I have this student that I taught many many years ago. She still follows me on facebook and asks me questions from time to time. I cringe sometimes at the thought of how I taught her compared to how I would teach a student her age now. The good news is, it didn't really matter, because she still loves her horse, rides her horse, and is pursuing a career in the horse industry. But it also reminds me that good quality teaching is really an art.
I also have an old instructor that spent a lot of time riding with Vi Hopkins. I still call him from time to time, and he always tells me, "to teach well, you have to pull a rabbit out of a hat." When I teach kids, I notice that I have to be very direct and exaggerate an aid. Like, if you tell a kid to punch, they might tap like a feather. It's just the opposite with adult students. Most of my adult students that come to me are too busy with their aids. It's my job as an instructor to help them refine and finesse these aids so a
The first step to de-cluttering your aids so your horse can hear your voice is to sit like a statue. Stop moving.
1. STOP trying to pump with your seat and be loose in your seat bones and "follow". If you're out of time that's really hard on your horse's back. Your horse can't hear your fine seat aids through all that seat bone jabber.
2. STOP moving your leg. No you cannot bend your horse around your inside leg right now. It's more complicated than that, like .... your horse is probably really crooked so we are going to have to move the shoulders in on the circle first to line up with the haunches and then after that straightness detail is added in THEN we can talk about creating bend in the correct direction which can usually be done with your seat soooo (deep breathe) ... please don't try that trick yet. Just sit like a statue and only use your legs as a gas pedal to go forward and if your horse doesn't listen back it up with the whip.
3. Your hands...first you need to make a fist and HOLD. Do not open your hand. I repeat, do not open your hand. Do not pull back, your hands do not go behind the saddle. So you have this fist that you can keep a baby bird in softly or you can murder a bird in if your horse is a little not listening but you don't don't don't pull backwards to turn...or stop. I repeat, do not pull back to stop. Use an opening rein (like a hinge from your elbow) to turn.
4. Your torso..First, we have to super-glue your elbows to your torso. If you elbow unlocks from that position, meaning if you can't feel your elbow on your hip, then your horse is stealing your contact. Then you need to squeeze your arm to your armpit a little, these two thoughts usually tighten up a torso and create an effective framework for your horse to go into the contact.
5. Your breathe. You breathe out and close your knees for your downwards transitions. You breathe in and lift up the front of your pelvis for upward transitions. You do not pull back in the downward transition.
The timing of your downward transition is : breathe out, drop your pelvis, make a fist and close your knees.
The timing of your upward transition is: Breathe in, lift pelvis, close back of thigh and wrap ankles around horse if necessary, back up with whip if horse doesn't respond to leg aid.
Do you see how light these aids are? They are imperceptible. To become a quiet rider you have to refine your aids to this level too. So now we are not using loud leg aids, seat aids, or rein aids. How does that rider using those invisible aids get their horse round and on the bit? This is my easy version, that needs modified for more advanced riding but will get you started in the right direction.
1. Do everything with your aids above so they are not noisy and your horse can hear your message.
2. Get your horse forward and in front of you leg. Not sure what that means? Then get your horse forward ask it to go more forward than usually without it feeling like it's speeding away or out of balance.
3. Turn your shoulders and waist around your circle in the direction you are going. Make sure you are on the correct posting diagonal.
4. Shorten your reins so there are no loops in them.
5. Make a fist with your outside rein. HOLD it. SQUEEZE IT and hold. Don't do that nagging ring finger thing, just hold. Don't pull back either.
6. Crawl down your inside rein. Open it just a smidgen to the inside of the circle. DON'T pull back with it or your horse will probably stop, just open it to the inside of the circle while you resist on the outside. When you feel your horse yield or give a little immediately bring that inside rein back in and push it just a little forward, like an inch, maybe less, to release. You should still be holding your outside rein and you should feel the connection there. Every time your horse loses the connection and their head pops up bring the inside rein back in towards the center of the circle until the horse yields. This should be done in a very invisible kind of way that is really hard to see from the ground (I shouldn't see your hands move).
This is a very watered down version of how to get your horse round. The key point is that your aids should be soft and effective. If you're not getting a result, change something...and don't forget to sit like a statue and don't move your legs or hands.