Steering with my legs.. - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 32 Old 07-26-2019, 04:25 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mmshiro View Post
Keep in mind that part of riding is not just "how to" but "being able to." There is an amount of athleticism and coordination going into riding that is a natural byproduct of strengthening muscles and learning to relax or tone them independently.

The ultimate goal of softness is to have the horse respond to your mere intent, so this is where you should start. Sit in an office chair that rotates rather easily, keep your body loose, and then look 90ļ to your left and right, just turning your head. If you got a responsive and well trained chair like mine, it'll respond by moving a little bit in the direction "you want to go." Well, if you can rotate an office chair just by looking where you want to go, you can certainly start to transmit your intent to the horse by just looking where you want to go. You can leave your reins where they are (the turn of your head will already move them slightly automatically, and your pelvis will be rotated ever so slightly - which is what made your office chair move), but you can also follow up with your outside leg with rhythmic pressure against the saddle and the girth, as in, "Hey, go ahead and turn your shoulders!" As soon as you get a response, stop cueing.

For this, it's important that there be a high signal-to-noise ratio, so the horse only picks up on your intended cue and doesn't get confused by busy reins or the other leg flopping against his body or your bouncing in the saddle.

The strength and coordination comes into play because you only want to put on the outside leg without affecting your balance or the calmness of the rest of your body.

When I learned, I was allowed to canter after I could ride the horse "up-up-down" - without balance assistance from the reins - for some time.

Not an ultimate guide, but maybe something that'll help you.
The office chair is a fantastic idea. I’m definitely going to do and practice that!!! Thank you!
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post #12 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by MNgirl View Post
...Her philosophy is that your reins are a last resort, so as far as learning to canter, I wonít, until I demonstrate that I donít need to rely on my reins...
What is wrong with steering using the reins? If your instructor got on my horse and tried to steer him by leg only, he'd laugh at her and go find something to eat. I admit I find it a little weird to expect a horse to focus on me to the point my looking somewhere means he goes there.

"... By this I do not mean to say that one should let the horse do as he pleases; one should, instead, if necessary persuade him with firmness and energy to do the rider's will, while leaving him full liberty to avail himself of and to use as best it suits him his balance and his strength. From this fundamental and unchanging principle stem all the practical rules of equitation with which I shall deal. . . .

. . . the first rule of good riding is that of reducing, simplifying and sometimes, if possible, even eliminating the action of the rider. If the hands are used to turn and check a horse, and the legs to make him move forward and to give him resolution and decisiveness this is enough...
" - Federico Caprilli

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post #13 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
What is wrong with steering using the reins? If your instructor got on my horse and tried to steer him by leg only, he'd laugh at her and go find something to eat. I admit I find it a little weird to expect a horse to focus on me to the point my looking somewhere means he goes there.
Not at all. My horse goes where I look without particularly focusing on me. That's because she isn't responding to "where I am looking" but to the small shifts in my weight and balance that accompany my looking. She does this automatically, unless she has a different opinion (in which case I need to do more than 'look'.)
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post #14 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 01:28 PM
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I look at lots of things I don't want to go to. And my horse often has a somewhat different opinion, perhaps because he is allowed to have one. And I often go along with his suggestions. In return, he often goes along with mine.

The reins don't make a horse do anything. It is just a clear way of making a request. Nothing wrong with using leg cues but I'm puzzled at why they would be a prerequisite for cantering. I also don't understand why using the reins as a request for a turn is considered "a last resort". As a rule of thumb, horses like "clear". Clear means they KNOW what is expected and that creates happiness in most horses. A seat cue may be subtle but it is also very imprecise. Particularly at a canter when the seat is moving plenty already:


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post #15 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 02:31 PM
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In dressage, reins are important for moving the shoulders, so trying to steer effectively without reins is... honestly, totally weird.

I've been riding a long time, and I'm four years into dressage-specific lessons and can ride a lot of movements. But I don't think I could accomplish a whole lot of turning with NO reins.

