Talking with the ears II - changing the aid versus reinforcing it

Do you remember the post about talking with the ears? You find it here. This one is the sequel. 
I‘d suggested to look at your horse‘s ears if he doesn‘t react to an aid. If you see them pointing in your direction, you‘ll know that the horse is listening and trying to understand you. If he doesn‘t react appropriately it‘s because he is unsure what to do. So instead of reinforcing and repeating the aid (he already hasn‘t understood the first time), it‘s worthwhile to think about how to help the horse understand what you want by changing the aid.
Now how can we change it?

I recommend to look at the following:
-Check how you sit on your horse. Maybe your weight is in your horse‘s way or disturbs his balance
- Check where your energy is directed to and where you are looking. Does it help the horse or affect in negatively?
- Check if you really want what you are asking for - or are you afraid or uncomfortable with it? Because if you are, the horse will most likely obey your emotions, not your aid. He can read your true intent.

get the message to the feet
"Get the message to the feet" 
is an important concept in horsemanship  
Photo: Nadja

There are, of course, some prerequisites you want to have if you choose to change the aid instead of reinforcing it:
  • Your horse is actually listening. If he is not, it can be appropriate to remind him with a stronger aid. 
  • The horse knows the aid. If he doesn‘t, it is necessary to reinforce as you want him to understand a certain cue. 

I hope that doesn‘t sound too confusing. Let me give you an example for making clear I mean by changing instead fo reinforcing the aid:
If you‘ve established a backup by shortening the reins and driving with the legs, and you horse doesn‘t back up, it makes no sense to then ask for the back up with constant pressure of the legs. We need to stay with our initial aid but change its components. In the case of backing up these components would be where you as a rider are looking at. Down at the withers, putting additional weight on the forehand that should become lighter in the backup? Or up and between the ears to help the horse lift his shoulders? Do you lean forward or do you sit back? 
Those are the subtle changes I‘d try to make in order to help my horse understand me.


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