s begin with the cycle of the horse’s hind foot in its movement.

Cycle of the Foot

We’ll start when a hind foot is on the ground under the mass of the horse’s body (it doesn’t matter which one).

  1. At that moment it is weight bearing.
  2. As the horse moves forward the foot begins its rearward traction or pulling phase (traction is defined as adhesive friction) and it continues to be weight bearing.
  3. Once the foot is a little past the point of buttocks it briefly pushes against the ground, (still weight bearing) before the stifle, hock and fetlock flex and the foot lifts off the ground.  
  4. It is now non-weight bearing.
  5. Then it swings forward in a non-weight bearing mode before it again plants itself on the ground and again becomes weight bearing.

Now let’s look at the cycle of the forefoot.

  1. When a forefoot is on the ground it is in front of the horse’s shoulder and it is weight bearing.
  2. As the horse moves forward the foot begins its rearward traction or pulling phase and it is still weight bearing.
  3. Once the foot is in a vertical position it briefly pushes against the ground and as the knee flexes it lifts off the ground thus becoming non-weight bearing.
  4. Then it is pushed by the forward swinging action of the hind foot on the same side and swings forward, still in a non-weight bearing mode, to once again plant itself on the ground and become weight bearing again.

In summary:

  1. The feet are weight bearing during the plant, pull, push phase and are on-weight bearing during lift/flex and swing phase.
  2. When the hind foot is in a weight bearing mode it cannot respond to our signal request for a movement other than to go forward. But it can be signaled to provide more thrusting or driving
  3. In the hind foot’s non-weight bearing phase the horse can respond signals requesting lateral movements or the placement of the hind feet deeper placement under the mass of the body for more carrying power which is essential for engagement of the hindquarters to achieve collection.
  4. In the case of the forefoot, the rider can influence the movement of the foot to enhance the horse’s mobility of its shoulder by either having it cross over and in front of the opposite front foot in executing sharp turns or a turnaround or
  5. The rider can move the forefoot more out to the side.

Now how do the feet tie into the sequence of leg movement?

Leg Movement Sequence

We’ll begin at the walk with the left foreleg.

  1. As the left foreleg swings forward, the next leg to move and swing forward is the right hind leg. So, in a sense, the left foreleg pulls the right hind leg forward.
  2. As the right hind leg swings forward it pushes the right foreleg forward.
  3. As the right foreleg swings forward it pulls the left hind leg forward.
  4. As the left hind leg swings forward it pushes the left foreleg forward and the cycle starts all over again. Of course, the legs move not in isolation of each other but in synchronization with each other.

To briefly sum up: it is best to remember the leg sequence movement of the horse as being a diagonal ‘pull’ and a lateral ‘push’.

Here is an interesting observation. Regardless of how the horse’s feet strike the ground (in a four-beat walk, a two-beat trot, a three-beat canter or lope or a four-beat gallop) the order of the movement of the legs does not change. This becomes an all-important factor when riding once you develop feel and the correct timing of signals.

One example to illustrate this is as follows: when a horse is trotting it is in a two-beat diagonal leg moving gait. So, when his left foreleg is moving forward his right hind leg is moving forward at the same time and the feet both land on the ground at the same time and vice versa with the other two legs.

This also occurs in the walk when the same feet are involved but land one after the other (left foreleg then right hind leg) although the sequence remains the same.

Now how are we going to know that without leaning over the side of the horse to see what’s moving and when?  The answer lies in knowing the relationship between the hips, barrel, shoulders, legs, and feet during movement.

Relationship of Hip, Barrel, Legs, Feet and Shoulder Movement

The horse’s hips move in an undulating manner with the right hip moving forward and up while the left hip is moving back and down. Its shoulders move forward and back accordingly. So, let’s take a look at what occurs in the four-beat walk gait.

  1. When the right hip of the horse is in an up position it means that the right hind leg has stepped under the mass of the horse’s body and the foot is planted on the ground.
  2. For this right hind leg and foot to have moved forward, the barrel had to move slightly to the left to make room for the leg to swing forward and the foot to be planted.
  3. Also as the right hind leg is swinging forward and the hip is starting to go into an up position it pushes the right shoulder, which was in a back position, forward causing the right foreleg to swing forward and plant the right forefoot on the ground.

As all this is occurring on the right side of the horse the opposite is happening on the left side.  Here is how that side works with reference to the right.

