What are ‘The Basics’ When It Comes to Riding?

What are ‘The Basics’ When It Comes to Riding?

What are ‘The Basics’ When It Comes to Riding?

What are the Basics when it Comes to Riding

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

  • Understanding the conversation is always happening
  • Your position
  • Your Aids
  • Understanding how your horse ‘goes’

The ‘basics in riding’… It sounds like a bit of a list for riders to master before they move on.  And I suppose in a way, they are.  Like most things, there are a few foundational pieces that, once you understand how they work, can be used to create a foundation for you & your horse going forward.

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In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast we will chat about 4 of those ‘basics’ and also, where you will transition to after the basics have truly been mastered.

Understand that the Conversation is Always Happening

The first thing to remember is that the conversation is always happening. Always.  It is on-going and not only when you are in the saddle. As the ‘Team Leader’, you need to set the tone of the conversation.

The conversation starts when you and your horse first begin interacting.  When you are aware of the others presence. 

You build on the conversation all the time. Each day you build on the conversation you had the previous day.

Many riders make the mistake of thinking that the only time they are communicating with their horse is when they mindfully ride an active aid.   However, for most novice riders, they are talking all the time to their horse.

The constant shifts and movements in the saddle unintentionally adding to (and confusing) the overall conversation between horse & rider.

Ask yourself, ‘How am I leading this conversation?’, and ‘How am I contributing to this conversation?’.  The answers to these questions are something you can continually try to improve.

Your Position

If you have ever had a formal horse riding lesson, this is something your trainer or instructor probably devoted quite a bit of time to.  And for good reason.  Your position is a vitally important part of the basics.

A correct, supple and strong position puts you in the best possible place to have the most impact when you do activate your aids.  You are in the right place at the right time. 

You are not having to readjust all the time and you are not giving muffled instructions to your horse. It means that things are clearer from you, and your horse has a better chance of understanding.

Of course, another big advantage of having the correct position is that there is a better chance of you staying in the saddle!

A correct position results in a balanced rider.  A balanced rider relies on their own body to balance themselves, rather than relying on the horse, the stirrups or the reins.

One of the easiest ways to check your position is to make sure ‘the lines’ are present.  Head, shoulder, hip and heel is the first line. Elbow, hand, through the rein to your horses mouth is the second line.

Get those two lines right all the time, and you will have a much better chance of sitting pretty in the saddle.  You will also be far more successful in your overall communication with your horse. 

Your Aids

An obvious but oh so important part of the overall conversation you are having with your horse.  The problem occurs when you are ‘going through the motions’ with your aids, but failing to truly understand your aids.

One of the issues I see come up a lot is active versus passive.  There is a lot of confusion surrounding an engaged and active aid versus a disengaged aid.  A good example of this is the leg aids and ‘taking the leg off’.

It is really important that you understand your aids and how those aids work when asking your horse a question.   A good example is the transition to canter.  You probably have been told to put your outside leg back – but do you really know why you are doing that?

Begin trying to understand why you are doing what you are doing.  This way, you can begin to ‘weave’ aids together depending on the different situations you find yourself in.

The Basics also Include the Balance of Aids

Aids are not static.  They are consistently evolving and changing.  This is the balance of aids. How they change is in the proportion that you are using them with each other in different circumstances.  The pressure will also vary as well as the sequence.

In order to truly begin improving the overall conversation between you & your horse, you need to understand why a particular aid is being used in a particular way. It is knowing how that aid influences the horse that allows you to become more effective & of greater influence in the saddle.

As I mentioned, the aids are constantly evolving and part of that is then taking the next step.  Focusing on the timing of a particular aid.  Asking a question at the right time, allows your horse to respond in a timely manner.  It allows the smooth grace of the ride to continue.

You can use your aids in different sequences.  They can be grouped together differently to mean different things. Once you have mastered the basics aids, you can then begin refining things further.  Making adjustments within the gait itself or even within the stride itself.

Understanding How Your Horse ‘Goes’

“Goes”…  It is a fairly basic word in and of itself, isn’t it?!  However so many riders I meet just fail to really and truly understand how their horse is moving underneath them.  I feel that it is important to understand how your horse goes, and not just in the basic walk, trot, canter and, if you’re brave, gallop.

It means understanding how he moves his body. What it looks and feels like when he is moving correctly and how he is moving it when things are less than what we want them to be.

It is begin able to see and feel the differences between the version we don’t want and the version that we do.

For example would you notice if he began lifting his legs higher during each stride.  Would you feel the extra flexion, energy and suppleness through his joints and, consequently, throughout his whole body?

Knowing how he is ‘going’ means that you understand how he is achieving a certain way of moving – so you can influence him in repeating it. 

Building a Correct Foundation of Knowledge

One of the bane of many trainers and horses lives is the ‘quick fix’!   So many riders try to find a quick fix to issues that they don’t really understand to begin with.  Going on the bit by sawing his mouth. Or putting him in a frame using a gadget to hold him there.

It is so much better to begin figuring out what is causing the horse to do whatever he is doing that you are having an issue with.  The ‘undesirable’ action.

It is also worth noting there that, a lot of the times if you don’t fully understand ‘why’ he is or is not doing something, you are probably a large contributing factor to that something!

As a rider, you need to understand the mechanics of each situation.  If your horse needs to move a certain way, you will then begin to see how you can either assist him or hinder him with how you try to influence him.

Identifying Your ‘Basics’ that Need Attention

It can feel a little overwhelming initially trying to figure it all out.  Go easy on yourself and start at the beginning with your seat, your position & your aids.

To summarise, remember that the conversation is always ongoing, both on the ground and in the saddle. It is constant and does not stop.

A good position is very important because it leads to more effective aids. Understanding your aids and noticing how your horse is responding to them. If he is not responding you need to know how to tweak your aids.

Finally you need to understand the mechanics of how your horse works.  Moving from being a passenger to being a team leader for your horse means that you begin influencing.  Knowing what is going on underneath you will allow you to begin positively influence the horse by what you are doing in the saddle.

Happy Riding


If you are feeling a little overwhelmed and find that you are stuck in your progress, I would love you to join me on a free online live training called ‘The 6 Basics to Focus On when Riding”.

CLICK HERE to register for the free online live training on

Links mentioned in the episode:-



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