What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Understand why your voice works, regardless of discipline
- Begin using tone to help convey your message
- Use your voice to reward your horse
- Understand how to ‘wean’ your horse off of your voice
Imagine if you could use your voice as an effective, accurate aid when communicating to your horse from the saddle… I’m going to assume that you, just like most other riders in the world, talk to your horse regularly. Actual words. And that is great…
But there is a big difference between just babbling on and your voice becoming an actual effective aid in your riding communication.
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast I want to explain how I suggest you can begin using your voice to actively ‘talk’ to your horse in a way that he understands. Your voice can become a great asset in moving your conversation forward.
Your Voice Works for Your Horse
A lot of riders shy away from using their voice as an active aid. This is often due to either misunderstanding how and when to use the voice aid. But also, it is due to certain disciplines penalizing riders for using a voice aid; dressage for example.
However, your voice is something you can use to communicate with your horse from Day 1 of your conversation together. It doesn’t involve much practicing and it can be both the pressure and the release in your communication.
I suggest that riders begin using their voice on the ground. So you will use it when you are grooming, tacking up, actively working on groundwork and, of course, lunging and long lining.
Your voice is particularly useful as an aid to bring your horses attention back to you at any given time. Especially if you find that his attention is wandering to something other than you and what you are both trying to achieve!
It can be the gentle reminder, “Excuse me, we were working on this together” that is often needed to help your horse focus on the job at hand. Your intention and your goals.
Your Voice Works for You, the Rider
When it comes to you, the rider, the voice works equally as well. Again, if we take the situation that your horse is not concentrating or focusing on you, it can lead to you feeling vulnerable in the saddle. It is easy to allow worry and excessive tension to creep into your body when your horse suddenly stops listening to you!
When you use your voice to bring your horses attention back to you, you have to breath. It sounds so simple, but your breathing helps to dissipate excess tension in your body.
Your voice also helps you to remain focused on the goal or your intention. By ‘reminding’ your horse, literally speaking to him and telling him what you are trying to achieve, you remind yourself.
“Hey there Buddy, we are actually trying to work on a balanced trot on this 20 meter circle. I need you to focus on moving around the track on our circle. Come on, keep moving forwards. 1… 2… 1… 2… 1… 2… Good Boy, remain focused…”
So, just from the outset, before we even get into using it as an active ‘riding aid’ your voice has its benefits. It allows your body to work better, and it helps you both to focus on the job at hand. I think that is an aid worth improving. What do you think?
It’s Not What You’re Saying, It’s How You Say It
Many riders make the mistake of getting too caught up in ‘talking’ to their horse. They expect their horse to understand their words, and therefore the meaning behind them. Horses don’t really seem to care about language! I have experienced this first hand on the farm in South Africa; it doesn’t matter if the words are English, Afrikaans or Xhosa!
What matters is HOW the words are spoken. The tone of the riders voice. Soft and gentle? Slow and steady? Low and slow? Loud and quick? Short and loud? Or monotone?
A good example of riders getting confused between what they are saying and how they are saying it is when a horse is going too fast. “Whoa…, whoa.., whoa, WHOA!, WOO!, WO!” Hmmmm…..
The trouble with whoa is that it sounds a lot like go, doesn’t it?! And the trouble with roaring whoa at the top of your lungs in short bursts is that it sounds very much like you want things to go faster. You want an increase in energy.
Your Tone Must Match the Desired Energy Level
Think of how what you are saying would be understood by someone who cannot speak the same language as you. Is your tone urgent and quick; a sharp tone? Or is it relaxed and slow; a comforting tone? This is what is important when using your voice aids with your horse.
When you can begin to control the tone of your voice effectively, you can then begin to use your voice aid to communicate with your horse from the saddle.
An easy way to begin is by experimenting with the pitch of your voice. A higher pitch for reward, for example, is often effective. ‘Good boy” or “Good girl” said in a high pitch voice. A lower pitch to ask your horse to become or remain steadier. “S.t.e.a.d.y….” “W.h.o.a. b.o.y…”
You can also use the rhythm of your voice to help convey what you are looking for. I find a simple ‘1…2…1…2…1…2’ said out loud in a sharp tone is often enough to help a horse to balance in the trot. Your ‘clicking’ can be used in the same manner.
