“My new horse is trained to Advanced Medium – but I can’t ride one side of him!”
“I bought my new horse hoping he could teach me how to ride lateral work but it’s all I can do to trot a 20m circle without going off on a tangent! How can I find the right buttons? I feel like a complete novice!”
New horses are always a challenge and riding an advanced horse can feel quite daunting – they have so many aids in their heads it’s hard for them not to misunderstand what you’re asking. So the simple answer is don’t panic! You can’t half pass before you can walk!
There are ‘buttons’ to press but you need to define your own as well as try to find his. Remember he’s your horse now.
Whenever there’s a problem there’s always an answer – it’s usually the rider trying too hard and getting tense. This transmits straight to the horse and causes no end of trouble – and the more well-schooled the horse is the more there is to misinterpret.
Don’t put yourself down – you have every right to have this wonderful horse and enjoy riding him. It will come and you’ll look back and laugh – honest! Don’t forget to have some training with him – another pair of eyes can be really useful.
I know you want to get going and practise lateral work but take your time. Slow things a bit until you’re both more relaxed. That way he’ll be able to think straight and you won’t be feeling quite so inadequate!
At the moment you’re both probably feeling your way a bit – he wants to do right by you and you want to show him you’re not stupid! Hack out, school in walk, trot and canter without even thinking about lateral work – perhaps have a jump or ride a few poles just to mix it up a bit. Until you can do that he’s not going to be able to understand what your basic aids are.
Remember you need to use your aids exactly the same every time – no matter what horse you’re riding. Do that and he’ll start to understand your way of riding not the one he’s used to. Practise direct transitions up and down really focusing on keeping your legs still and your contact steady – remember the slightest touch on a rein or movement of a leg means something else to him.
Less is more with a well-trained horse so get out there and practise transitions without moving too much – you’ll be surprised to find that a canter transition, for example, can happen without moving your leg even an inch back. Try using more pressure rather than actually moving a leg back for a turn or a circle aid.
Seat aids become far more important when you’re moving onto more specific movements. In walk have a play at turning your hips one way and see where he takes you. If your contact stays even in your reins then he’ll turn his hips the way you do – that’s enough to put him into shoulder-in position or travers; depending on the way your hips are turned.
The subtlety of your aids is important when you’re using them – and when you’re not! If your body is crooked then his will be too so hacking out is a great way to make sure you’re sitting as straight as possible. If you find yourself doing shoulder-in up the road make sure you look at your own position before you correct his.
One final pointer – remember you don’t need to ‘ask’ him to go onto the bit. Too many hand signals are really confusing. A still hand and a pushing leg is all it will take to push him together.
Best of luck – and don’t forget to relax and enjoy him!