Do you ever feel like you want to pull your inside rein to the outside on a corner?
This is a clear indication that you are not utilising your inside leg effectively. Ooops! Not your fault though, what is happening is that your brain is telling your hand that you need more bend, you are not sufficiently habituated to engage the leg and so the hand takes over in an effort to prevent the horse’s shoulders from falling in. This will happen because your leg is not pushing the ‘middle’ of the horse out or because the horse had not been trained to respond to the leg aid that says “bend in the middle”.
As humans we depend greatly on our hands. Our arms and hands are our first line of defence for balancing ourselves in everyday life. Instinct can take over and force you to use your hands for balance as soon as you sense something is not quite right.
Often using your arms and hands to fix a problem or to accomplish your goal is so instinctive that you don’t even realise that this is the very thing that is the cause of the problem. Instinct is very powerful, as is habit – the combination of instinct and habit will result in the over-use of the hands. You need to make the habit a good one.
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In order to ‘make’ the inside leg do the work you need something to prevent you from pulling your inside rein to the outside. It took me a while to get my brain to figure this one out, but I would hold my whip with 4 or 5 inches protruding through my hand at the top and as I approached the corner I would make sure that it was touching my outside hand in an effort to ensure that my leg was doing the work and my hands were being carried as a pair. Clearly, this is not ideal because I had to tip my hands, but it helped me to make my inside leg work.
I only did this to ensure that my inside leg did its job, its a matter of establishing that you can hold your hands as a pair for longperiods without losing the bend, thereby proving your inside leg is capable of doing its job.
Eventually you should be able to use the inside leg as and when required, but particularly to establish and keep bend on corners. If you are unable to establish and keep a bend with your legs please try not to utilise ever increasingly intense aids that will actually teach your horse to be dull to the aids.
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This will mean spending time training your horse to react appropriately to your leg aids. That is to say he must be forward thinking and ‘hot off your leg’ and forward thinking. Use the ‘less is more’ method.
Follow the links in the text for more information on this subject and why not share with us the tricks and tips you’ve found to eliminate those irritating rider faults that creep in and out of our riding.
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster