BY ASHLEEN LEE
Often times I feel like a broken record. I tell my students and myself when I am riding, use the inside leg to the outside rein. Why?
The outside rein holds the track. Without it, you are inherently falling in and teaching the horse to fall in. The inside leg is essential because if you solely use the outside rein, you and your horse are also falling in.
People tell me, I want to go back to basics, and my response is that it is all basics. The basics of a good trot and a good canter are the same basics as riding to the fence. If done well, they all contain good rhythm and a straight horse. You produce it in the same fashion. Sure, the pressures are different, but the concept is the same. So why is it so hard?
When the horse is leaning, the natural instinct is to grab or to pull. When the horse is turning, the instinct is to hang on the inside rein to make the turn. Why does my horse run? Why does my horse fall in? Why can my horse not make the change? The answer for almost all of them is the same: they are off balance and they are not straight.
Balance, connection, and feel. This is what riding thrives upon. If you merely just hold the outside rein, your horse is not in balance. It is falling in. If you over-ride the inner rein and leg with failure to keep the outer rein, you will also fall in the turn.
The key is inside leg to the outside rein. Not outside rein to the inside leg. The order is key and you must push the horse into the outer rein. This pushes your horse onto the track and balances the horse on the outer legs through the turn. It allows them to hold the desired track well. It allows them to free up the inside leg to raise up and change the lead. If the horse is off balance, they tend to speed up in an attempt to regain balance.
It is so simple, so why is it so hard?
Our instincts tell us to grab the left rein when turning left. Our instincts tell us to grip up when our horse tightens or speeds up. Our instincts are wrong. Hence, we must remind ourselves to ride from the inside leg to the outside rein. Our brains operate on two legs, but we are riding an animal with four. Once things become habit, we remind ourselves less, but it is not instinctual. We must think.
Inside leg to outside rein. It produces a straight horse. When turning or circling, we must work the inner rein to produce the bend, but it is secondary. We still want the horse’s haunch on the outer track and to hold the track. The inside rein is used solely to produce bend and create suppling of the mouth, all of which is secondary.
Too quickly riders go to grabbing and locking, attempting to overpower the horse. When you think this through logically, you cannot overpower them. Locking forces the horse to lock up. Locking causes the rider to fail to feel the horse give to the hand. You cannot force an animal that outweighs you by ten times. It is illogical. If you try to overpower the horse, you will fail.
So, you work with them. You intend to get them to supple by being supple. You offer them balance. You offer them rhythm. When you get it right, they will trust you. They are not intellectual. They are not intelligent in the same way as humans, but they understand rhythm and balance.
Hence, the madness behind inside leg to outside rein. The madness is not in the theory, but in consistently doing it right because it is not instinctual for us. We must work and rework it. As trainers, we must teach
it and reteach it. If done right, it offers balance and feeling. It communicates a solid turn to the next fence, allowing you to find the distance. This in itself is more than half the battle when properly walking, trotting, or cantering. It is more than half the battle when riding effectively to the fence.
I encourage everyone to work these aids and rework them until they make sense, until they are habit. You will know when you are doing it right; it will feel right. It will make life easier. A balanced horse is a simpler horse.
Ashleen began riding when she was five years old. Shortly after, her family purchased one of the closest stables to the city of Chicago. Ashleen grew up around the stables and spent every free moment with the horses. She has been training and teaching professionally for the past eleven years. During that time, she earned a bachelors degree from DePaul University in Business Management. In the last year, she has taken over the family stable, Freedom Woods, Inc. and has substantial plans for the future.