Free Lesson - Working Towards Bridle-less Riding

This is a “how to”, Free Lesson, for the beginner rider who is just learning how to train their horse to turn using leg aids without the need for spurs or strong rein aids. This exercise is done with tack. When you start these exercises have your horse warmed up before each session listening to your aids for stop, go, and turning off the rein aides. Be sure your horse flexes easily left and right, in halt while standing still. Only work on new lessons when your horse is focused on you, willing, and relaxed.

Daily training always begins at the walk to bring a harmonious connection with your horse which will create light aids and no need to use whips, spurs, or make your horse perform by using stronger rein aids.

Photo by Teddie Ziegler
Photo by Teddie Ziegler

Horses love training more than you can ever imagine and if you do not see it that way choose something else to do with your horse that you know your horse would enjoy sharing with you. Life is way too short not to choose your own path.

When your horse is walking, halting, and turning from your direction, your intention and your rein aids in a nice rhythm , then you are ready to begin his or her lesson.

Free Lesson -

The First Exercise:

Ask your horse to turn to the left by shifting your weight, ever so slightly, to the left by weighting up your stirrup a bit more after your rein aid has caused your horse to look left, in the direction you want him or her to go. Once your horse is looking in the direction of the turn relax the rein and then use your right leg by bringing your heal into the barrel of the horse and then close your calf onto your horse’s right side and release your leg aid instantly. Keep asking with a rhythmic tapping, in a relaxed manner, with your right leg and look where you want your horse to go. Remember a horse can feel an aid as light as a flies touch.

If your horse does not respond to the leg aid, slow your horse down with the reins and turn your horse with the rein without the leg aid into a small circle. Let your horse come to a halt. Wait for your horse to relax into the halt. You might have lost your gas pedal at this point so ask your horse to go forward in a straight line into trot or canter to restore his energy. When you have the enegy of your horse up enough to walk easily in a relaxed manner, as before, repeat the exercise. You can work on it for 20 minutes.  Do not force the horse in any part of the experience. Ride him as if you expect him to listen.

I like this video.  It will give you an idea of how light you can be with your horse.

The secret to light legs aids is to not keep the leg pressed onto the horse’s barrel until you get what you want. The reason this does not work is that a constant pressure will not be noticed by your horse.  By keeping the leg on your horse your leg just becomes part of him, like the saddle.

When your horse starts to respond to your leg aid within a weeks practice you will be ready for the next exercise.

The Second Exercise:

The next exercise is the opposite of the first exercise. In this exercise you will ask your horse to turn from your leg and shift in your body to the direction you want him to go, before using your rein aid. Then use your rein by flexing his head to turn where you want him to, then finish by turning him into a tight circle and allow him to come to a halt. With practice your horse will learn to turn just from your light leg aids without the need of your reins. Let your horse respond in the most natual way and watch him or her think and grow into the exercise.

The Third Exercise:

In the next exercise, place barrels randomly in an arena. Ride towards a barrel and when you get to the barrel, use your leg aid to direct your horse to one side of the barrel or the other. If your horse starts to go around in the wrong direct use your rein to make the turn and then let him continue on for awhile.  Then start again by riding him to another barrel and repeat. If your horse does not get the idea after ten tries, when your horse chooses the wrong direction, use your rein by turning your horse sharply into a small circle into halt, then relax on a loose rein.

Sit for a long while and allow your horse time to process and become in a state of neutral. Repeat and after about six times your horse should be able to turn from the leg aids easily. In a weeks time he will get the idea. Work slowly over a month’s time and you will be ready to move into walk and trot transitions. Then into trot and then into canter. Always, in each training session start at a walk and only go into a trot when your horse is at ease and completely listening to you.

In a couple of months time you will have a bidle-less horse. Keep him to these patterns for three months before adding more to his bridle-less program. Keep warming up your horse as I suggested and keep focused on deepening the exerecies in baby steps. In a years time you will have a solid horse. A horse does not stay trained. Every bridle-less ride you want to think of as schooling, even if you are doing an exhibition.

The mistakes that beginners make is thinking that once your horse is trained you can just ride the way you want, but that is not going to work. You always must see your ride with your horse as schooling in every session for several years. This kind of effort will bring you to being truly present in a state of joy that you share with your horse. Nothing better than that! Enjoy.

Have a great weekend!  Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.

Warmly, Carolyn