Imagine that you’re a teenager and your mother walks up to you, slaps you on the face, then angrily says, “Go clean your room!” What a shock this would be, especially if you were a person who usually kept your room in reasonably good order. Even if you were the messiest person in the world, it would be a big surprise to have your mother slap you before asking you to do something.
Imagine that you’re a horse standing in the riding arena with several other horses. Suddenly, your rider kicks you hard and jerks you away from the other horses to start a course of fences. This is how the story goes for many horses around the world. The rider often doesn’t ask the horse to do something with subtle signals of the legs and hands, but rather resorts to force that makes the horse frustrated and upset.
The motto you should use in riding is, “Only do what it takes to get what you want.” By using the least amount of pressure on the horse’s mouth and sides that it takes to accomplish a task, you’ll end up with a horse that is calm and obedient. It is ideal for the animal to have willing submission to the rider, rather than responding out of fear.
This doesn’t mean that you never have to use your aids strongly, for you must increase the strength of their application until you reach a point where the horse responds; but it’s important to start with soft aids and only increase them to the point where the horse gives you a positive response. I noticed recently that Gordon Wright’s famous book, Learning to Ride, Hunt and Show, is in print again and available at Amazon. Gordon Wright was a master teacher, who emphasized the subtlety of the rider’s aids. This would be an excellent book to add to your home library.
Talk to you later! — AJ