Getting Started with Your Voice Aids is Simple
So, hopefully by now, you understand a little more about how your voice can be used as an aid. However, for many riders the trouble is to actually get started, effectively. Meaning your voice becoming something your horse actually understands!
And this is where I am going to suggest start with what feels good. A reward.
From the very first time you meet your horse, you will have probably told him on numerous occasions how ‘good’ he is. This is usually accompanied by a rub on the neck or shoulder. Maybe a scratch but almost always some sort of physical contact.
By becoming consistent with the tone of your voice as you are dishing out these frequent words of love, you can begin to make your voice work for you in the saddle.
Your Voice, There From The Very Beginning
When I am starting horses or ponies, the ‘reward’ is one of the first things that I make sure the horse is clear on. I want him to know every single time he takes any step in the direction I am looking for him to step into.
This begins on the ground, usually in the stable. A simple ‘over’ when I am grooming accompanied by a gentle pressure on his side. A pressure that will later be felt by a rider’s leg asking a similar question.
Then, when he yields to the pressure, accompanied by my consistent voice aids, he is rewarded. The physical pressure is released and this coincides with a high-pitched ‘Good Boy’. I often use the scratch or rub as well if I can to really get the point across.
What counts is how consistent I show up with my voice and how I am using it. Also, just like all my other aids, timing is vitally important. The reward must be instant. There must be a direct association between him taking action and the release of the pressure accompanied by my voice.
Transitioning from Ground to Saddle
From here, I will usually start lunging the horse. Again, my voice is a vitally important tool in how I communicate to the horse. Especially when the time comes for a rider to mount up.
When starting young horses, your voice can work as ‘dual controls’ for both the person on the ground and the rider.
The same high-pitched, well-timed ‘Good Boy’ accompanied with the release of whatever pressure was applied will convey the message to the horse. It will tell the horse ‘Yes, that is the correct way to respond to that particular aid”.
Weaning Your Horse Off Your Voice in the Saddle
The final point I want to touch on is specifically for dressage riders worried about being penalised for using their voice. You can use your voice in your initial training. In fact, I highly recommend it. For all the reasons I have already spoken about.
However, you need to find a way for your horse to get the same message, without you having to verbally communicate this to him.
If you are consistent with the application and timing of your aids, this will naturally occur. Remember, you are using your voice to convey to your horse that he has responded correctly to your aid. Your aid is actual physical pressure. Overtime, the release of the physical pressure itself will be enough to be the ‘reward’.
The ‘Lightbulb’ Moment
As your horse becomes more and more clear on specific physical aids meaning specific actions must be taken, your voice will become less necessary. It is often not needed later in your training…
Keep in mind that your horse, like everyone, enjoys being spoken to. He likes to be acknowledged.
Using your voice, if you can, in your day-to-day riding will add an extra layer to your communication and overall conversation. So I think, if you can, go do it :)
Other posts, episodes and resources that relate to this topic:-
- The Evolution of Your Aids in the Saddle
- Understanding the Balance of Your Aids
- Starting a Green or Young Horse – Part 1
- Exercises for a Young Horse
- The Daily Strides Podcast on iTunes
- Daily Strides Podcast on Google Play
- The Daily Strides Podcast on Stitcher Radio
- Join Daily Strides Premium
If you are interested in learning how I suggest using your voice more in your riding, join me today inside of Daily Strides Premium. I have created a 6 week series in there which will take you through the whole process I use to ‘start’ young, unbacked horses.
The voice aids are a vitally important piece of this starting process.
Couple This with Built In Accountability…
Also, when you join a Daily Strides Premium Member you will get built-in accountability. A real person from our team will be reaching out to you on a fortnightly basis to help you build and then maintain momentum with your progress in the saddle.
Couple this with the live Q&As, the monthly review and planning live calls and the members only private group ~ we are here to help you remain accountable as team leader for you and your horse.
Daily Strides Premium is packed full of step by step trainings for you to use on the ground and in the saddle. All the trainings are easily accessed using your phone, meaning that you can take them with you where ever you are going. These trainings and so much more are available for you immediately when you join Daily Strides Premium. Find out more HERE