Patterns for the Weekend: Improving Your Leg Aids

Designed for hunt seat riders, this pattern can benefit just about everyone.

The goal if this exercise is to determine how much you rely on your hands instead of using your legs when it comes to steering, turning, and positioning your horse.

You’ll want to bridge your reins and hold them in your dominant hand. Put your free hand on your hip or leg, or allow it to hang loosely by your side. Just make sure it isn’t interfering with your riding or on your reins. Using only one hand will help to make sure you’re using your leg. You can also put your rein hand low in front of your saddle in order to use it as little as possible.

Even though your English horse won’t neck rein like a western performance horse, if it has solid fundamentals, it should move laterally when leg pressure is applied behind the girth.

For this exercise, you will need:

  • cones
  • ground poles
  • jump standards

The pattern should include circles or a figure-eight around the cones, weaving through a line of jump standards, and riding over the ground poles.

You will want to maintain light, steady contact with your rein hand, but don’t oversteer. For your first few trips through the pattern, ride at the walk or the sitting trot. If your horse tries to lean on your hand, give firmer cues with your legs. Lighten up as your horse responds accordingly.

You may need to half halt as you approach each turn or circle. This will get your horse’s attention when you shift your weight and use your leg. If your horse speeds up when you use your outside leg, you can half halt again to in order to contain the forward energy and teach your horse to yield laterally to your leg. If your horse cuts corners, use your inside leg. No matter which leg you use, your horse should yield to pressure.

Only move to the canter once you are executing the course well at the trot.

This pattern has been adapted from this article published by Horse Illustrated.