Riding aids are a method of communicating to the horse what the rider or trainer wants it to do. This overview will explain the importance of both natural and additional aids and their use in making the horse move forward, halt, and perform lateral work.
The aim of training whether it is for riding or driving is to teach the horse to be sensitive to commands given by its trainer and to act accordingly. A well-trained horse will react to every aid used thus requiring only light commands.
Aids used by a rider should be balanced as overusing one aid can lead to the horse not collecting or extending its step properly. Also, if a rider relies too much on hand aid, the horse can start to lean on its bit or fight against it.
The first of natural aids is leg. It is often referred to as a driving aid as it is the main aid used in making the horse go forward and increase its speed. In addition to this, it is also a way to control the hindquarters and lateral movements
Hands holding reins are often called the restraining aid. The hand aids aim is to control the horses head and shoulders and in conjunction with other aids, to turn, collect, or make the horse halt.
The seat of a rider is the third aid in controlling a ridden horse. As it requires good back muscles and balance, riders often find this the hardest aid to master. It is a mixture of both restraining and driving aids and also aids in making the horse turn.
Voice is an aid seldom used when riding but a common way to communicate with a horse when lunging and driving a horse. Many ridden competitions do not allow the use or excessive use of voice commands.
Additional riding aids include bits, whips, and spurs. They are all designed to strengthen natural aids. Whips are also used to train horses movements such as piaffe and to replace leg aid in driving.
This overview has outlined the use of aids in different situations. Mastering the use of aids is one of the ultimate goals of horse riding. When a horse and rider are in union, the horse will only need very light commands to perform movements and to an outsider it might seem as though the horse is reading its riders mind.
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