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Question regarding leg position when turning
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Mon Nov 24th, 2014
Location: North Carolina USA
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 Posted: Sat Oct 10th, 2020 12:07 am
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Hello All,

I have a curiosity question. A friend who describes themselves as riding « English » (I know riding is riding, but this is a common misnomer, English vs Western, around the east coast) was telling me she is taught when one is turning a horse, the inside leg comes forward.

She believes it is taught because it is better bio mechanically for the horse and « goes with » how the horse moves.

I have been with Buck and others in this school for many years, and in guiding with the legs I have always done the opposite. I’ve been told it’s very subtle, maybe a little more exaggerated in the beginning while the horse learns (to guide by the legs), in example;

Making a right turn I turn my body, and my right leg goes a little back, not forward. The left leg goes a little forward.

I am curious why others would be teaching the inside leg forward during a turn. Is there a specific reason this is done?

Thanks for any insight!


Joined: Mon Nov 24th, 2014
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 41
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 Posted: Sun Oct 11th, 2020 01:09 am
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Hello all,

I have noticed there have been some views to my query, but no replies, so I have been googling my query, as I can't find any posts on the forum.

It may be that my question is inane or too simple to be answered, but I am very confused by this simple thing.

I googled some information, that is professed to be public and paste-able. Is this taught to some specific end? I have tried walking and turning both ways, and I can do it both ways.

Have I gotten something wrong in my basic understanding of movement? I would hope my teachers and clinicians would have advised me if I have. Is this some sort of advanced knowledge that I don't understand? Or is it some school of riding that I am not aware of that has its use in that school but not in mine.

Thanks for any help! Below I have pasted some bits of the article.

Here is the part that gets even more tricky. Your natural instinct might be to let your hips follow your shoulders. Don’t. In fact, your hips need to being doing the opposite of what your shoulders are doing. Your inside leg comes forward just slightly as your outside leg goes back. Your inside shoulder “picks up” your horse’s shoulder to the inside as your outside shoulder comes around to guide the horse through the turn (Figure B).

Here is another exercise for you to do. Stand up straight. Now, step off like you are going to turn left. What did your hips do? Your left hip came forward and your right hip came back. Most of the time when we are walking our arms move counter to the movement of our legs. So, if you were to move naturally, you will often find yourself bringing your left hip forward and your left shoulder back when stepping into a left turn. It is a natural movement for us when we are walking on two legs. Practice it. Become comfortable with the movement. Once you are comfortable on the ground to can begin attempting to transfer the movement into the saddle.
The second–but no less vital–part of the equation is the outside rein. Picking up the inside shoulder is not enough. The horse also need support from the outside. The outside leg shifts back to maintain the bend through the turn, so it is up to the outside rein to support the horse through the turn.
It is all too easy for a horse to over-bend in a turn. This causes the outside shoulder to drift out and the inside shoulder to drop. The outside rein prevents this from happening by moderating the amount of bend. The outside rein should be making contact without pulling on the horse’s mouth. You should be able to the corner of the horse’s inside eye, but no more. The inside rein should make contact to help encourage bend, but the contact should be lighter than the outside rein. Ideally, you should be able to drop the inside rein completely and maintain a decent turn without it, although reaching that point will take some practice. Figure C demonstrates an approximation of the ideal way to ride inside leg to outside rein in a left turn.

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 Posted: Sun Oct 11th, 2020 11:37 am
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Dear Capparella: H'm, I don't know why this thread came back up to the top after such a long time -- it appears last accessed some six years ago.

Nor do I remember seeing it originally; it may have come in while I was on the road somewhere. But if it isn't yet too late, and in the thought that other people may have wondered about the same thing, here is my response: it doesn't matter one whit which way you use your aids in causing the horse to turn.

Any controversy around this topic is merely silly. Yes, I know Buck and I knew Ray, and they both teach people to turn their bodies as the horse turns, i.e. inside leg back and outside leg forward. So also did Sally Swift. And I also took dressage lessons for years, and am well aware that they teach to do it the other way, with the outside leg back.

In some cases with the dressage teachers, their intention is to crush the horse into the shape they want him to assume. These people are crude and ignorant, but there's no denying that there is a percentage of them out there, who approach riding as if the horse had no capability for learning, and on the assumption that the animal is even more crude than they are themselves. So when they read Fillis or Seeger or some other older author, and they get out of that reading that the inside leg is to be a "pillar around which the horse is to be bent", then when that gets filtered through their consciousness and their emotions, it gains an intepretation that this is to be accomplished by force. And they never consider that anything less -- the smallest aids possible -- might be much more effective.

A more empathetic and thoughtful rider will, on the other hand, be inclined to make a study of all the images that they can get their hands on of great riders of the past and present; and will have sought out every opportunity to watch and study great riders. By "great riders" I do not necessarily mean prize winners, but instead those individuals who seem to have an easy mastery of their horse and who can do many different kinds of things with their horse (or we might also say, whose horses are quite happy to do whatever their rider asks).

In making this sort of study, you will find several things, to wit:

(1) No individual rider, Buck included, does exactly the same thing to elicit a similar response (such as turning) from their horse in every circumstance. For a turn is a bend. Therefore, observe closely: does Buck place his legs (or hands, arms, torso, head, hips) in exactly the same way when he's going fast to turn back a calf as he does when schooling his horse at a walk or trot before class begins? Does he place his bodyparts the same when executing a circle as when performing a half-pass? The same when backing in a circle as when trotting on a 20M circle? The same when trotting on a 20M circle as on a 6M circle? To "get" this, you need to be able to project yourself inside Buck's body as you watch him; to effectively pretend that it's you inside Buck's body, so that you feel what sensations Buck's horse is sending up. There is a recent article in EQUUS Magazine entitled "the six ways horses learn" -- very good article -- that talks about "mirror neurons" so don't be thinking this is some kind of fantastic weird advice; it's real, and you need to get into doing it. This is also why you must completely and totally tear down, blank out, and ignore MOST images of competitive dressage, saddle seat, walking horse, or hunter-jumper. The images magneted on your refrigerator door or hanging at the foot of your bed or pinned up in your tack room really matter because that's what's going to creep into your subconscious!

