Updated: Mar 25, 2021
If you haven't yet read the 'learn' part from this week then click here. You will be able to read all about why the inside leg to outside rein is such a problem for riders, how to spot it and why it is so important that you have it.
In this post, we will be talking all about how to apply the inside leg to outside rein connection into your training.
The exercise we are going to use today is the spirals. This is a fantastic exercise that has so many benefits. It gives you more control over the size and shape of your circle, will improve your accuracy and positioning in lateral movements as well as teaching your horse to be more balanced on circles and not fall in or out; it builds strength in your horses hindlegs, and is also a great starter exercise to introduce the lateral work like leg yields and shoulder ins.
Remember, this is the look you are going for. Straight, even hands, not pulling on the inside rein and the horse looking in the direction they are going with their whole body bent around the circle or corner.
What do you do?
Start on a 10m circle in the middle of the arena, away from any tracks or fences. Try this in walk first to really get a feel for the exercise before you try it in trot and canter.
Stay on this circle and pay attention to whether your horse wants to make the circle bigger or smaller. If they want to make it smaller, he’s leaning on his inside shoulder and that is when you put on that inside leg. If you find they want to make the circle bigger, then they’re leaning on the outside shoulder and you need to add in a little more outside rein. Stay at this stage until you are able to consistently keep the size and shape of the 10m circle.
When you are ready, use your inside leg to push your horse back out to a 20m circle. You should feel your horse step away from your inside leg and move sideways like a leg yield.
Now think this through. If I asked you to use more inside leg but your outside rein was still stopping your horse from falling out then your horse wouldn’t be able to move sideways because your outside rein would be stopping him. So you need to add more inside leg but also loosen up on that outside rein. Almost like opening a door you open the door and give with your outside rein and then you use your inside leg to push him through that door and step sideways. Please note, when I say give I do not mean throw it away. I mean a small push forward with your hands. You should feel your horse bends in the rib cage and moves away from your leg.
4. Once your horse has moved over to the 20m circle really focus on keeping that feeling that your horse is bent around your inside leg. Pay attention again to whether you feel your horse is falling in or out,, wanting to make the circle smaller or larger.
5. Repeat this exercise until you feel like your horse reacts more quickly to your inside leg, steps more sideways in a controlled way and that you have better control over those shoulders and the size and shape of your circle.
Ready to up the challenge?
This exercise is great because you can play around with it to really test your control over your horse. You could start on a 10m circle and then push out to a 15m circle, then back to a 12m circle then back out to a 20m circle. Play around with it and make sure each time you come onto your new size circle that you stay on that circle for a bit to make sure your horse isn’t falling in or out before you spiral in or out again.
You can also increase the difficult by trying it in trot and canter. The higher the pace, the more difficult the exercise will be.
What problems could you come across with this exercise?
Your horse doesn't move sideways when you put your inside leg on.
This is a really common problem when trying this exercise for the first time if your horse is not used to moving sideways. A lot of the time its simply because your horse doesn't understand your aid. It might be that he thinks your leg just means forwards so he rushes when you put your leg on or he just doesn't respond when you put your inside leg on.
When a horse doesn't understand an aid you need to show him what to do. Almost like saying 'when i do this' [apply aid], 'i need you to do this' [create the reaction you want]. For the first few times, you might have to be a little more strong with your aids, push a little harder with your inside leg and use your seat and a little hand to stop your horse moving forward.
Remember to let go of your outside rein. Remember, on a normal circle we use the outside rein now to stop our horse moving sideways, so if you actually want your horse to move sideways then give a little with the outside rein; like opening a door and then using your inside leg to push them through that door.
Your horse rushes sideways and you don't really have control over how quickly you get back to your 20m circle.
Thinking back to when your just riding a circle. It is your outside rein that stops your horse falling out, so similarly, if you find even when you're trying to move out to the bigger circle, that your horse falls through the outside shoulder and you lose control over the movement, then take a little more of a hold with your outside rein.
This is all about a balancing act and the more you ride this exercise the easier it will be as you will know exactly how much inside leg and exactly how much outside rein you need to get the result that you want.
Want to work on this more?
The Suppleness programme builds on this exercise and gives you 3 more training sessions filled with 9 different exercises that will help improve your horses suppleness as well as your control over your horses body.
Find out more by clicking here