Aids / Cues
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Aids / Cues – General
"Aids are not the same as cues. ...riders who communicate with their horses via cues are working with a very limited vocabulary. Riders communicating via the aids have a full, rich vocabulary with many shades of meaning. In order to take a horse to the upper levels in any sport, you need this larger vocabulary."
"Success or failure of the rider's physical aids depends on their synchronization with the horse's footfall."
"The correct timing of each aid is dictated by the footfall of the horse's four feet, by the lateral swinging of his ribcage and the swinging of his back."
"...the horse must never be afraid of the aids..."
"...the rider must preserve the sensitiveness of the horse's mouth and make use of the reactions of the horse's body to the rider's legs and the distribution of his weight."
"...the degree of the aids should vary according to the temperament and the sensitiveness of the horse as well as to the standard of training he has reached."
"The horse can be quickly conditioned to any sensory signal."
"The hands...have the most control over the horse's head, neck, and shoulders. The legs control the ribcage and hindquarters of the horse. The seat (the rider's pelvis, hip & seat bones) can be used as a restraining aid, driving aid, or to balance the horse, and much more."
"He [the horse] must be placed correctly and left along so that he can succeed. Once he is properly positioned, it is not desirable to continue giving the aids which direct the exercise, but merely to use those necessary to intervene in controlling the action."
"Good dressage lies in the concordance of the aids."
"...only the one who has the ability to execute cues or aids in a correct and timely manner will succeed in getting cooperation from the horse, educating the horse, and making him a better athlete and partner in the process."
"Invisible cues are the height of good horsemanship.
"The signals that you use to communicate with your horse are called 'aids', and that's exactly how I'd like you to think of them. You'll communicate with your horse by 'aiding' or 'helping' him to understand rather than regarding your signals as rigid commands."
"Unless you're giving a specific aid, your legs should lie quietly on the horse's sides."
"There should always be a marriage of inside and outside aids — don't use one set of aids and abandon the horse by not using the other set of aids."
"...you have two seat bones, two legs, and two hands with which you can give aids. It is the way that you combine these six aids as well as the various actions of seat, leg, and hand that allow you to be very subtle and specific with your requests."
"We should alert our horse to our intention by 'knocking' first. That way our partner can prepare himself to listen for and respond to our wish."
"By passively going forward, by passively following his [the horse's] movement, we are providing the horse with a disturbance-free and balanced flow of movement that is interrupted when we give a short, subtle, but nevertheless emphatic, aid The horse will respond instantly in order to re-establish the disturbance-free flow of movement. Once this occurs, the rider immediately returns to passively following the movement of the horse."
"...the seat is the most important channel for effective communication."
"In the end it is the rider's seat, his pelvis, which is in most direct contact with the horse and it is, therefore, only logical that it is here that the most important information is transmitted from one being to the other."
"This agreement of legs and hands is the combined perfection of all the aids."
"The [horse's] sense of touch is the most important of all [senses] because it is through this sense that a horse is taught to obey the slightest movements of the rider's hand and legs."
"The aids consist of the different movements of the bridle hand, the click of the tongue, the whizzing sound and touch of the switch, the movements of the rider's thighs and calves, the gentle pinch of the spurs, and finally, the manner in which the rider shifts his weight in the stirrups."
"As every single body aid we make is felt by the horse through his back and sides, this form of aiding is as natural to him as those we employ to move him about in the stable."
"Only one method complements the way in which the horse moves naturally so the rider must know how to sit over his centre of motion and to act on those parts of his body which are capable of making a mechanical response."
"It is of little use knowing how to apply the aids if we have no awareness of when they should be given."
"While most riders are aware that their legs encourage the horse to move forward (acceleration) and that their judicious use is the key to releasing energy, fewer riders realise that the leg, together with the seat, can transform this energy ...in order to collect, redirect or...stop the horse going forward altogether. To be able to find such control, however, we have to become as close to the horse as we possibly can, not only through the seat but also through an adhesive thigh, knee and leg. The idea of adhesion is very different from the idea of grip."