(2) The greatest riders in history who lived after the invention of photographic film and cameras "fast" enough to be able to stop motion -- in other words, those who lived after about 1880 -- should be the subject of intense study. My own experience with this is pretty extensive, and I would advise anybody who wants to make such a study that still images are worth much more than video. You need to study either the individual frames in a strip of film or else just individual photographs. These do not lie, and they do not allow your consciousness to blur from one image to the next; you are presented with all the details -- and details is what I want you to see.

Now, the list of the world's greatest riders in my book would include Angel Peralta-Pena and his brother Raphael; Tom Bass; Jimmy Williams; Freddy Knie; Harold Bright; Arthur Konyot; Albert Ostermaier; the Bachingers (father and son) from Vienna; Hiram Tuttle; Belle Beach; Ernest Beaudant; James Fillis; Nuno Oliviera; Ray Hunt. And what you will find when you look closely is that all these peoples' bodies are alive -- something Ray Hunt talked about often in terms of "raising the life" -- not just in the horse but also in the rider. For example, take a close look at Tom Bass's hands and fingers in the famous photos of him riding Miss Rex, Columbus, Belle Beach, Forest King, or Jack O'Diamonds. His hands are not level and his fingers "play" the reins as Arthur Horowitz might have played a concert grand, as Ytzak Perelman might play the frets on his violin or Seladonio Romero those of his guitar.

When you want the horse to liven up, taught Ray, you yourself must liven up. But this also has to do with another Ray Hunt teaching, which was, never to offer the horse a "square feel". A square feel means the two hands the same all the time -- in other words, dead. This proscription applies just as much to your seatbones and your legs as to your hands -- they too must be alive, which means, you touch your horse or you move with him as circumstances and the particular movement you're asking for may seem to require. This is a core teaching of our own greatest teacher, and Ray's own teacher, Tom Dorrance. And it's why Ray always autographed his book with the word "THINK".

So in this school, you are to observe, remember, and compare.
And you are to endeavor at all times to feel of your horse.
And you are to think and not fall asleep in your brain while you're riding, nor let the rhythm of the trot hypnotize you into being a wooden robot as so many dressage and so-called "western" riders do. You are to be present to yourself and to your horse at all moments and responsible at all moments.

I can remember, many years ago in the 1970's, when I was taking some of my first riding lessons at a hunter-jumper barn in Kansas City. There was a group of us who would carpool over from Lawrence. Because we were at so-called different "levels", we had different sessions once we were mounted, some with one instructor and some with another. And then afterwards we would go out to lunch and compare notes. And I can remember, seriously arguing and participating in arguments concerning how the rider was supposed to initiate the canter, some insisting that one aid sequence was correct while others insisted on something else. Now that I've had a little more experience, I look back on this with embarassment; how stupid I was, how naive. Because there are fifty ways at least to initiate a canter, and there are fifty ways at least to turn your horse. The bottom line being, there is no such thing as "korekt" unless you are indoctrinated. If you want an over-the-top example of somebody who is not indoctrinated, go to YouTube and have a look at some videotapes of the gypsy circus guy Bartabas and Zingaro and some of his other horses. I'm not saying you have to be an "artiste" or go quite as far as Bartabas in a lot of ways; but you must avoid indoctrination from any source, including Buck. And Buck himself, I am sure, would have you THINK. And understand, too, that Buck has said "much of what I say is intended for the masses"; because when students ask a question like the one you've asked here, the instructor often feels compelled to offer a one-size-fits-all blanket answer -- for a number of practical reasons, it is impossible to go into every possible variation or detail. Tom Dorrance used to handle this by asking the student to show HIM how the student would do it; and then, if the response produced good results, would say, "well, that might not have been exactly how I would have done it, but it seems very fitting right now." It was quite a shock to me the first time I realized in riding privately with Tom, that he was absolutely making up the lesson as we went along. No blanket prescriptions there, ever! And an even greater shock to realize (later) that this was Tom's highest way of complimenting the student -- that the great man thought I might actually have the brains to handle such an approach.

So once again, to emphasize: you touch your horse or you move with him as circumstances and the particular movement you're asking for may seem to require. I always know when a particular student of mine is going to make it in terms of learning how to train horses and succeeding with many horses. I teach them something under one set of circumstances, let us say, in the round pen under saddle. Then I happen to come by several days later, and I see them out on the front lawn with their horse in a halter with a long lead-line, and by golly, they are doing exactly what I told them to do in the roundpen-- they have understood the ESSENTIAL THINGS -- but they have modified those essential things to suit the different set of circumstances. When I see this, I know they will succeed -- because you can't do that unless you have the feel of the horse and are thinking.

So, as Ray would say -- smile and go at it. Cheers -- Dr. Deb


Joined: Mon Nov 24th, 2014
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 41
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Sun Oct 11th, 2020 12:12 pm
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Thank you so much for the response!

I am not sure why the thread appears old, I posted it on Oct 9, 2020, just two days ago.

I very much enjoyed the article in EQUUS (The 6 Ways Horses Learn)-and the author's book "Horse Brain, Human Brain" is a wonderful read as well.

Your response elucidates for me the sayings "It depends," and "adjust to what's being presented."

I appreciate being pointed to the deeper path of developing greater awareness and feel.

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