Some examples (by no means a complete list) of rein and leg aids (which can vary a bit from place to place):

Reins: control the shoulders and how far they do or do not "pop" out in either direction
Leg at the girth: moves the rib cage
Rein + leg at the girth on the same side, with opposite rein maintaining straightness: can move whole front end over
Rein + leg behind the girth on the same side, with opposite rein maintaining straightness: can move the whole horse over (leg yield)
Leg behind the girth: influences the hindquarters

And various combinations of the above can accomplish different things.

Kudos to your coach for wanting to ensure that you're not balancing on your reins, or totally dependent on them. But they do serve a purpose beyond being a "last resort."
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post #16 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 06:44 PM
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It's very much about developing a feel for what is correct and what is not. Your leg should be positioned underneath your hips, so that your at the center of your balance. Then you should be using the inside of your calf to squeeze at the horse's side. It is also accompanied by your seat/weight. For example, if your turning into a circle, your upper body (pivoting at your waist) will be turning towards the direction of travel (controlling shoulders with rein) and this will also cause your hips to turn + your legs to go in a "turning position" (inside leg on to support the horse, outside leg on to help turn). You can see this occurring in the video above at 1:04 to 1:13 when the rider is riding through the corner. Although, It is subtle in that video because that horse is most likely very sensitive to the riders body signals.

The main idea of it is that horses generally move AWAY from leg pressure, but it isn't just leg that helps the horse turn. EYES and SEAT/weight create direction, while the legs manipulate shape in a turn. Like SteadyOn mentioned, where your leg is placed also matters.

Behind the girth= haunches
Infront of the girth=shoulders
Left leg only infront of the girth= horse moves shoulders to the right
Right leg in front of girth= horse moves shoulders to left

So, If you were turning a square turn to the right, you'd first look, then pivot your upper body to the right, open your inside hip to allow the horse to turn in, support the horse with your inside calf and close your left leg to follow through with the turn. The degree on how much leg, seat, etc is used depends on how responsive that horse is. Use as much as you need until you get an adequate response.
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post #17 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 07:30 PM
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I've never rode English on western, but a horse is a horse. There are 3 leg positions in western although there are varying degrees of what you want. Position 1 is at the front cinch or a little in front. Leg pressure there moves the front quarters right or left. Position 2 is in the center between the two cinches and controls the middle of the horse for sideways movement such as sidepassing. Position 3 is at the rear behind the back cinch and controls the hindquarters. For a left lead you would lift your left rein slightly and move your right leg to position 3 and apply pressure, animate your seat and kiss a couple times squeezing with your legs. Just the opposite with your right lead. Turning use you outside leg in position 1. If he starts to crowd to the inside put your inside leg in position 2 and add a little pressure to keep him out of center.
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post #18 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 07:55 PM
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It's interesting: one thing I've learned over time is that leg aids are quite different between western and English. In English riding, there are no leg aids given in front of the girth. So that leg aid others have mentioned that moves the shoulders over... doesn't have an equivalent in English riding. Instead, the reins (along with a touch of knee pressure) can be used to push the shoulder over -- and it's in a way that's extremely hard to explain, but you just kind of "get it" after some practice. It's not neck reining, but it's still a sort-of-indirect rein, and it has to be used in conjunction with leg, but at the girth.

It took me forever to understand turning a horse with the *outside* rein -- but not neck reining -- but it does start to click over time.
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post #19 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 08:45 PM
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@bsms - you have to remember you are riding a trail horse. That horse is trained to ride differently then a ring horse. I would assume this trainer has horses that are trained to yield to the leg. All of my horses will yield to the leg but I will be honest - five horses and only one that I can get on with no bridle and walk trot canter, steer and stop with out any reins, not even a cute little neck ribbon. The rest of mine will steer without reins TO AN EXTENT.... Also - when I'm on trail I can look left, right, up and down and they'll continue in the direction I want them in BUT... I'm not shifting my body when I look around. When you are in the ring and using your "look" to steer the horse - your body does shift.

You have good arguments but don't forget we are talking about the different styles and methods of riding....
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post #20 of 32 Old 07-27-2019, 09:00 PM
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Originally Posted by farmpony84 View Post
@bsms ...You have good arguments but don't forget we are talking about the different styles and methods of riding....
Fair point. My apologies if I confused the issue.
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