Use Your Aids to Whisper, Not Shout

The rider’s aids are her tools to communicate with her horse. The “natural” aids, which she uses to respond to her horse, are her seat, legs, and hands. The rider’s seat, and especially her legs, controls two-thirds of the horse’s body from the wither back. Her hands control the forward one-third of the horse’s body including the shoulders, neck, and head. Let’s look at each of these important aids.

The Seat: The rider’s seat works as an aid to help the horse go forward or slow down. The seat works by applying weight into the saddle on the horse’s back according to what response the rider wants. She uses more weight in her seat for more response, less weight for a lighter response. The weight that the rider applies through her seat, on the saddle has two functions. It indicates to the horse her desire to go forward or slow down and helps him to accomplish these actions. I’ll explain more about the function of the seat in upcoming editions of this newsletter series.

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Emergency! The rein aids that keep you safe

Dear Julie,

I’ve been taking riding lessons every week for a few months (I used to ride when I was younger). The school I go to is very good—your horses are very fit and mostly well behaved. My class of 4-5 riders is working in an arena. In the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that the horses are getting a bit excitable and fast. I can control my horse at the beginning, but when it comes to cantering my horse is difficult to control.  He raises his neck and is ready to take off—especially when other horses are excited. I am reluctant to canter at all now. I feel nervous and out of control and my horse knows it. What’s the best way control my horse at the canter?

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The One-Rein Emergency Halt

The act of moving the hips over for a one-rein emergency halt is the single greatest technique you can employ to stop a horse that is bolting or bucking. It can and has saved many riders from terrible accident and injury. Picking up on both reins when a horse is out of control, does not help. Pulling on both reins captures the horse’s energy and actually fuels the horse’s desire to flee. The horse will feel trapped and will rear, buck or bolt.

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Know Your Rein Aids

Dear Julie,

I’m a bit confused about rein aids—how they differ in English and Western riding. I’ve been hearing terms like direct and direct opposition, indirect and indirect opposition. What do these terms mean and when do you use them while riding?

Signed, Reining in the Answers

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Aids Communication Keys to Success: Include a Warmup

Most people who do any type of exercising know the importance of a warm-up. When riding, including a warm-up helps the horse loosen and limber up his muscles after standing in the stall or pasture. It prepares his mind and body for the work you will be asking him to do whether it be schooling, trail riding, pleasure riding, or showing.

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When to Transition to a Bridle

A snaffle bit is a great educational tool and makes learning easy for a young horse. Last time we discussed the many different types of snaffle bits and how they work. With any bit it is important to remember that it is the rider’s hands and not the bit that is most important.

A snaffle bit is a great training tool as you can be more specific with your rein aids or cues with the reins than you can when the horse is in a hackamore or a bridle.

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Begging for Acceptance

Imagine you’re meeting a blind date at a coffee shop, a setup by your friend who just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Even though you’re not really interested in a relationship right now, you arrive only a few minutes late, and looking across the café, you see a guy jump to his feet, frantically waving his arms over his head, a little too eager to get your attention.

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Tips for Mounting Properly

We’ve reviewed what the term “aids communication” means and why it is so important to success in communicating with our horses. In the next few articles I am going to share training techniques built on the use of the rider’s natural aids, meaning her seat, legs, and hands—not artificial training aids or gimmicks! You will learn how to teach your horse to respond more willingly, without using force.

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Snaffle Bits

There are a lot of opinions out there about the snaffle bit. Everyone, from your local trainer to a national level trainer, has a point of view on the right type of snaffle and how it should be used. There are also many styles of snaffle bits including a full-cheek snaffle, a lose-ring snaffle, an offset D-ring, an O-ring, an egg butt and more.

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