I always enjoy reading the posts of other people. It is not only a way to see what others are doing and teaching, but it is a way of staying involved when not riding. So today I read a post from someone explaining about the use of the outside rein, which, as you can see, has inspired me to respond.
The writer, after explaining that humans tend to do everything with their hands, reminded us that when riding a horse we like to lean forward and pull the reins with our hands, especially the inside rein, in the effort to turn like on a bike. This part did not especially prompt me to react, but what followed reawakened some points I have encountered many, many times before.
A few years ago I received a criticism from a hunter rider regarding my students. She told me she was amazed at how they struggle to learn to ride. She asked me very pointedly, “can’t they figure out that the horse follows his head”. All of this only serves to remind me of just how powerful ignorance can be, especially when coupled with money.
The writer of the article explained to riders how to get the horse into the outside rein. To summarize, she indicated that your inside seat bone and inside leg should push the horse to the outside, and therefore he will find the outside rein and take weight in it, allowing you to soften your inside rein. She states very emphatically, that this will make the horse straight and therefore balanced..
As a reminder to those who know, there is a difference between “stiff and straight in front of you”, and “supple and straight through the body”. This commentator is obviously a member of the first group. Most riders who are relaxed enough to feel their horses when they move, notice that they are stiffer on one side. Of course you feel that in your reins, but I am referring to those who can recognize that in the horse’s body. Once you are aware of that, the journey begins to acquire the knowledge and ability to supple and straighten the horse. At that point, the use of your aids can begin to effect the contact through the reins with the horse’s mouth. It is true, we would like to have an even contact, but that evenness is the product of a supple straightness, not through locking the horse’s mouth shut with a very tight noseband, and manipulating the bit until the horse wants to get away from the pain, thereby releasing the pressure, and satisfying the rider with a “seeming correct” contact.
As I have said for years, until the rider can understand the simple biomechanics of the horse in movement, and have as his goal to make the horse supple and “relatively” straight (we know perfect straightness is impossible), he will never have an even contact with his horse. When I hear instructors teach their students, using all the “correct” terminology, without having any idea what really to expect (aside from the ‘look’ of a movement in a show) it is always a disappointment to me and I know often the riders really want to learn, and are ultimately getting nowhere (except maybe to a show).
So, I hope many of you will know that if you just use your inside leg and seat to push your horse to the outside rein, as the writer instructs, you may have a good contact in the outside rein in one direction. But in the other direction, you will only be sliding sideways, without achieving a connection from the seat and leg. You might please the judges with your “leg-yield”, but you will not have your horse in the outside rein.