The most important word to think of when riding is FORWARD
If you and your horse are not thinking forward, then you will have trouble getting anywhere (Weak joke I know, but could not resist it… anyway…)
Everything that you are trying to achieve in riding and training your horse should be thought as a forward motion, yes, even going backwards.
A horse’s first instinct is to run away, fight only if necessary. So, working with their natural instinct of wanting to keep moving is beneficial for all. We should be able to control our horses feet, both ridden and on the ground, and a first step to that is learning how to make our horse go forward.
Step one is to teach the horse that the leg “on” means that they need to react to it. As horses tend to move away from pressure, it means they will most likely move away from the leg. This is what we want, when we want the horse to move sideways, we apply press in the direction we want them to go. If we want the horse to move forward we use both legs at the same time, in the same place on either side of the horse, creating a “tunnel” of pressure for the horse to move forward from.
Things to remember:
IF you ask your horse to go forward and it does, reward them, EVEN if they did not do exactly what you were expecting, they are making an effort to understand. If you have forward then you have something to work with.
DO NOT NAG. If your leg becomes a constant bang bang bang at your horse’s side, they will switch off to the leg, which will make them hard work to ride, and will mean using harsher aids, along with more artificial aids to make your horse go. This is not a good path to go down. Once you ask a horse to do something, for example trot, you should ask, they should respond, and then continue to do the action until they are asked to do something else. It is easier for them to do this than it is for you to keep on asking for trot all the time!!
I use the Ask…Tell…Demand approach. For me, in general, this means:
ASK: The minimum aid to apply, a squeeze of the lower leg.
TELL: Is a bump against the horse side, and voice command
DEMAND: By the time I have reached demand, I am just looking for the horse to go forward. This can be achieved with a “pony club kick” and perhaps a YeeHaw!
Different horses have different thresholds, this need to be taken in to consideration with your aids for Ask, Tell and Demand
The demand is useful when a horse gets “stuck”, perhaps they are trying to figure out exactly what you are asking but have just got confused, or there is something distracting them, in this case the forward motion “unglues” them from the spot.
BUT the most import thing to remember is that you NEVER stay at Demand. Once the horse has reacted, you go straight back to Ask. You don’t want to spend you entire ride “Shouting” at your horse, that is a sure way to get them to “filter” you out.
When you are riding, always have the concept of forward in your head. You are always riding your horse forward to trot, forward to collection, or forward to the halt.