"...timing and synchronisation must come into the equation as no single aid is of value unless asked for at the propitious moment."
"When we require more impulsion...we must take care that, in applying the spur or the lower leg to the girth area, our seat does not slide back, which would hollow the horse. Instead, we must send the seat bones forward more which can be done by bringing the shoulders back but supporting the hips through the lower back with a waist-towards-the-hands feeling."
"...a mere letting down of one seatbone, the forward flexion of one loin muscle or the increase of weight into the stirrups are all powerful aids."
"...riders must always return to the correct, upright, neutral position after giving an aid. Staying in an asking position, such as the driving seat, after the horse has complied is to punish him if he has already given his all."
"...all the aids should be mere nuances. They are developed by feel and they cannot just happen overnight. The silent language developed between horse and rider takes years to perfect."
"Horses do what the 'feel' we have asked them to do, not what they guess we are trying to say."
"Riders need to be clear in their own minds that the head and upper body basically affect the forehand, while the seat and legs take charge of the quarters."
"...when what we say verbally or what we say through sets of signals we have taught the horse conflicts with our more subtle body language, horses tend to believe our body language, often at a remarkably delicate lever."
"A horse that responds unexpectedly quickly to our aids can trigger our resistance to the very movement we asked for."
"It's a contradiction to ask the horse to do things that would normally create lift, and then interfere with movement because of our rigidity. If we force the horse to move out even though we clench on its back, a logical horse, feeling its back in something like a vise grip, might conclude we want its legs to move more, but not its back."
"Our timing when we apply aids can make a tremendous difference in the message we convey to the horse."
"It makes a big difference if you ask a horse to activate a hind leg during the flight, support, or push-off phase...."
"A horse might easily respond to a badly timed aid by doing something other than what you thought you asked it to do."
"If the horse experiences the rider as generally very quiet in relation to its movement, the messages we do send are more likely to be understood as messages."
"When gymnastic development comes first, accuracy and obedience and therefore performance and safety will improve as the horse becomes more physically able to comply with our aids."
"We often call our communication with the horse 'aids' more out of convention than from taking the term in its literal sense: a way to assist the horse to do what we have in mind."
"...there is a universe beyond thinking about aids as signals, just as there is much more to any interesting conversation with friends than sending each other signals to sit, stand, smile, and walk."
"The horse's motion will give us perfectly timed aids if we let it."
"Aids are always supposed to improve your seat, not disturb it."
"The difference between a limiting aid and an active aid is that limiting aids do not agree with something the horse started; active aids encourage something we do want."
"The most sensitive hands in the world will still confuse the horse if they send messages that conflict with other aids."
"It is always better to reinforce aids by making them quicker before we consider whether making them harder is likely to work."
"Once a horse knows a command, it is a bad idea to ask more than once without some enforcement of one single command."
"Strong aids do not compensate for poorly timed or conflicting aids...."
"...using conditioned responses to cues has some basic disadvantages in comparison with using to our advantage what the horse is already doing anyway. Rather than adding whatever set of signals we decide we like to what the horse must learn, we can just activated or delay what particular feet are doing anyway."
"If we can convey when we want particular feet to speed up or slow down, our aids become dance-like communications that every horse can understand easily."
"It is extremely demanding, and not achievable for everyone, to learn the ideal: to sit with an independent hand; to swing supplely with the movement; to sit at every moment balanced in the center of gravity; and to be able to influence the horse with very fine, specific weight, back, leg and rein aids."
"Horses react out of instinct, experience and observation."
"The horse's response [to constant fiddling of the rider] is to tighten; the rider then has more problems getting through to the horse with her aids."
"The rider's muscles have to be loose and the joints mobile in order to feel the movements of the horse and to influence the horse with artfully measured weight, back, leg and rein aids."