  1. When the right hip is in the up position, with the right hind leg positioned under the mass of the horse’s body and with the right foot firmly on the ground, the left hip is in a down position.
  2. This means that the left hind leg has now reached the end of its stroke and is now positioned slightly out behind the point of the buttocks.
  3. Also the stifle, hock and fetlock are beginning to flex, and the left hind foot is now starting to lift off the ground and the left leg is starting its swing forward.
  4. During this time, the barrel (which had moved slightly to the left to make room for the right hind leg to move forward) will start its move slightly back to the right to make room for the left hind leg to swing forward and plant the left foot on the ground.
  5. During this phase leading to the forward swing of the left leg the horse’s left hip is in a down position.
  6. Once the left foot lands on the ground again the cycle is completed, and the left hip is once again in an up position.
  7. As the left hind leg swings forward, with the barrel moving slightly to the right, it pushed the left shoulder (which was in a back position) forward thus moving the left foreleg from being in a back position to a forward position and planting the left front foot on the ground.

In summary:

  1. When a hip is in a down position, the leg is slightly past the point of the buttocks and is at the end of its stroke with the foot beginning to lift off the ground.
  2. The hip stays in the down position through the swing forward of the leg with the barrel moving slightly out of the way until once again the foot plants itself on the ground.
  3. This causes the hip to go back to an up position. It stays in this position during its weight bearing phase until it reaches the end of its stroke when it is past the point of the buttocks and then goes  into its non-weight bearing and down position as it once again begins it swing forward.
  4. At almost the same time the shoulder and foreleg on the same side which were in a back position when the hip was in a down position, will be pushed forward by the hind leg on the same side as it swings forward until the front foot is once again planted on the ground. When that happens, the shoulder will be in a forward position and the cycle begins again.

The bottom line is that if we want to communicate to the horse what we want the horse to do in any meaningful way, then it is imperative that we do so by being in harmony with the movement of the horse.  This can only be accomplished by knowing instinctively where the horse’s feet are in order to direct them at the appropriate time to where we want them to be; otherwise, the feet will stay where they are.

What This All Means To The Rider

Let’s begin at the walk with the right hind foot, leg and hip of the horse when that foot has just landed on the ground under the mass of the horse’s body.  It is now in a weight bearing phase and the leg has completed its swing forward. This also means that the barrel will have moved slightly to the left which has allowed room for the right hind leg to move forward and for the foot to be planted.

  1. As the right hind foot has swung forward and planted itself on the ground and the barrel has moved slightly to the left; the horse’s right shoulder will have swung forward (pushed by the right hind leg) and the right forefoot will plant itself on the ground shortly after the right hind foot has planted itself.  You will know that all of this has taken place because the horse’s right hip will have moved to an up position.
  2. Since that right hip, leg and foot are now in a weight bearing mode, we can use our right leg signal to ask the horse to provide more thrust or drive with that leg.
  3. Remember also the order of leg movement in which the hind legs push the forelegs on the same side (the lateral push). So, if our right leg signal asks the horse for more thrust when the right hind foot is planted (the right hip is now in an up position), it also means that the right foreleg is swinging forward and is about to place itself on the ground—but it is still for a very brief time in the swing mode. Thus, by asking the   horse for more thrust when the right hip is up it also drives the right shoulder more.

Now, since the right hip is in an up position and the right leg and foot are in a weight-bearing mode, we also know that the left hind leg is in a non-weight bearing mode and will be finishing its stroke as it passes a line from the point of buttocks. The left hip will be in a down position with the stifle, hock and fetlock beginning their lift and flex cycle.

  1. This also means that the left shoulder is back which puts both left legs in a non-weight bearing mode (the lift/flex, swing phase) thus making them eligible for free movement and placement.
  2. So using our left leg signals we can ask the horse to place his left hind leg further under the mass of his body or ask it to move in a more lateral manner because the barrel is starting its process of swinging back to the right and getting out of the way of the hind leg.
  3. Also since the horse’s left shoulder is back but is beginning the process of swinging forward, we can easily place the left foreleg and foot wherever we want it to be by using a left rein signal.
  4. Staying with the left side for a moment more; with the hip in a down position and the shoulder back and the barrel beginning its swing to the right, we could put in our left leg and rein signals to ask the horse for lateral flexion and/or bend and perform a leg yielding movement.

It goes without saying that all that has been presented above needs to be reversed when starting with the left hind leg planted on the ground under the horse’s body.


While all this information may initially appear to be terribly confusing and complicated and not worth the effort to learn, it should become clear in time and with diligent study how all the foregoing, working in concert, can create the necessary synergism which will lead to the creation of harmony between us and the horse as we both journey down the path toward oneness.  I wish everyone the best of luck in reaching that place of lightness with your horse.

Training mistakes (with the horse) will always come back to haunt the rider – sometimes even years later. – Klaus Balkenhol (Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist)

Once the rider has practiced certain movements incorrectly, they are very difficult to correct. – Klaus Balkenhol (Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist)

Every rider should always ask himself in everything he pursues on horseback if it’s still about harmony with the horse, which should be the absolute core of all riding, or is it actually about creating effects, spectacular show, or even business and monetary gain. – Klaus Balkenhol (Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist).