My horse is always bent the wrong way – why?!
“When I turn, go round corners or circle my horse is always looking to the outside. My instructor keeps telling me I need more inside leg but that just makes him go faster. How can I make him look where we are going?!”
Your horse is basically doing what he thinks you’re asking him to do! But don’t worry – that’s a good thing because it means you can do something about it!
Your instructor is right but unless you have control of your horse’s whole body, a bit more inside leg is just telling him to go faster. The first thing you need to do is get control of him from back to front. If his body is more compact you’ll find him much easier to control.
I think that you’re trying to hold him out with your outside rein and losing the rest of his body so before you do anything else you need to get him straight. Forget about focusing on his head and think about riding him forward from both legs into a good contact. That will push his quarters up behind his shoulders – otherwise known as ‘between your leg and hand’. There’s more on that HERE.
Split your horse – and your aids – into three parts and you’ll find it less complicated.
- Your contact controls his head and neck. Read more about your contact and straightness HERE.
- The position of your body controls his body.
- Your legs control his quarters.
Practise riding straight lines first because it’s easier for you to focus on what you’re doing. Ride down the long sides with your shoulders and hips facing the front, your reins the same length and with an even contact on both, and both legs near the girth pushing him forward. When you ride the corners ride straight at the far wall/fence until you have passed the corner marker, before turning your shoulders and hips in the direction you’re going. As long as you are pushing him forward his hind legs will step up under his body and keep him balanced. If he’s balanced he’s less likely to lean in or tip his nose to the outside.
Practise riding circles in the same way – a straight horse is better than a horse bent to the outside. Your legs are really important on circles because they act like walls either side of him – stopping him falling in or out. Think of yourself riding along a tight rope and hold him on that line by keeping your body in line with it, your contact steady and even and your legs hugging his sides so he doesn’t fall off it.
The more you straighten your horse the more balanced he’ll become which will divide his weight equally between all four legs. This will make him easier to ride – and you’ll find he’ll start to look around the turns and circles you make without you needing to ask. However, once you find you can ride him around the school and ride circles without him looking to the outside, you can start to turn your shoulders and hips to the inside – you’ll find once he’s balanced and more connected from front to back he’ll start to copy you (and by doing that he’ll bend to the inside).
Good luck with it – and don’t forget to enjoy yourself!