The Evolution of Your Aids in the Saddle

The Evolution of Your Aids in the Saddle

The Evolution of Your Aids in the Saddle

The Evolution of Your Aids in the Saddle for Better Conversation with Your Horse

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

  • Understand why your aids are always a work in progress
  • Start on the ground and work up
  • Transitioning groundwork to under the saddle
  • Application, pressure, timing and sequence

Have you ever noticed how you feel when you walk away after participating in a good conversation with someone?  There was a natural flow to it. Both of you were present and interested. Both open to hearing what the other person said.

Good conversations more often than not result in both participants walking away feeling great. Which brings us to the topic of this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast. The evolution of your aids in the saddle and the impact it has on your conversations with your horse.

Your Aids are Always a Work in Progress

One of your greatest responsibilities, as a rider, is to try and ensure that you are refining your aids.  A consistent ‘bettering’ of how you are showing up in the saddle.  For many riders, the seeming lack of any ‘quick wins’ can make this process often feel a little tedious.

However, just like becoming a great conversationalist, improving your aids requires practice in order to make perfect. 

But the thing is, that when it comes to riding, there never really is such a thing as ‘perfect’.  Your aids are a constant work in progress.  A constant evolution as you change as a person, as a rider.  

It is also worth remembering that the same is true of your horse as well.  A conversation is a two way street.  Both sides have to be as committed to it in order for it to really work.  Your horse must also be constantly learning.  Willing.  Open to how the conversation will evolve between both of you in the saddle.

Start on the Ground and Working Up

Starting today, become more mindful about what and how you are communicating with your horse before you ever get into the saddle.  The mundane, general day to day routine you and your horse go through before, and after, each ride.

One of your more useful, but unfortunately most overlooked, aids is your voice.  You can use it anywhere, at any time and it can convey a lot of different things to your horse.  It can also be really helpful for you, the rider, as well.

I feel it is important to recognise is the versatility of your voice as an aid.  This is especially true in the early days of your relationship with your horse.

Begin by experimenting how your horse listens to you.  How he responds to you.  Different tones, different words, different rhythms. 

Many riders worry about the impact of using the voice aids if they have their sights set on dressage.  I honestly don’t believe this will cause any harm.  As your aids and the conversation evolves, you can slowly make your voice less and less a part of it.

Working with Rein Aids on the Ground

Rein aids work on the ‘pressure and release’ principle.  You can begin refining this today, on the ground, with your horse whether green or more experienced.    You can use either a head collar and lead rope and use the lead rope to apply the pressure and the release.

You can also use an actual bridle and lead the horse using your reins.  Again, pressure and release.  This is also a great way of seeing how the bit actually ‘works’ in and around your horses mouth.

When coupled with your voice, such as ‘woah’ with applied pressure to slow down, steady or stop, it now becomes easier to see how it can transfer over into the saddle. 

In fact, the more ‘subtle’ aids in the saddle, such as your seat, can then be refined by adding them to the reins and voice which were learned from the ground. 

Your Seat and Your Legs

Your rein and voice aids, when worked on from the ground, also help open the conversation using your legs in the saddle.   Unfortunately many riders make the mistake of starting with the seat, rather than the legs when it comes to this.

While starting with your seat is not ‘wrong’… Very often riders are a little too ‘busy’ with their seat without realising it.  It leads to a lot of confusion between horse and rider.  Hence my suggestion of starting with your legs first.

Work on refining the conversation you are having with your horse with your legs first.  Where your legs are positioned.  How you are applying the aids.  The passive and active leg aids.  Becoming quiet through your legs when you want to…

When you become more mindful about your legs and how you are communicating with them, the seat will naturally join the conversation. 

Focusing on your seat before it is truly independent will only cause the lines of communication between you and your horse to become, well, twisted. Rather pay attention to your hands and your legs and allowing them to then influence your seat position.

If your hands are level, chances are your shoulders are level.  If your legs are where they should be, chances are your seat bones will be where you want them to be.  This is the beginning of building that all important feel.

Focus on first refining the more obvious aids and then later, shift across to the more subtle aids. 

Sometimes ‘Exaggerated’ Communication is Necessary…

Think of a time when you spoke with someone you didn’t understand.  A person who spoke a different language.  Once you both, quickly, figured out that language was not going to help either of you communicate, you would have begun looking for alternative ways.  Those alternative ways were probably not very subtle!  Hand gestures, grunts, exaggerated facial expressions…

Your conversation with your horse may be, or have been, a little like this initially.  Obvious.  ‘Loud’.  There may have been a lot of back tracking due to miscommunication.  It was not fluent.

However, over time and by consistently committing to improving the conversation with your horse, things improved, or will improve.

Application, Pressure, Timing and Sequence

There are four different ‘filters’ you can view the use of your aids through.  When they are all put together, you will get the overall feel of the ride for both you and your horse.

The application of your aids is all about the ‘how’ and they ‘why’.  If you can get clear on those, you will be able to apply your aids in a more clear way for your horse to understand.

The varying degrees of pressure create different outcomes with your horse.  It works like the tone in your voice when speaking to a person.  Soft. Hard. Gentle. Urgent. 

Timing is important in any good conversation.  It allows things to flow.  It means not butting in, or speaking over the other person.  It also means warming the conversation up before asking more probing or difficult questions.

The sequence is simply how you put it all together.  For example, perhaps the more ‘expressive’ or ‘obvious’ aids are necessary at the beginning.  They lead the more subtle aids.

You have to start with the end in mind; but you cannot start at the end!

The piece in the middle is the ongoing evolution of your aids in the saddle so that both you and your horse can have better conversations together.

Happy Riding


Links mentioned in the episode:-


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