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I have heavily borrowed this term from Erik F. Herbermann’s book, Dressage Formula while teaching lessons. I’m not sure if he originated the term, but it’s perfect to describe the overuse, or misuse, of the inside rein.

A rider’s hands have everything to do with how their horse moves, yet when the subtleties of the reins are more understood, they are used less. To watch a horse and rider working bridleless is beautiful. The high level of communication between them took time. The physical aids become more and more subtle and soft as understanding grows. This is something to work towards; I’m not implying that everyone go bridleless tomorrow!

There are words to describe the various rein aids that a rider should learn. More important than the names of these rein uses is that the connection between all the aids is fluid and dynamic. The development of correct rein use takes time. The rider has to feel what’s happening and react.

Riders are constantly feeling for balance, softness and impulsion on an animal with four legs. People aren’t used to having four legs. The sooner a rider can grasp the difference between bipedal and quadrupedal movement, the easier it is to ride. The more we ride, the more normal it is to have four legs.

Once the rider gets used to having four legs to balance and move, the concert of aids we use becomes more coordinated. The horse leans on the right front in a turn to the right = pick up your right shoulder, the horse’s right shoulder and engage the inside hind leg. A lift here, supportive active inside leg for the up portion of the canter stride, resistance in the outside jaw: your mind and body have to adapt to the physical attributes of having four legs. It’s completely foreign, and most people give up trying before they get the “feel”.

By all means, learn the names for the aids and their various uses. More importantly, open your mind to body (yours and your horse’s) awareness by feel.

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