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Question on Use of the Aids

The legs are only supporting the hand and the focused energy, or? In that case, why use the legs if they are not needed? Wouldn't that confuse the horse (and the rider), the rider using several aids at one time: 1) focus and energy, 2) the hands (both of them), 3) the weight and 4) the legs. What should the horse listen to? If things are not working, what should be changed? When teaching, most people also have a tendency to do too much, and when we use the legs too much we very easily tense which will screw up the seat and hinder the rider from following the horses movements, so from that perspective, it is much better to use a whip for supporting the hand, if needed that is, and leave the legs to hang like wet towels and not interfere?

The aids for the horse are to be given as a sequence building to a fully coordinated body language cue for the movement.  The rider's concentration is first (focus, intent and energy), supported by the hand, supported by the weight, supported by the leg, supported by the whip if necessary.  The horse is not being asked to listen to many different signals.   All the signals mean the same thing and support each other.  Applied correctly, no aids are "interfering".  All mean the same thing and guide the horse.  Applied correctly there is no chance that "things are not working".  If the horse does not understand, you just keep the aids on until the horse finds his way into the correct answer. Think of a couple dancing.  They are holding one hand, the man's other hand is on the woman's lower back, her other arm is over his shoulder, their hips are touching.  She is not confused by listening to many different touches.  All touches mean the same thing and guide her across the dance floor gracefully.

Yes, some people do too much with all their aids.  The responsibility of the rider is to make sure the aids are to be just a light touch, feeling and guiding in perfect timing exactly like the graceful dancing couple.  The man is not dragging and pushing the woman around the dance floor.  They move together in grace and ease invisibly signaling each other with light and gentle touches.  Sometimes a slightly more firm touch prepares the woman for a turn out or special movement.

Ed Dabney is an internationally acclaimed clinician, presenting horsemanship and riding clinics all over the US and in Europe.  In 2007, Ed was named Champion of the East Coast Trainer Challenge Series by Equine Extravaganza.  Ed was honored to have been selected by the University of Georgia to teach their senior level Young Horse Training course.

His training articles have appeared in many major national magazines.  Ed produces instructional videos and the “Gentle Horsemanship” TV program which has been seen on RFD-TV.

Ed's blending of natural horsemanship and classical equitation has made an indelible mark with students all across the United States and now also in Europe, drawing the attention of serious riders searching for the lightest touch and the deepest connection with their horses irrespective of breed or discipline.