Dressage Horse Training: Brake with Lateral aids instead of Blocking with Reins

Hello Everyone,

Lateral flexion, diagonal aides, straightness.  I am having more success than I ever have with developing self-carriage and I’m trying to decide if the instruction is better, if I’m a better rider, if my horses understand the basic aides and are ready or if I’m just mentally ready to process the information.  One of my superpowers is taking complex topics and breaking them down to be understandable bytes of information for people to digest and act upon.  So I will begin by explaining what I know in this moment and share my reflections of the learning journey.

Redirecting Energy versus Blocking Energy:  I have spent my first four lessons here at Fox Lea Farm with Judy Farnsworth on the 20 meter circle learning to use lateral aides to control speed and head bobbing. Instead of a half-halt combo of pulling back with both reins and tightening my core resulting in a blocked response from Donzer, Judy is having me counterflex and leg yield to activate the inside hind leg which is redirecting the energy and resulting in control of the speed or head bobbing.  I had to go on faith the first few times because my hands really did want to pull back just a little (because a slightly loopy rein feels wrong) but when I kept my hands steady at the withers and used the diagonal aides I got the desired response-Donzer connecting to the outside rein and keeping a regular tempo.  I am slowly restructuring my muscle memory for this diagonal correction.  I think part of this is the transfer from bipedal human to the quadraped we are on a horse.

Waiting out the Head Bobbing: The additional outflows of this process with Donzer have been to allow him to rebalance and show him how I want him to engage his inside hind leg.  Instead of shuffling sideways and moving his haunches out when I apply my inside leg aid, I’m clarify to Donzer I want the response to be stepping forward and across with the inside hind leg.  I’m using my outside leg to keep Donzer’s outside hind on the circle bend.  This has been confusing for Donzer but he’s working on the new request. As Donzer is finding his balance his head is getting steadier.  Also, as Donzer realizes that I’m not going to yank or pull but merely sit and hold this diagonal correction while he fusses around, the fussing dies down more quickly.  My hope is Donzer starts to enjoy the positive feedback of doing well more than the energy expended arguing.

We did our first canter with this new level of straightness and Donzer’s hind end felt like a frog on ice.  Donzer’s been allowed by me to avoid taking all his weight on his hind leg and this is a new feel for him.  The difference is he’s actually struggling to figure it out instead of trying to change the subject by tossing his head.  We used collected to working canter to help Donzer load and unload the hind leg.  I have done all of these things on Donzer before but the difference for me in this moment is I understand what I’m asking for and am selecting specific aids to affect the hind leg and the ride is getting better on purpose rather than after 45 minutes of riding hoping to have some self-carriage evolve.

Good Riding,

Tara, Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

Out of the Saddle

Out of the Saddle

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