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Hi Bob,

How do you guide a horse with your legs?

Thank you.

- B.


This is one of those questions that is a lot easier to answer in the arena with a horse under me than by typing on a web page. With that in mind - plus a few photos - let's see if I can give you the basics....

Try to imagine that your horse is a great big rubber tube on wheels. This tube will move in whatever direction the front of the tube is pointed. If you want the tube to go left, you "anchor" the tube on the left by holding that leg steady. Meanwhile, your right leg moves forward and pushes against the tube so it bends to the left. Are you still with me?

Now, let's add another element. This tube on wheels is sort of top-heavy, so if you make it turn at even a slow speed it will tend to topple toward the outside of the turn. What would you do? Right! You'd help to balance the tube by putting more of your weight on the inside of the turn.

Now, lets look at some photos. The first two aren't too great, because every time I moved my leg forward, Willy would very obligingly start to move in the direction he thought I wanted to go! He didn't understand that we were just supposed to pose for the camera!

normal leg position
Turn left cue
This shot shows the "normal" riding position. Notice how the reins are hanging straight down and my leg is parallel to the reins.
The second photo shows the leg in a "turn left" position. If you look at the reins, you can tell that my leg has moved forward. I'm not pushing very hard, because Willy was already preparing to move to the left.

(Special thanks to Carrie Heikkila for her help with these photos!)

Finally, let's put it all together with a neat action photo of Ashley Lemen, courtesy of her grandfather, Art Lemen....

Ashley using the cuesThis is how to do it right! Notice how Ashley is anchoring Notta's left side by standing straight up on the left stirrup. At the same time, her right has moved forward and pressed against the horse. The result is a picture-perfect turn at racing speed.

At this point, you might be tempted to think you know everything there is to know about guiding a horse with your legs. Sorry, there's a lot more. For example, if you move your legs forward or back, you are also cueing him how fast or slow you want him to go -- as you'll see in the next Question & Answer....

(To Be Continued....)

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