"Only when you give clearer aids can the horse understand and follow them."
"The less pressure used, and the softer and more independent the seat, the more the horse will wait for and 'listen' to the rider."
"If a horse doesn't react anymore to the leg, rider's seat and/or rein contact, the cause is usually not in the horse, but with the rider."
"The goal of training is for the communication to become increasingly subtle until you give almost invisible aids coming almost exclusively from the seat."
"As a result of the rider feeling quiet and calm, the hose begins to wait. Then the rider begins — very carefully at the beginning — driving from her supple seat. It is sensible to creep up carefully with the driving aids for both the young horse and a horse in retraining."
"A horse that can stretch and is balanced accepts the aids and can be ridden from a supple seat to a sensitive contact."
"It takes practice and experience to become such a voice of authority. Do not get discouraged. It will come."
"Be consistent, asking him with the aids as you see him start to come off them but relaxing them the moment he starts to obey so he stays responsive to them."
"Body control, not strength, is needed to use any of the aids."
"Your back is an important part of your riding anatomy because it ties all your aids together, giving you harmonious control of the horse."
"Always relax an aid and apply it again if needed. Never aid continuously. Aid in rhythm with the horse's rhythm or in the rhythm yo desire."
"Flow into all these aids so you do not assault the horse with them. If your aids flow, then he can flow into the necessary changes; helping both of you to maintain your physical and mental equilibrium."
"Use your rhythm to maintain his; stay relaxed so you don't upset his balance; plan ahead so your aids can flow."
"When he accepts all the aids, we say he is 'between our hands and legs' or he is 'on the aids.'"
"Aid rhythmically for fluid performance."
"If you practice the proper combinations of aids during all your training and riding, it becomes reflex action just like the moves you make in driving a car."
Aids / Cues – Leg
"The inside leg — by the girth — controls the horse's ribcage. The outside leg — further back — controls the haunches."
"When the legs act simultaneously, they are agents of propulsion; but when one acts stronger than the other, it is an agent of direction."
"...constant leg aids are annoying to your horse, and he either becomes cranky or tunes you out altogether."
"The rider has five aids in his legs. This is to say that the legs can make five movements, those of the thigh, the inner thigh, the calves, the pinch or the spur, and the shifting of weight in the stirrups."
"To teach the horse to march on, we must aid him with our legs. If they are applied in the correct place, he will use more hind leg than foreleg."
"...the horse is much more able to concentrate on the forward aids of the leg once the seat is quiet."
"...once the rider learns to relax the leg muscles and lighten up through open hips and a good posture, horses will listen to a mere tickle of the leg — provided it is given in the right place and at the right time."
"...leg aids can easily be thought of as extensions of seat aids...."
"An active leg with a less mobile platform [seat] is your basic the leg said 'go' but the seat said 'no' communication."
"...a passive leg lets your horse know you like what it is doing."
"If the horse generally experiences the rider's legs as staying quiet on its sides, it can easily recognize an aid as an aid, so a good passive leg leads to clear communication."
"The platform largely uses the lift and drop of the horse's back for active seat aids, while the contact area uses mostly the left/right swing of the horse's barrel for active leg aids."
"Leg aids that agree with your seat aids start from the top of your leg, right up in the hip joint, and travel down through your knee to the stirrup."
"I prefer the term 'tap' to 'squeeze,' because it tends to keep the aid short and sweet."
"The active leg is either on the horse or more on the horse, not pulling your lower leg away from the horse's side to be able to thump it harder."
"The unilateral leg is commonly used behind the normal leg position (called 'behind the girth') to tell the horse to shift its hindquarters to the side we want them to move toward or to prevent the hindquarters from swinging to the side we don't want them to move toward."
"It is necessary for the horse to accept the leg (the driving aids) without running away or having to be asked for every step."
