NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL RIDER AIDS AND THEIR EFFECT
Aids are a form of communication between rider and horse. They are used on natural pressure points, acting as an extension of the rider’s body, communicating in a format that the horse understands.
Understanding that the horse does not think in human format and that they are predominantly animals of flight, the use of aids will only be interpreted by the horse if it understands your extended guidance. Aids should be used sparingly to ensure the horse remains responsive to instruction. Over use will eventually result in a desensitized horse and it will not deliver the desired effect. A correction aid should be used within a thirty second time frame to ensure the horse associates the aid with the instruction. It is of utmost importance to understand that a horse responds to visual and physical stimuli, the stimulation needs to be gentle, consistent and correct in timing.
Horses are unable to learn when they are placed in a state of fear or pain. In a fearful/painful scenario, horses tend to react instinctively and without thought. Their flight instinct prevalent while their fight instinct their secondary impulse. The horse under saddle is curbed by rider restraints, if aids are applied in a manner that trigger fear or pain, the horse’s first reaction would be to flee. Due to the rider restraint, he is not able to support the flight factor; this in turn would then stimulate the fight reaction. If a horse is under continual duress and constraint, lacking in understanding of rider aids, it may develop permanent dangerous habits as a defence mechanism. This type of damage is rarely reversible.
Trainers are responsible to teach horses in a calm, stable and consistent environment. Once the horse is removed from its herd, the trainer needs to replace the alpha mare’s role and becomes the horse’s leader. To achieve a horse’s trust, training and aids must be understood fully by the horse. Always ensure that your horse is prepared both physically and mentally for their daily training program. They learn from repetition and respond favourably on a reward system. Plan your horse’s educational training program; teach it one step at a time until it is mastered before moving onto the next lesson. Always maintain a positive teaching platform, once you have achieved the daily lesson, reward and dismiss the horse from the training session.
Aids are divided into two groups, namely, natural and artificial. Natural aids are applied by your voice, body, hands, seat and legs. Artificial aids are applied by the use of equipment such as spurs and whips.
Voice Aids: Your voice is an important tool in training your horse. The tone and length of time held for each word is better understood than actual words. Sounds like clacking encourage forward movement whilst the words whoa and trot would interpret the intention into an action. It is important to realize that voice instruction is for your horse to hear and understand, it is not necessary to shout the instruction, spoken in the correct low tones, a horse will hear you “whisper”.
Leg Aids: Leg aids are used to guide or drive a horse and are used in conjunction with the rider’s seat. A riders legs control the barrel and the horse’s leg work. The degree of leg pressure varies from slight pressure to intense, depending on your instruction. The rider’s right leg controls the horses hind right quarter while the left leg controls the horses left hind quarter. Driving leg pressure encourages a forward movement while guiding leg pressure insists on maintenance of the horses frame, collection or direction for lateral movement. A leg aid is applied pressure for a specific outcome in pace or direction, it is different to a cue instruction.
There are two lower leg positions for instruction, on the girth and behind the girth. Depending on your instruction, both legs may be used simultaneously or individually.
Hand Aids: Hand aids are a rein instruction connecting your hand to your horse’s mouth. Rein contact should always be encouraged to be light and flexible. Your hands need to be respectful of the horse’s mouth, bearing minimal tension through the rein. It is recommended that hand aids work in conjunction with your seat and leg aids. Hand aids are primarily used to instruct a horse to turn, halt, collect and balance themselves. Hand aids control the horse’s neck and head.
Rein aids include direct, indirect and neck reining. Your direct rein is when direct pressure is applied to the rein of your specified direction. Your indirect rein is a supporting rein, the opposite rein to the direct rein. It is used with slight inward contact towards the horse’s neck, supporting and maintaining the direct instruction. The neck rein is the application of rein pressure on the horse’s neck rather than direct bit pressure.
Rider’s Seat: The rider’s seat completes the circle of natural aids. It assists in the follow through of an instruction.
Whips: A whip is used to follow up on a command. It can be used on the horses shoulder or behind the rider’s leg.
Spurs: Spurs are fitted to the rider’s heel. It gives a firm and precise leg instruction. It is recommended that spurs are only used by experienced riders as spurs used inappropriately can do detrimental damage to a horse’s sides.