Independent Aids
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, September 30, 2021 07:26 PM
We all heard a phrase:Leg and hand aids must be independent from the seat. This is not only a very important statement. This is actually vital to the harmonious and effective communication between horse and rider.
There is obvious dependence when a rider needs reins and/or gripping legs to keep her balance. And there are less obvious chain reactions which happen to the rider's body every time leg or rein aid is applied. We will talk more about the latter.
    Rider's aids can be stuck together in several ways:
  • When using a rein aid a rider stops/braces her seat, accidentally asking her horse to slow down or stop. The seat is no longer connected to the horse's gait even though a rider is not intending to halt
  • If stronger rein and/or leg is needed on one side a rider will stiffen, lean and/or push down more on that side whether it is necessary or not
  • Every time forward leg aids are needed a rider pushes with the seat stiffening her lower back.
  • In order to apply leg aid a rider must lean either in, out, forward or back, or a combination, for example, forward and in
  • When using a stronger leg aid a rider accidentally tightens the reins
  • When using a stronger rein aid a rider is pulled forward with tight lower back and or/pushes into stirrups
  • When a flexing rein is applied a rider lifts and twists into the same direction. For example, asking for the right flexion a rider will twist to the right and lift right seatbone
  • Left and right aids are not independent. When one rein is applied the other rein either gives or pulls automatically even if it is not intended
These chain reactions are very hard to notice in yourself. They are built-in reflexes that are not necessarily riding related. Some things we do all the time in regular life. They are natural to us, we do not feel them. Other reactions happen because we often treat a horse like an inanimated object such as wheelbarrow or a chair and try to physically push and pull him around instead of convincing him to do the task. In order to work these chain reactions out of your body a rider has to follow a few guidelines:
  1. Learn to observe yourself without reactions or corrections, without judgment. Just stating facts like a scientist
  2. If you learned about a habitual pattern you must consciously work on it, otherwise, it will not change
  3. Always start slow and work toward faster gaits as your coordination and reaction improves
  4. Use very simple riding patterns while rewiring your brain. Difficult movements will throw you back into habitual responses
  5. Your horse may or may not help you depending how much he is used to familiar feelings. So use caution interpreting his reactions
  6. Catch yourself using force in a prolonged way like a long pull on the rein/reins, excessive leaning sideways, or long push against the stirrups or saddle. When such actions are used you are no longer talking to your horse you are moving him like he is a sofa.
New ways of doing things will feel weird if not down right wrong or uncomfortable. In order to create change a rider must be brave to explore unknown, experiment without fear of making mistakes, listen to her horse and use eyes on the ground, pictures, video and/or mirrors to help connect new feelings with correct actions.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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