"'Driving from the legs primarily activates the external oblique abdominal muscle, and influences the movement of the hind leg on the same side."
"Just as we can influence the back and the hind legs with our seat in a sensitive and measured way. We can likewise influence the abdominal muscles with tactful leg aids in the area of the thorax and abdominal wall."
"A correctly placed and measured leg aid given at the right time strengthens contraction of this muscle [the external oblique abdominal muscle] — the horse steps farther under or over."
"...trying to 'squeeze' harder will just make you contort yourself out of position and so become ineffective."
Aids / Cues – Rein
"...rein aids cannot create forward movement; they can only direct it."
"...rein aids combine with the other aids to create a total message to the horse."
"Often enough, riders do not feel how easily pulling on a rein may set up other movements or tensions in their body, too."
"Another factor that can change how a rein aid turns out is what the horse's feet are doing at the moment a rein aid is used."
"The horse's alignment for tail to ears very much influences how rein aids turn out."
"The real test of any rein aid is what the horse feels, rather than what your hand does."
"...if we are going to use rein aids, we have many more options than just more or less pulling on the horse's mouth to change how the horse experiences the bit."
"By encouraging a release all along the horse's spine, a yielding rein aid allows the horse's feet to do what the rider's seat and legs ask the horse to do."
"Active rein aids, both accepting and yielding, may well be repeated, but they are never prolonged."
"A limiting rein aid on the side toward which the horse's center of gravity is drifting can help misalignments by limiting how far the horse's neck and shoulder can get out of alignment with the rest of its body."
"Rein aids are just as important as the rest of the aids but detrimental if over-used or used alone."
"The most important thing about rein aids is to use them the least amount possible, indicating and yielding rather than demanding."
"Reversing the reins so they come in on top of your hands makes it necessary to move your whole hand to aid the horse and so startle and over-steer him."
Aids / Cues – Verbal
"The human voice has a great influence on a horse, but of course it is only the tone which he remembers....Thus, to teach a horse at liberty to move forward at a walk, trot or canter, one says: 'walk,' in a comparatively weak voice; 'trot,' in a higher voice; and 'canter!' in a tone of command."
"The voice is also of great use when breaking a horse which one is riding."
"Using the same word repetitively gives the horse a sound that he can associate with the maneuver that he is being asked to perform."
"Your tone of voice is very important....For instance, a soothing, quiet tone is appropriate as you say, 'Slow' or 'Whoa.' While you'll want to be more animated as you ask for an upward transition or for more energy as you say something like, 'Trot On.'"
"People also use 'whoa' to mean both 'slow down' and 'stop,' which I think causes unnecessary confusion for the horse."
"Horses definitely respond to tone of voice as well as specific words....In fact, tone of voice often trumps the actual word used."
"It's easiest to be consistent if our tone of voice matches what you want to happen — rather lilting for upward transitions, rather drawn out for downward transition...."
"It is far better to ask once and enforce (trot — no trotting happening — show the whip) than to ask again and again (trot - trot - trot! — show the whip). Giving multiple commands without getting results (also known as nagging) is the quickest way to dull a horse I can think of."
"Verbalizing can be a help to the trainer because of the subconscious relationship of his words to his actions."
"Tone of voice is more important than which words you use, but be consistent in using the same words for the same action."
"In all cases speak with authority and confidence — no matter how frustrating things get!"
"We use our voices a lot but the words are combined with tone and also convey their meaning by the length of the word."
Aids / Cues – Weight
"Weight aids are particularly effective when you are balanced over the horse's center of gravity and following its motion. Any weight shift creates a physical pressure that causes a feeling in the horse that he needs to re-balance himself."
"By encouraging the horse to respond to our weight, we allow him to move as one with the rider and as though it was his idea in the first place."
"...correctly given weight aids are very fine and virtually invisible. They most certainly do not involve a drastic leaning in or out as one might expect to see in a children's bending race or in a bad demonstration of Western riding."