Introductory Comments 

Aids create and modify the actions of the horse; they are not meant to maintain them. So when you change or modify an action on the horse then leave it alone and whatever it was you did goes away, then you recreate it or modify it again

A rider who is not technically sound limits his/her ability to be specific

A logical training process requires technique. The more technically sound you become the better your explanations become and the better the horse will learn

The common denominator with all sizes and shapes of horses is that they all need a rational gymnastic plan to move their parts and direct their minds

Gymnastic work is done to regulate the parts of the horse, more precisely, its skeletal frame. In order to do that the rider must first be able to loosen the muscles that move those parts so he or she can move those parts and direct them

Repetition is the path the horse travels toward learning. He does not differentiate between what is wrong or right and he can also learn both obedience as well as disobedience. So take the time to be thorough and correct with what you teach him

Whatever you leave out or fail to address in the training process in order to avoid problems, the horse will remember – and not to your advantage

When you start out you will be using automatic aids, meaning that you will be learning what they are and how to apply them. Only after a long time practicing them will you use the aids instinctively, meaning that you will have learned how much to use them (feel) and when (timing). The goal is to have the rider’s aids be instinctive and the horse’s reaction to them automatic.

Your aids might be correct and your timing may be off. Conversely your timing might be right on and your aids may not be correct . These conditions hamper whatever you’re trying to get accomplished with the horse

Moving the hind end around the front end, while keeping all four legs stepping, not only helps you influence the horse’s shoulders but helps him refocus when his attention wanders

Driving a horse into a wall or fence at a 45-degree angle and rolling him back over his hocks and then driving him out of that turn is one of the most useful exercises you can teach a horse because it frees up all his parts. This exercise accomplishes several things:

          *First, it requires the horse to break in the loin area when he has to crowd his hind end underneath himself

          *Second, it requires him to mobilize his shoulders

          *Third, it requires the horse to push off with his new inside leg – the one he is ‘squatting’ over in the turn

Be sure you have your horse doing everything you want him to do while carrying a snaffle bit before you use any type of curb or leverage bit on him

Also, you always want to go back to the snaffle bit whenever you have problems riding in a curb or leverage bit. This will give you direct contact with the horse’s mouth and is the most logical route to take to resolve a problem

Remember the most mobile part of the horse is the one with the least amount of weight on it

Horses that are ridden too long and too low with a break at the third cervical vertebra are unbalanced and consequently are traveling too much on the front end

Without knowledge of the nature of horses in regard to how they learn and why they don’t learn, you will limit even the lowest level of horse training

Too much trail riding can take the ‘feel’ off your horses, if you’re not paying attention

You can only wander around on a horse so long before wandering around becomes a priority

The horse’s learning begins when the rider releases the aids just as the horse begins to respond to what the rider requested him to do. It is not after the horse has completed the requested action 

To make use of the aids necessarily means applying pressure. But the question is how much is to used and for how long a period of time. The amount of pressure used should be just sufficient to get a response from the horse. It should start out as being ounces and graduate up to as much pressure as is necessary to get obedience from the horse. In the beginning it may be a lot.

Regarding pressure, it is always better to start from a place where the rider would like to end up and increase the amount of pressure from there than to begin from a position of using a good amount of pressure to get the job done. The reason for this is that it is harder for most people to reduce the pressure from pounds to ounces than it is to increase from ounces to pounds once they get started being heavy-handed or strong-legged

The hand should never be active for more than half a second at a time and the leg should never be applied for more than one second at a time. If necessary, the rider should just repeat the actions over and over again until a response is received. That way the horse will not develop a hard mouth or be resistant to the touch of the leg

It is not the horse’s initial correct response to the riders’ requests that counts so much. It is only the sustainment of that initial response over time that is important because it indicates the horse has learned the lesson

If the horse’s ‘fuel-oxygen’ mix is too rich, the rider will have to deplete it to a level that he/her can start to have a conversation with him

Excessively bending a horse from side to side at the base of the neck can loosen the antagonist muscles (the ones on the outside) to the extent that the steadiness in the neck is lost

The idea of the rider’s superior power over the horse’s body is purely fictitious. It’s mainly a bluff.

