Four-star event rider Coral Keen provides one H&H forum user with some helpful advice on how to get her horse in front of the leg and responsive to the aids
Q: The acceptance of the aids: “Please may you share your tips and suggestions for teaching a horse acceptance of the aids: hand, leg, seat, and so on? I had a epiphany last night that ‘Skylla’ and myself had been ‘faking it’ with regards the understanding of leg aids — we both thought we understood what was what, until I asked for turn on the forehand and angelic baby horse did a ‘I don’t understand, I shan’t do it and I shall make my feelings known…’. She might have reached the teenage stage where she thinks she knows it all, and any correction is met with complete disbelief that I could possibly want anything other than what she is offering. So we are going back a couple of steps, to independent aids, release and reward when correct response is given. Tips for getting a very reactive baby horse to accept the leg are welcome!”
A: I often find with young horses that they go though different stages in their learning. With your horse, I’d go back to basics and do lots of transitions to get him to listen to your leg and so that he fully understands that your legs mean go.
If the turn on the forehand is something that you particularly want to focus on, I would do it in a very straightforward and uncomplicated way so that it is easy for the horse to understand. Take a 20m circle and turn it into a large square.
Use your outside leg to create the corners. Keep your hands really forward so that the horse doesn’t get confused. Open your inside hand towards your knee, to guide the horse around, but don’t pull back and block the horse. Turn your head and shoulders which will also help the horse to understand where you want to go. This is also a good exercise to teach the horse that the outside legs turns the outside shoulder.
If the horse is still resisting, move away from a turn on the forehand completely for a while and just let the horse to go forwards and accept the leg in a really easy, relaxed way on large circles and straight lines.
With a horse that is sharp to the leg make sure your leg is always around the horse, just cuddling around it, but not clamped on. The temptation with a hot horse is to take the leg off which means when you do put your leg back on you will get a sharp reaction. Then increase and decrease the pressure. If you suddenly putting the leg on your horse will overreact.