When you ride your horse how much rein pressure do you have? I was discussing this with a client the other day while out trailriding at Sandy Point. I had Maxi in his bitless bridle on a loose rein. He was in a lovely soft outline and walking out with long swinging strides. My client had her horse in a very round outline with obviously a lot of rein pressure; she was working hard with her legs but the horse was slow, not relaxed and its steps were short. Now I guess some of you are thinking “ well she obviously has a dressage horse and that’s the way they go”. Maxi is a “dressage horse” and Dave was riding with us on Storm who is definitely a dressage horse! Storm was in a bitted bridle but was also on a loose rein and walking out confidently in beautiful self carriage.

The difference was the rein pressure and the balance of the rider. If you hold on really tightly to your horse all the time you are obliterating your stop aid and sabotaging not only your balance but the balance (self carriage) of your horse. It should be every riders aim to have their horse accepting a light contact and balancing themselves. If you give the rein forward your horse should stay at the same speed. If you go from walk to trot you should not need to balance yourself with your horses delicate mouth.

So back to our client: she was effectively saying “stop” with the reins and “go” with her legs and her horse was confused and resentful. As we continued our ride we talked her into letting go a little and relaxing her hold. With Maxi in front of her and Storm behind she felt safe to have a try. Gradually her horse settled and walked out a bit better. She let go some more and stopped hassling with her legs. The walk lengthened. The horse lowered its head and blew all the tension out with a gentle snort. The rider smiled and started to enjoy a partnership with her horse.