In the first of this training scale series, we looked at relaxation - having the horse in the engagement zone, relaxed, travelling in-frame, being attentive, in self-carriage and soft in the bridle. Then we discussed shoulder control and I pointed out that we need to take control of all four feet eventually but had to start with either the shoulders or hindquarters and the reasons for starting with the former.
The main reason to get shoulder control before attempting to direct the hindquarters is so that we can stop the shoulders moving. We need to be able to do this in order to isolate the hindquarter - otherwise, the entire horse is going to move laterally at best and at worst it will just be a blur mess!
Hindquarter control is essential for picking up the correct canter lead, flying changes, lateral work, collection and simply changing the horse's centre of gravity so that it can jump a log on the trail.
Both the shoulder and hindquarter control can be obtained using rein aids. I know this is unusual but there is good reason to at least start with this. Many horses desensitise quickly to leg pressure cues and others (particularly mares I find) show an obvious dislike for leg cues by swishing their tails or pinning their ears. By teaching both shoulder and hindquarter control, from the ground initially, off the reins then we have leg as a backup if the horse misses the rein cue. Also, later when we get to lateral work, we have a much more meaningful leg cue that the horse will respond to without the need for more severe aids such as spurs.
Have you ever ridden a horse that had desensitised to leg cues? The sort of horse that needs pushing every stride to remain in gait (not in self-carriage) or you actually have to 'kick'? If so, leave me a comment below and tell me whether you managed to re-sensitise the horse to the leg or if you'd like to discuss how to do so.
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