Riding aids – Why is your horse confused

Do you have a problem with your horse not understanding your riding aids properly?

How does your horse even know what each riding aid means?

Imagine this, your horse is standing still and you want him to start walking on a circle. What you most likely do is to just squeeze him with your legs.


Now, think about what you do when you want your horse to go from a standstill straight to trot. You do exactly the same, you squeeze your horse with your legs. The only difference is that you use a little more pressure.

There are a lot of aids that are extremely similar, yet they are asking your horse to do something different.

A lot of riders get this wrong…

Since a lot of the aids can be very similar to each other, many riders focus a lot of their attention on the exact execution of the aid.

Is their leg in the perfect spot?

Are they using the exact pressure they should be using?

It seems to make sense but it is a trap.

There is no benefit in putting too much attention into the precise execution of the aid.

It is much more important to focus your mind not on the aid itself, but rather on what you want your horse to be doing.

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When you do, it is always going to work better.

If you are thinking about whether your left leg should be 3 centimeters more forward, and whether you should be creating more pressure with your right leg, but also you don’t want to forget about your reins and your hands, you are focusing on the wrong thing. Riding aids are not what is important here.

Your horse is very likely to not understand you properly or to not understand you at all.

When you are asking your horse to do something focus your mind on what you want your horse to be doing. Everything will become much easier.

  • Have a clear image of what you want your horse to be doing.
  • Also, have a clear image of what you are going to do if your horse doesn’t do what you want him to.

The second point is crucial. Before you ask your horse to do anything, first you have to be clear on what you are going to do if he doesn’t listen. After you know what exactly are you going to do if your horse doesn’t listen, you can focus on what you want him to do and ask him to do it.

Really following this is going to have some interesting effects.

  • Your body language will immediately be more confident, even if you do not realize it.
  • You will be able to react faster and better when your horse doesn’t listen.

More confidence + faster reactions and corrections = your horse will listen to you and understand you better

Horses are very sensitive to your body language, they can tell even very slight differences in your mindset and preparedness.

Understanding or doing what you are asking?

If you focus on what you want your horse to be doing, he is going to understand what you want rather quickly.

That, however, doesn’t mean that he is going to do it. Every horse will eventually try what happens if he doesn’t do what you are asking.

horse trying to run away on a pasture

Also, if you have been tolerating it when your horse doesn’t listen to you, he might just learn that he doesn’t have to listen to you when he doesn’t feel like listening.

When you start working with a young horse, he doesn’t know a single riding aid. However, he will quickly understand when you want him to start walking, when you want him to turn or when you want him to stop.

I even think that a human in the horses’ position would learn and start understanding the aids slower.

I do not think horses are smarter than humans, I just think that they have a simpler thinking, which helps them to understand simple things better. People often tend to over analyze and over think a lot of things that just should be simple and natural.

Overthinking your riding aids just doesn’t work well with horses.

Horse riding is a primitive skill if you want your horse to understand you have to be simple. Just focus on what you want your horse to be doing and on what you are going to do if he doesn’t.

When you want your horse to start walking you should be thinking

“walk walk walk walk walk, if you do not, I will increase the pressure”

Just forget about things like

“should I use 10g of pressure or 25g?” or “What am I doing with my hands? Is it correct?” or “My leg should probably be five centimeters more in the back”

man touching a horseYou can think about these things after your horse has done what you wanted. You can think about them when you are not asking your horse to do anything.

It is good to replay what happened in your head and analyze what was wrong and what was right. Just do not do it when you are actually trying to communicate with your horse and ask him to do something.

Just focus on what you want your horse to do and what you are doing to do if he doesn’t do it. Riding aids are not what is important, your horse doing what you want is.

Try to be calm, confident and decisive. Do not get stressed when your horse doesn’t do what you are asking.

If you follow these rules you will improve faster and your horse will understand you better.

I have prepared a video about an “invisible mistake” that most of the riders are making. It actually doesn’t even happen when you are riding. If you want to see my video about it, you can claim it over here.

Riding aids – Why is your horse confused
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