Never let the horse start to get the idea that he doesn’t have to go forward

If the rider doesn’t take the time and put in the effort to train their own horse to a level he or she can be comfortable with and gives that training process over to a trainer, then they will forever be returning that horse to the trainer for a ‘tune-up’. Why? Because the horse will know the difference between how, when and why the trainer asks the horse to do something and when you climb aboard him

Use of the Legs

Leg pressure directed at the horse’s hind leg when it is on the ground means more push/thrust. The hip will be in an up position when the rider applies  pressure

Leg pressure directed at the horse’s hind leg which is in the air means more stepping under/engagement. The hip will be in the down position  when the rider applies pressure

The horse’s hind legs move about the same way when he is walking and trotting. So when you want a bigger movement it would work better to push the horse forward with alternating leg aids when you feel the hips moving into an up position

Like the hands, the legs have to release as well or the horse’s sides will become dull from the constant contact. You touch with the leg but release and then touch again. Never just put your leg on a horse and leave it there and expect that spot to remain light to the touch. The touch should last about one second, but repeated over and over again if necessary until the horse gets the message

If you leave your leg on the horse’s side and relax the muscles in the leg after applying pressure then no harm is done

If you tighten the muscles in your leg as you inhale and relax them as you exhale then you probably are not going to dull the horse’s sides

Driving too much horse into your hands by constant gripping with your legs instead of using pulsations combined with creating a pulling contest with the horse by constantly pulling the reins with the hands instead of just keeping a soft contact with the mouth but squeezing and releasing the reins will quickly dull the horse, make him resentful, and possibly use up all of his good will

By momentarily stepping in one stirrup you help load one side of the horse or a specific leg and unload the leg or legs on the opposite side

To enlarge a circle the rider can step in the outside stirrup which entices the horse to drift toward the outside. The correct time to do this is when the outside shoulder is in the back position

To reduce the size of a circle the rider can step in the inside stirrup which entices the horse to drift toward the inside. The correct time to do this is when the inside shoulder is in the back position

Regulate the length of a horse’s stride with the stirrup. Stepping in your stirrups influences the regulation of the gait by loading up specific areas with weight which can keep a horse’s leg on the ground longer and free up another leg to react to an aid

Reaching for your stirrups has to do with opening your chest as you bring your shoulders back, stretching upwards as well as making your legs longer

For the majority of work the legs should be used immediately behind the girth because that is the spot to encourage impulsion

If you move your legs too far back, you can create forward movement but with no impulsion and possibly create ‘excessive engagement’ which will put too much horse in your hands to regulate

In backing up a horse, once you have light contact with his mouth, move your legs slightly forward from where you normally place them at the girth area and apply pressure along the sides of the horse with both legs simultaneously. Hold until you feel him start to shift his weight backward and immediately release the pressure and slide your legs backward past the girth area a little ways, then simultaneously apply pressure while softening the rein contact by slightly moving the hands forward until the horse starts to move forward, then immediately release the pressure. As the horse starts to get a better understanding of what you are asking him to do, then ask for more steps. When you do this apply pressure and release with each step he takes. Continue this process until you can walk the horse backward and forward however many steps you want.

When backing up a horse, start to apply the aids when the horse is moving forward. Choose either the right or the left front leg. When that leg is on the ground apply the aids. It will be the first leg to move backward. 

