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Meaning of a Cue or an Aid

Thought of the Day:

I’m guilty of this too, but continuing to use a cue until it has no meaning or is “extinguished.” This can be clucking non-stop or continuing to use a leg aid with no response from the horse. We actually will cause the aid or cue to have no meaning to the horse because they basically become numb to it. If this happens, it’s important to think about the circumstance or situation.

A lot of times you use aids in a precise order: seat, leg, voice and then as a last resort, a tap with the whip OR a half halt or block/hold with the rein.

If you over use one of these aids with no change or release or reinforcement, you could easily extinguish it’s meaning.

Timing of the aids and preparation and clarity so important. Also, ruling out conflicting aids being done by rider or a seat or body that is crooked and causing the horse to be out of balance. Or perhaps the horse is lacking suppleness or is a bit tight from worry. Or the terrain is different or difficult.

Or sometimes it just as simple as giving the horse TIME to think and process so they realize “Oh I can actually do this!” either physically or mentally. We are often very goal oriented and don’t even let the horse process the request or rebalance themselves to follow through.

Or was it simply a miscommunication between horse and rider and the request may need to be made one more time?

Oftentimes we may ask for sideways without enough forward momentum to start with or maybe not enough warm up or perhaps we are restricting the horse’s ability to “go forward” with a restricting or restraining elbow or hand.

Evaluate the scenario very closely from ALL directions.

If we’re going over an obstacle and look down at it (our head is darn heavy and even a slight change in balance our horse will feel!) this shifts our weight on the horse’s forehand and may cause them to stop. Just like if we were to lean forward approaching the a jump - most likely the horse will refuse because they fear for their safety since they are out of balance. A lot of our horses will also STOP when you tip forward because they think you are going to fall off.

Sometimes getting off and reiterating/reinforcing a cue without our bodies on top and hindering the horse is a great decision. Also a really good opportunity to more easily time positive reinforcement. A well timed good scratch or handful of Timothy pellets to reiterate or clarify a cue or aid - this must be done within less than 5 seconds for the horse to understand what they did was correct. What’s so great about in hand is if you cannot feel the inside hind leg about to lift off the ground quite yet under saddle, which is the perfect time to ask for a sideways or lateral step, you will be able to see it clearly while doing ground/in hand work.

THEN you can get back on to ride once the aid or cue has been clearly re-established. This is why it is 100% important that whatever you ask under saddle is able to be done easily in hand - that way the only factor that is changed is actually us: our position, our timing, our aids, etc. once we get on. Then we clearly (hopefully) know what we need to change!

"What you get on the ground is what you will get under saddle." - Manolo Mendez


“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”


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