January 12, 2018 · Education

Horse Aids


Anthony Kristovich III

What are horse aids ?

Horse aids help as a mode of communication between the rider and the horse. It is like a direction to the horse where the rider applies physical pressures which create a shape and direct the horse to change gait, move left or right. As the rider and the horse progress in their training, they combine several aids with more subtle variations to move around with complex actions.

How are aids different than cues ?

Horse Aids are different than horse cues. A Horse’s response to voice commands, clicks or bumps to make a certain move is Cues. Cues are a different communication system than aids. But, the problem is that the riders who communicate to their horses by cues are working with a short vocabulary while horse aids have a vast vocabulary with minute variations to have different meanings. Hence, to get the horse to the next level, one needs a better mode of communication and a better vocabulary for a horse to understand.

Natural Vs Artificial Aids ?

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Natural aids define as physical influences on horse’s body applied by the rider. They include rider’s legs, weight, hands, the seat or weight aids etc. Whereas artificial aids are the whips and spurs to which most people are familiar with. Artificial aids are actually used as in conjunction with the natural aids to reinforce the action.

Natural aids: Natural aids consist of legs, seat, hands, rein or weight aids. These aids are put together into ways of pressure that the horse feels and moves according to the rider. As the rider can vary the pressure of any aid, the expertise of the rider is defined by the ease with which the rider could communicate with the horse. The meaning of the aid can have hundreds of variations of shape to the horse.

Leg aids are used mainly as driving aid which asks the horse to move a hind leg forward. It can be applied with varying degrees of pressure and different sequence to move a different shape. When pressure is applied with a single leg it is called a unilateral leg aid, whereas with both legs it is called a bilateral leg aid.

Weight aids are when a rider droops lower to apply more weight to make the horse feel heavier. Or, unburdening or lightening the horse seat bones to make the saddle feel lighter. These too can be unilateral or bi-lateral. They help the horse to rebalance more over one foot and take a shape towards left or right.

Rein aids are applied by the hands and elastic wrists while the elbow and shoulder joints stay flexible.

Artificial Aids: Artificial aids include the whips, spurs and voice commands. At many times the voice is used more as a cue than as an aid but having many different meanings. In horse industry, many have a misconception about the whips and spurs. They are just a way or the language to reinforce leg aids that the horse already understands. They should be applied with a degree of pressure which does not startle the horse or raise his excitement. Timing is also critical while using artificial aids to communicate with the horse.


What are Horse gaits ?

Horse gaits refer to the movement of the horse either by training or naturally. It can be a walk, trot, canter or a gallop. There are several other movements that require special training and a high level of communication between the horse and its rider.

Natural Gaits: Most horses have four types of natural gaits. Though, some breeds have more gaits which are sometimes natural or trained.

Walk: the work is a 4-step movement. A horse always has two or three hooves on the ground. The walk is slower than other type of gaits, but is more steady and comfortable. Naturally, a horse moves his right hind leg first followed by his right fore leg. The walk gait is then continued by moving left hind and later left fore leg moves.

Trot: A steady 2-step movement, trot is a combined diagonal leg movement of the horse. In between these springs, there are moments when all the hooves of the horse are in mid-air. The horse moves ahead its right hind leg

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