Understanding the Balance of Your Aids

Understanding the Balance of Your Aids

Understanding the Balance of Your Aids

Understanding the Balance of Aids

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Why focusing initially on your seat usually won’t work
  • Understanding pressure and how it varies
  • Solving the inside leg to outside rein puzzle
  • How improving your balance can improve your responsiveness

Balance.  It is a concept that always shows up when discuss the important things in life. Balance blends the important parts together.  Balance, if adhered to, makes things work more seamlessly together.  Many riders think of balance as staying on…

However, today I want us to focus on that important blending; the balance of aids.

Every good relationship is built on communication, so it stands to reason that you should work on building your communication channels with your horse.  When in the saddle, this is achieved via your aids.

Why Focusing Initially on Your Seat Usually Won’t Work

When we initially learn to ride, things are often explained to us in a very simplistic manner, and of course it must be otherwise we would give up on the first day.  But then as we begin going deeper into the aspects of horse riding, we begin to understand that our seat is the most important aid we have when communicating with our horse.

However, knowing that your seat is important and then riding in a way that conveys that to your horse, are two very different things!  Your seat is important “IF” you can control everything else!

Which brings us to this balance of aids.  When you are learning to ride, through the different stages of your progress as a rider, that balance changes.

Initially, your seat is not going to be so important as a clear aid.  Now, I realise that some people will argue with me here and insist that “Of course it is important”.  But no, really it is not because most riders cannot control their seat at that point.

If you were to try to communicate with your horse using your seat when you first start riding, you are just going to be talking absolute gibberish to your horse.  Complete nonsense, which he can’t understand.  The result is the horse ignoring the rider, or becoming anxious by a ‘busy’ rider, which will inevitably result in both of you becoming extremely frustrated with the process.

To counter this, when we learn to ride initially, the balance or aids gives a greater emphasis to our legs, hands and voice. 

Then, as we refine our riding skills then the balance changes and the seat becomes more important.  Now, it is worth bearing in mind that your seat is not completely null and void at the beginning, but if you could imagine a pie chart of your aids, the seat ‘slice’ would be significantly smaller than the other pieces when we start our journey as riders.

This is where I see the frustrations of a lot of riders.  They are not yet at the point where their seat can work effectively for them as a communication tool with the horse, and yet they are trying to do that, and it ends up negatively impacting so much in the saddle.

So, keep in mind that if you are in the early stages of your riding journey, or coming back to riding after a break, your seat probably should not have such a big piece of the balance pie, when it comes to all your aids together.

Understanding pressure and how it varies

As you become more adept and more refined as a rider,  your aids are going to change.  The balance of aids is always changing, that is the nature of balance.

However, it is also the balance inside of the aids themselves that is part of this change as well.  Simply put, this is the pressure at which you apply your aids.

How much pressure you apply with a particular aid is going to depend on a few different factors.

  • What you are doing
  • Your abilities as a rider
  • The horse itself on that day
  • The responsiveness of the horse
  • The situation or circumstances you are riding in

Every day this will change depending on the specific set of circumstances surrounding each ride.  An example of this is the difference between riding a horse in the arena and, the same horse, in an open field.   Even though it is the same horse (and maybe even the same day), the aids need to be applied differently in order to be effective.

The pressure of each individual aid changes.  But so too does the sequence or how the aids are being applied together.  Everything can vary and it is this balance which must be considered every time we sit on a horse.

Most riders have a goal of improving their ‘feel’ in the saddle.  ‘Feel’ is that point where you are no longer thinking or planning your adjustments.  You have the ability to keep your aids in balance regardless of the situation, the circumstances, the horse, whatever the case may be.

Solving the Inside Leg to Outside Rein Puzzle

One of the most misleading concepts regarding balance of aids is the inside leg to the outside rein.  Due to the focus being so much on the inside leg and the outside rein, many riders completely forget about the outside leg and the inside rein.

All the aids play a big part in this concept working correctly, including the seat.  It’s just that the balance of aids has shifted slightly. 

Let’s think of the pie chart again.  If we divide up our pie-chart based on how much relevance is going to be given to each individual aid, the inside leg to outside rein pie chart would not only contain two pieces, or halves.  All the other aids are still in there, playing a role; balancing.  However, the pressure exerted by them must vary depending on how the horse responds.

If you were to just ride from the inside leg to the outside rein for example, and not use anything else, the concept will not work.  All the other aids must be there, the balance, in order to maintain the straightness and the connection with the horse.  Missing aids lead to lack of balance, which leads to being lopsided!

How Improving Your Balance can Improve Your Responsiveness

This brings me to the final piece of the balance puzzle.  When you begin to improve the balance of your aids, you are also going to find that overall responsiveness, both you and your horse, will improve.

Realising that a balance is always there and always in play will ensure that you are working on refining it every day in the saddle.  This begins with self-awareness in the saddle.

Begin noticing the ’cause and effect’ of your thoughts, movements and aids. “When I do this, in this way, I get this result”.

By doing this, you will begin to see patters in how your horse associates specific aids with certain actions he must respond with.  The connections he has formed in his mind between two things.

As you become more aware of those connections, you can then begin refining your aids more and more.  Playing with the balance and discovering what works best in particular situations.

The final piece of this is devoting less time on thinking about your aids and more time on tweaking or refining the outcome to get the results you desire.  This is that ‘feel’ I spoke about earlier.

It is a little like fine-tuning an old radio using the dial.  It can be a little frustrating at the beginning. Snippets of muffled communication, coupled with a lot of static.  It is only by making micro, minute changes to the dial that the communication and overall experience improves.  Then when it is correct, the result is instant.  Clear sound flows from the radio.

Your balance of aids is similar.  it is fine tuning, tweaking, paying attention.  When you get it right your horse can hear you perfectly.  You can also ‘hear’ your horse

It is also worth remembering that the perfect balance might be fleeting at the beginning.  That is the nature of balance; the stable spot when everything is moving. However, as you become better able to read and adjust your aids, you will find that staying in balance for longer becomes easier.

Happy Riding


Links mentioned in the episode:-



Leave a comment