Use of the Reins

Make sure your hands are perfectly still but keep the fingers moving

The rider must know what the five rein effects are and how to use them either alone or in combination with each other. so as to influence the action of the horse. To not obtain this knowledge is to severely limit your ability to correctly train the horse and maneuver him

Squeezing the reins helps keep the jaw relaxed. The optimal time to do this is  when the horse’s inside front leg is on the ground. You will squeeze the rein for three strides, don’t do anything on the fourth stride, and then do it again on the succeeding stride and so on 

Turning your hand so that you can see your fingernails will shorten the rein without pulling

Squeezing the rein before transitions and departures allows the contact to stay soft

The little finger in most cases has the principal role in whatever hand is the active one. This finger accounts for half the strength in the hand

Think of holding the reins as if you were holding a little bird in your hand. Squeeze your fingers too much and you will crush the bird. If your fingers are too loose then the bird will escape and fly away. But if you softly hold the bird with your fingers in a caressing manner then it will stay comfortably in your hand

Use the outside rein against the base of the horse’s neck for more angle when riding a shoulder-in as opposed to pulling more with the inside rein

Turning the horse by opening the fingers on the outside rein as opposed to pulling on the inside rein is more logical but is seldom used.

Learn to stop pulling on the inside rein all the time

The ideal location of your hands should be slightly above the withers and about 5-6 inches apart, which is the width of a horse’s mouth. Hands spread wide apart and carried near the horse’s shoulders are the location for driving a buckboard not riding a horse

Use of the Spur

The length and shape of the shank and the size and type of rowel used is based on the shape of the barrel of the horse that you are riding and the length of your leg. You want the rowel to be near the horse’s side so you do not have to move your leg a great deal when activating the spur but not so close as to be constantly touching him with them when riding

The horse’s respect for the spur has to be greater than his desire to oppose it

The spur can be both a driving aid as well as a restraining aid. The spur can relax the horse, not just scrape hair off his side

Don’t be afraid to try different spurs. Some horses only need the memory of being touched by a sharp spur but will immediately become dull to a blunt one

With lazy horses you may have to touch with a spur every step of a 20-meter circle. With other horses just the thought of a touch of a spur is enough to keep their interest

Use of the Torso

To sit more to the inside or the outside of the saddle, simply make that respective leg longer. This action will influence the balance of the horse

Combining stirrup stepping with the weight distribution of the upper body can increase or decrease activity in specific areas of the horse’s body depending on how it is used

When making a downward transition, the rider can open his/her chest, bring the shoulders back and ‘reach’ for both stirrups, i.e, put weight in them momentarily. This helps the horse to step more under himself behind and keep his shoulders up

Developing Feel and Timing

Like everything else concerned with horses and riding, to develop feel and timing you have to work at developing feel and timing. It doesn’t just happen

When people say that you can’t teach feel, they may be correct. But people can be taught to search for it by showing them how and where and when to feel the movement of the horse. The rest is just a matter of  making mistakes but having a commitment to do better

Timing is all about your supporting aids and all of the following fall under that category: stirrup stepping, squeezing the rein, quick opening hands, release of the leg, closing the hand, use of the waist, your shoulders, your hips and the use of your upper body as a balancing rod

The timing used to ‘rock’ the horse off balance in order to help him find balance would be when you weight the right side and you feel him starting to transfer his weight in that direction, then you would immediately start putting weight on the left side. If you wait till he’s already shifted to the right then you would be too late. So in between right and left is balance

Here are some things to do to improve your timing:

  1. Inhale when you take ahold of the horse; exhale when you turn loose
  2. Inhale when you push; exhale when you release
  3. Inhale when you resist; exhale when you relax
  4. Inhale when you close your fingers on the rein; exhale when you open them
  5. Inhale when you step in your right stirrup; exhale when you shift to the left stirrup
  6. Inhale when you tighten your leg; exhale when you relax it

Closing Thoughts

The horse reflects the knowledge and abilities of the rider who, in turn, reflects what they have been taught by the teacher

Anyone who prides themselves on being self-taught when it comes to riding and understanding horses, has a fool as a teacher

Don’t ever forget how different and how much better the world looks when you are on the back of a horse

There are only two kinds of riding, regardless of your particular discipline, good riding and bad riding

If the rider always operates within his or her comfort zone, neither the rider nor the horse will progress

If the rider gets in a hurry to get things done, they will be late in accomplishing their goal