More leg, less hand

For Rudy and I, one of our biggest issues is maintaining “straightness” through our turns. Meaning, I often lose his shoulder to the outside or his haunches to the inside. This weakness was exposed in our lesson on Tuesday afternoon.  Although the exercise/course was simple and consisted of only verticals, it is apparent that I need to ride better off of the outside aids.

I wish I could add the video footage I have of the lesson but I am having some technical difficulties at the moment. I can’t seem to find the videos on YouTube or saved on my computer…

In order to continue to improve on this weakness I chose to focus on basic flatwork without stirrups today. What inspired me was this short video clip on “Fundamentals for Equitation” with Frank Madden. The shoulder-fore and shoulder-in are great exercises to improve a horse’s straightness and balance.


What most helped me in my ride today was to think about “placing the inside hind leg between the two front legs” for a shoulder-fore or “Putting him on 3 tracks where his hind leg shares a track with his outside front” for the shoulder-in. I have schooled Rudy well on the flat throughout his training, so these movements aren’t new to us. However, the way Madden explained the movements stuck with me. Thinking of controlling the haunch for the shoulder-in helped me to do more with my legs instead of my hands. This is similar to a specific point I took home when watching my friend’s lesson with Olympian Mike Plumb. He told her “it’s called a leg yield, not a hand yield”. So the take-home lesson of todays ride was more leg less hand. All of us riders know this theory, and yet it continues to be a challenge for many of us on a daily basis! Maybe I should make an audio recording of George Morris saying “more leg!” and listen to it the whole time I ride! It’s nice to return to the basics now and     again in order to remember that fundamental theory.

Madden said the goal of these movements were to “see how difficult and easy it is to move and change out horse”. My findings today on Rudy were that it is much more difficult to move and change him when tracking to the right. I knew this before, but it was confirmed today. What I need to continue to experiment with is whether this difficulty is due to not enough right leg, too much right hand, or not enough left hand.

I plan to incorporate more shoulder-fore and shoulder-in into my flatwork more frequently from here on out.

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