Riding Aids — Four or are there Five Natural Aids?

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

Riding aids come in two categories — Natural and Artificial.

Let us first take a look at what are considered to be the Artificial aids.  These are bits, hackamores, spurs, crops, whips, bats, ropes…and I am sure you can come up with quite a few more.  We classify these as artificial aids because they are pieces of equipment that the rider has to back up the natural aids.  These Artificial aids are important and can be useful…so long as they are used only when necessary and with skilled hands and thoughts.

Natural Aids are on my mind today.  These aids are really important and should be used for the majority of the cues to the horse.  Classically, Natural aids have been defined to include:

  • Leg
  • Hand
  • Seat
  • Voice

Some might say that the leg and seat are the two most important aids because from those you can guide your horse very easily.  The hand connects to the bit which in turn connects to the feet and some will consider hands to be the most important aid because of the connection through the bit to the feet and controlling footfalls leads to success.  Still others working with young horses or trying to establish a relationship with a troubled horse will tell you that the voice (inflection, tone, volume) is the most important.

It is important to remember that the aids are used in a spectrum, from very light to very powerful, depending on the response desired. In all cases, good training aims for the horse to be responsive at the smallest/lightest aid.  The aids we individually choose to rely on to guide our horse might very well depend on our own training or the training that the horse received.  In all of this, we need to make sure we balance the use of our Natural and Artificial aids.

I will add one more Natural aids to this list. Some might argue that this is not a Natural aid but In my opinion, the human brain is the most important natural aid.  When a rider thinks (with the brain), he/she can decide what other Natural aid should be used, how much of the natural aid is needed to achieve the desired result, and the person can also decide if an Artificial aid is necessary or how much to use.

So Dr. Mike’s list of Natural aids stands at five—

  • Leg
  • Hand
  • Seat (includes upper body because movement of shoulders, torso, and head alter your seat
  • Voice
  • Brain

I welcome your comments on this subject.  Do you agree that the brain is a natural aid? Do you think it is the “Super aid”.  Share your thoughts my friends.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

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