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Trainer’s Tip Tuesday

A day late and resharing an old post. We are in the process of moving into a new house on our property and my days are running together. Everything should settle by the end of the month.

Riding is an art that requires feel. Feel takes time to develop and needs to be constantly practiced and refined.

One of the important "feels" we need to develop is what our horse feels like when connected to our outside aids. I often see riders sending their horses THROUGH their outside aids or abandoning the outside aids completely. When the outside aids are abandoned, there is nothing for the horse to connect to.

When we flex the horse's neck to the inside, we will send our horse through our outside aids. When the nose of the horse goes past the point of the shoulder, we shift their weight to the opposite shoulder and throw the horse off balance. We unintentionally shift the weight forward and out when we flex them to the inside.

To prevent this, we need to be sure that we use the inside rein to finess, supple, activate the jaw and invite the nose to reach forward and allow the poll to flex. Our inside rein backs up our inside leg. Rarely should the inside rein be applied prior to the inside leg, when working on bend.

We should not pull, hold or hang on the inside rein. That will create a block that our horse has to work around. Pulling the inside rein, holding the inside rein, hanging on the inside rein does not help the horse find the connection to the outside rein. It teaches them to lean and hang on the inside rein. It teaches them not to come through their back or engage their haunches. It teaches them to go through your outside aids.

The second part of the equation is we need to give the horse outside aids to connect to. Often I see riders relying on the rail instead of having the horses connected to the outside aids. The riders struggle to get the horse off the rail and the horse loses balance and rhythm once they move off the rail. I see riders completely abandoning the outside aids and relying on the inside aids. This creates a lean to the outside. We don't want to horses leaning to the outside. That is where our outside aids come in. If we add our outside aids and the horse continues moving to the outside, the horse is going through the outside aids not connecting to the outside aids. If we add our outside aids and the horse immediately falls to the inside, the horse wasn't connected to the outside aids. They are just falling off one side of the "balance beam" to the other.

How can we tell if our horse is connected to our outside aids? A simple test is to start on the rail. Leg yield your horse away from the rail for about 10'. Then ride your horse forward on a straight line. Did your horse go straight immediately? Did they stay rhythmical? Yes? Good job! Did they lean? Did they rush? Did their head come up? Yes? Your horse wasn't connected to your outside aids. They were falling through them.

Need a more challenging test? Leg yield from the rail and pick up a canter on a straight line. The canter lead should be the lead to the inside of the bend, the lead closest to the rail. Did you get the correct lead and stay on the straight line? Yes? Outstanding! Your horse was connected to your outside aids. Did you get the wrong lead? Did you lose straightness? Did the horse not take the canter? Yes? Your horse wasn't connected to outside aids.

In walk, just practice using your leg on one side of the horse until you feel them bareky touch the opposite rein and leg. When you feel the horse touch, use the leg to send them back to the other rein and leg. Kind of like dribbling a basketball between your two hands. One hand receives the ball and then sends it back. Only on your horse, it is your legs that do the sending.

When working on outside rein connection, we must be careful not to over use the outside aids, or we will create leaning and counter flexing. Finess and balance of aids are an art.

It is our job to learn the feel of having the horse connected to the outside aids. It is our job to remember our outside aids need to be there to receive our horse. Feel is an art that we will have to work continuously to master.

This is a young mare I was riding when my rein broke. Losing the rein didn't affect us because she knew how to connect to my "outside aids" through my seat and leg. We finished the ride we rode in all gaits and opened gates.

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