Using Your Legs to Move Your Horse

Question: How do you use your legs to move a horse?

Answer: Horses move away from pressure. For example, press right calf/heel into the horse’s barrel (mid-section), and he’ll swing his rear end away from the pressure (swinging to the left as you’re riding him). I could ride my schooling horse without a bridle and go anywhere I wanted by moving his rear end with leg pressure. This is true at any gait. In fact, this horse would canter in a figure eight and change leads (leading foreleg) in the center of the circles without the aid of a bridle.

If you’ve ever seen a reining exhibition (on The Nashville Network, TNN), you’ve seen this figure eight demonstrated. Quarter horses are exceptionally good at reining. To cue that lead change in the figure eight, say from right lead to left (the horse will always want the foreleg on inside of circle to be in the lead because it's more comfortable for him), move your left foot directly behind his front leg at the shoulder and put the toe of your boot into his shoulder, and put your right calf against his barrel farther back on the right side. The horse will move the left foreleg up to get away from the pressure of my boot (changing to the left lead in front), then swing his rear end away from your right foot (to the left) and change the rear lead as well.


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