Episode 20: The Hierarchy of the Riders Aids as the Horse Advances

“Conflicting aids can happen when the rider doesn't understand what to do when a horse doesn't respond to a request.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

Riders will need to use different riding aids differently as a horse progresses through the different grade levels. In episode 6, I compared the horses progression to the progression of kindergarten, grade school, high school, and college. As the horse and rider progresses, the use of different aids is layered on.

We always start with the basics. If the basics aren’t down, it’s a good idea to go back and reinforce those cues before moving on. In this episode, I talk about what a horse would learn in my training program starting with groundwork and emotional control before advancing up the grades.

“Keep it clean and simple with a younger horse.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

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Show Notes

[01:15] Things a horse would learn in my training program.

[01:17] I would begin with groundwork and emotional control.

[01:31] I will start riding my three-year-old Presto in about a month or so. Before riding I do a lot of groundwork and emotional control stuff.

[01:53] When I first get on and ride, I’ll keep it very simple.

[02:57] When I’m not riding the horse, the lunge whip would be in place of my legs.

[03:18] When riding, the leg cues will be simple, and I’ll use an inside rein. I’ll spend more time in arcs of circles, because I don’t want to get into wobbly lines.

[04:29] I can add more gas pedal with my legs.

[04:55] After about thirty days, he’ll understand how I’ve connected the reins to his shoulders.

[05:10] Left rein means go left, right rein means go right, legs mean go forward.

[05:14] To stop, I’ll bend him and bring him around to a stop.

[05:26] On the next level, I’ll start to build the bridge where he’ll learn to follow the right rein out.

[06:01] Then we’ll move to more advanced things.

[06:57] Once he learns to follow the inside rein and the outside rein, I’ll exaggerate both.

[09:54] Counter bend improves control of the shoulders. Horses don’t always follow their head, they do always follow their shoulder.

[10:34] This improves the level of control that we’ll need when moving up to higher levels like on a lead change.

[10:47] It’s important that your legs are being used evenly as a gas pedal.

[12:19] If your left leg is the only way you can drive the horse to the right, you’ll get stuck on lead changes.

[14:09] It’s important to independently control the shoulders with your hands and the hips with your legs.

[14:16] A lot of people get confused, because the stages before this and after this are slightly different.

[15:10] Conflicting aids can happen when the rider doesn’t understand what to do when a horse doesn’t respond to a request.

[16:43] It’s conflicting if the aid causes a misshapen misalignment of the horse.

[18:08] You can’t move on until you get the horse to respond to the basic aids.

[18:36] Keep it clean and simple with a younger horse.

[18:54] You can go back to the basics and clarify things before moving on to more advanced stuff.

[19:45] Going back to the basics is not a sign of weakness or failure. It’s where the foundation is.

“Going back to the basics is a sign of self-control and understanding in the rider.” Stacy Westfall Click To Tweet

Links and Resources:

Episode 6: The horse’s path of learning is NOT the same as the rider

Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac


  1. Allison Kolbe on December 19, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    I have listened to this episode several times because it has helped me understand how important it is to keep the cues straightforward in the beginning when teaching the counterbend. I would like to learn how to teach my horse to change leads (by the end of next summer I think we will both be ready) and I can follow Stacy’s logic that if the rein talks to the shoulder and I reserve my leg aids for work later that I will be better prepared to change leads if the meaning of the legs is reserved for future work. This episode was one of the reasons I purchased your steering course… I appreciate how you are able to break down training concepts logically.

  2. Alison on December 18, 2020 at 7:55 am

    Thank you for the reminder and encouragement to go bake to basics whenever you need to!

  3. Martina Brown on April 11, 2019 at 10:13 pm

    Hmmm very interesting. I do use my inside leg quite often when counter bending. I am going to try not using my inside leg this weekend to see if she understands the aid of just using the outside rein to move out. Will be very interesting to find out what she knows.

    • Stacy Westfall on April 11, 2019 at 11:29 pm

      You should be able to use both legs evenly as a ‘gas pedal’ and then draw her out with outside rein only (still holding the bend with the inside). Let me know how it goes!

      • Martina Brown on April 14, 2019 at 8:56 pm

        So I went out yesterday and tried counter-bending. Gas pedal the same on both sides. 🙂 Used my inside rein to hold the bend. I barely used my outside rein to get her to counter bend, I do look where I am going when I counter bend. So is she following where I am looking or does she really feel me pulling on the outside rein? We have only done this exercise so many times that I wonder if she follows the feel of where I am looking and not necessary the rein pressure of pulling her out because I feel that I was not pulling on the outside rein very much.

        • Stacy Westfall on April 15, 2019 at 5:25 pm

          Probably both. Last time you were here her ‘shape’ was excellent in the bend which means she understands. You should be able to feel that you could do the exercise with subtle differences and still get similar results. The opposite (which isn’t as advanced) is when it feels like you need all aids working perfectly and you still struggle to be sure if it will work.
          You have reached the point where you can do it with both legs, one leg, light reins, some bend, more bend…lol…congratulations. Now to take it to the lope…

          • Martina Brown on April 15, 2019 at 8:39 pm

            So I just showed Randi what you said–take it to the lope. She laughed because she knows loping is not my strong point on Hildy. I am still working on slowing her down. LOL. If I EVER get that accomplished it will be a MIRACLE. Everything was just drying out until yesterday. It rained all day. I will keep working on the lope and try adding counter bending to the list. I never even thought about counter bending at the lope. I appreciate all your advice–Thank you!

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