1. Relaxation
Your horse must be relaxed and accepting of you – your seat, legs and hand. He must move freely without tension and his back, head and neck should be in a relaxed and unforced position.

2. Impulsion
Impulsion is vital – a light touch from your leg and the horse must increase his pace.

  • You must ensure that you have a prompt, forward reaction to a leg aid.
  • Your horse must maintain the rhythm and speed without continual intervention.
  • There should be sufficient power so that he will go forwards again from a light touch.
    Do not mistake speed for impulsion. A horse moving at maximum speed does not necessarily have impulsion – he will simply get tired. Keep within his individual natural balance and rhythm, and occasionally check his impulsion with some transitions between paces or lengthening in the pace.

    3. Asking for bend
    A good bend is important so that your horse:

  • Gives to your aids, particularly on the inside.
  • Learns to balance correctly around corners and circles.

    Engage the hindquarters, bringing the inside hind leg underneath his body. This is where control of the quarters is important, as they must stay ‘behind’ the horse, following the line of the circle or bend and not pushing out or falling in.

    4. Straightness is vital
    A lot of time can be spent riding circles, but a straight horse is just as important. To ride a straight line, you must:

  • Sit straight with even contact in your hands. Your legs should rest evenly against the sides of your horse.
  • Keep your eye in front and watch the line.
    If you find it hard to feel when your horse is crooked, ask someone to stand in front of you and tell you when the quarters or shoulders are to the side, or use a series of markers such as cones to mark a line to ride beside.

    5. Maintaining energy
    The half-halt is an essential aid for a rider – it helps steady and re-balance the horse, while keeping the energy coming through from the quarters. When applied correctly, you should feel your horse steady himself, keeping the forward activity. The aids are as follows:

  • Close the leg.
  • Hold in your back.
  • Close the fingers around the rein.
  • Then release everything.
    This should all happen within a split second and be repeated as often as necessary. Horses will all respond differently, so tailor your aids to suit the responses of your horse, but always use more leg than hand.

    6. Avoiding evasions
    If your horse pushes his quarters to one side, ensure that you sit straight and use the leg on the same side to push the quarters back underneath you. Be careful not to over-correct so they swing out to the other side.

  • If your horse puts his weight onto one shoulder, close the leg and hand on that side to rebalance him.
  • Keep your hands still and level, or you will make your horse’s head tilt. Never saw on the reins – this causes pain to the horse’s mouth.
  • If your horse rushes off every time you try to do something, go back to basics. Stay in walk until he is calm, and make any corrections softly, until you feel him settle down. Then move on to trot and do the same thing.
  • If your horse is heavy in canter, don’t stay at that pace for too long. Make transitions to trot, re-balance in the trot and then canter again, so the canter transition is more balanced.
  • Don’t stress your horse by trying to get everything perfect first time. Give him the opportunity to learn and time to understand what you are asking for. If things go wrong, stop and have a rest. Take a moment to check your position, and ensure that you are asking your horse correctly and not blocking him.
  • Click here to see the first part in this series
  • This feature was first published in full in HORSE magazine (October 04), on sale now

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