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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

‘Ask with lightness, encourage without forcing, correct with softness’
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AIDS & CUES


We begin using “aids" during the Horsemanship Foundation of Ground Training by creating soft pressures that help a horse feel the shape we want it to take or the direction we want it to go or the amount of energy we want it to put into the deal. When we start an untrained, re educate, refresher including a horse with behave issues, we first develop a Horsemanship Foundation on the ground of softness, following a feel. rhythm and relaxation that helps him feel safe around us, then we start creating corridors of pressures around him that help him feel what it is we would like him to do. When he figures out the correct way to respond when he feels those pressures, the pressures go away. The key thing about these pressures or aids is that you can modify them.

Aids

Using aids for simple exercises such as going forward, turning, stopping, changing direction are natural to a horse, for it is simply moving so as to relieve itself of pressure on various parts of it body or to re balance itself.  Over petted horses often push back at first.  I found it is best for some exercises to use a voice cue earlier in training and to use it together with pressure at first, or simply to wait until the horse is about to move and cut him if it does.   Learning simple aids is usually just a process of becoming less tense; a relaxed horse responds perfectly adequately on the ground using a proper training plan therefore it should be the same if what it learned on the ground is transferred properly during the first ride.  Within equestrian tradition we refer to "aids" as a tool we use to ASK the horse to do something for us and we further subdivide them into "natural" and "artificial" aids as follows:


1.       Natural Aids- influences the horse and come from the rider's body.

·         Legs

·         Body Language & Movement

·         Body weight in the saddle

·         Hands

·         Independent seat

·         Voice

·         Eyes

2.       Artificial Aidsthese are used as extensions of the natural aids to help reinforce, sensitize and/or desensitize the horse:

·         Whips & Training sticks

·         Halters

·         Reins

·         Bosals

·         Bits

·         Martingales

·         Lead rope

·         Barrels

·         Training Dummy riders

·         Spurs

·         You can even say the corner of an arena…

Cues

Once the horse understands simple aids on the ground we begin using signals and we call them cues.  If it has already been praised during the Horsemanship Foundation of Ground Training for moving away from pressure on five different parts of its body it will be well prepared for simple cues you can transfer into the saddle.  For example; turn on the forehand and haunches.  Cues are like switches; they either are "on" or "off," "do" or "do not do" something. The horse develops an association between the cue and the performance of a certain movement at a certain speed in a certain rhythm, etc.  Once a horse is trained using certain cues they cannot or at the very least are difficult to modified.  A cue is just a "do this" button that cannot be easily modified or enforced.  When people use cues long enough, they can forget that a cue does not cause the horse to do anything. A cue is just an on/off switch for a specific behavior initially developed using a corridor of aids. In some cases, the horse may never have been educated in corridor of aids during the Foundation Ground Training.  The problem is that, over time, the horse's response to a cue or signal can get dull. When that happens, it becomes meaningless and there is no way to enforce it. Repeating and repeating and repeating the signal just makes the horse duller.  The handler/rider may become frustrated and the horse develops Behavior Problems!

 

How we use Aids and Cues

  •  AidsAsk your horse what you want it to do.
  • CuesTell the horse what it is you want they reinforce aids and communicate by putting the lightest possible pressure on the horse so he does what you want it to do.  At this point you are teaching and is learning.

  • Anticipation – once the horse understands and begins to respond to what you ask him to do you must decrease the amount of aids and cues you are using.  You are allowing the horse to “Try” to figure it out on its own.  This is when it; becomes logical to them, their idea and encourages your horse to move freely/willingly without fear because they want to do what you ask of her/him!  When your suggestion becomes their idea; they Understand what you are asking them to do!

  • Release of pressure – horses learn from the release of pressure by that I mean the cues you are using; also it is rewards them at the same time.

  • Praise is when you rub or verbally express to your horse for a job well done.  In the beginning you will need to praise more often and for the smallest Try.  Once the horse understands praise less often otherwise it will not mean very much to it.

Natural Cues

Cues are the signals by which the rider tells the horse what to do. They are signals which the horse must be taught using Aids to understand and respond to during the Foundation Ground Training. During the Mounted Schooling these signals are refined using natural cues; body language, hands, legs, seat or weight and voice. No special equipment like whips or spurs is required

  • Hands - The hands using the reins communicate the rider’s commands to a well-trained horse by applying pressure or contact to the horse’s mouth. The horse can respond in several different ways, depending on the kind of pressure or contact. The hands can ask the horse to collect, stop, help control the horse’s speed or ask the horse to turn.

Riders may have heavy hands, passive hands or controlled hands.

·    Heavy hands typically disturb the horse. This is usually the result of an unsteady seat or the fear that the horse will get out of control.

·    Passive hands are light but ineffective. Passive hands belong to riders with a good balanced seat but little knowledge about riding a horse.

·   Controlled hands are quiet but effective. These riders combine the use of hands and legs. Controlled hands get the desired results without upsetting the horse.


The leg is primarily a driving aid. Ideally, the leg lies quietly against the horse's side at all times, softly following the  horse's motion. The rider then influences the horse by using the lower leg with variable pressure and by applying this pressure either unilaterally with one leg or bilaterally with both legs. At the simplest level, unilateral pressure asks the horse to step more under himself with one leg or to move sideways. Bilateral pressure asks the horse for more impulsion. The rider's goal is to apply the leg with the right degree of pressure and the right timing to achieve the desired response from the horse. This takes a lot of practice, paying attention to the horse's feedback, and trying again. The feedback of an observant instructor is essential to reach the upper levels.  The rider’s legs communicate motion to the horse. Squeezing with both lower legs will make the horse go forward. If the horse is properly trained, leg pressure, combined with proper contact on the horse’s mouth, will produce different types of movements and some examples are as follows:

 

·         Go, Stop & Backup

·         Leg yield

·         Side pass (horse moves sideways)

·         Turn on the Haunches (horse pivots on its hindquarters)

·         Turn on the Forehand  (horse pivots on its forequarters)

·         Bending (horse bends its body to the inside of a circle)

·         Roll backs

·         Lead change…etc.


Seat (Weight)Slight shifts in the rider’s weight help the horse in going forward, backing etc. When the rider’s weight shifts slightly forward, this helps the horse in moving forward. If the rider’s weight shifts slightly back, this helps the horse in backing. It is important to learn how to sit naturally and softly and to use body movements in harmony with the movements of the horse. Remember to use only slight shifts in body movement, not exaggerated weight shifts that may throw the horse off balance.


VoiceThe horse will also learn to respond to voice cues such as “walk,” “jog” (trot), “lope” (canter) and “whoa.” It is important to use the voice quietly but firmly. The horse has a very good sense of hearing, so never yell or scream. The noise may frighten it.


Application of Aids and Cues

Always apply the lightest possible cue that will get the horse to respond. Do not jerk the horse’s mouth or kick the horse’s sides. The cues applied on a trained horse should be almost invisible to the observer but clear and definite to the horse. Each cue should include the complete harmony of the rider’s hands, legs, seat and voice. For the best performance from the horse, all cues are properly timed together, not each one by itself.