Seat, Leg, Hand… Are my riding aids effective?

What are my riding aids?  How does my horse respond?

I reflect back on how I know what to do when I ride.  How does my horse know what that means?  I realize that as Dancer approaches showing 4th level dressage, he knows a lot of aids.  He has a lot of buttons and with his ultra sensitive nature, I better be sure which ones I am pressing.  I think back on our struggle to get those aids and responses correct and can’t help but realize if I knew then what I know now, the process would have gone a whole lot smoother.  My guess is I will have the same retrospective look ten years from now.  Ahh the joys of picking dressage riding as your “thing”.  I guess that’s why everyone is forever a student in dressage and why even the greatest of riders have coaches.

However, having a system to effectively teach your horse what those aids mean is quite another thing.  I guess that’s why they tell you to ride school masters, not have your first upper level dressage horse be one you had to make.  That way your horse can help teach you the aids.  Even so, after all these years, what I’ve found is a system to effectively teach horses what our aids mean.  How to quickly tell them when they have responded correctly, that they have done it right.  It’s been right under our noses for decades.  It’s called Reward Based Training.

Dancer loves this stuff and it’s made the biggest change in him.  He learns faster, stays calmer and focuses better.  Just this week, we rode with several horses in the indoor and although he was a little nervous he stayed totally focused and on the aids.  I attribute that ALL to reward based training.

So what are we working on now?  Today, we worked on the aids for connection, rewarding Dancer for allowing the aids to go through his whole body in his new level of collection.  Last week we concentrated on him letting me supple and straighten his counter canter in preparation for making his flying changes better…all the while rewarding his correct response to my aids.  Next week, our plan is to revisit our concentration on our collecting aids for pirouette work.  Wow, I love this stuff.  Can’t wait for what’s next!