Chris Dawson explaining rein and leg cues

As Much as Necessary and As Little as Possible — a Guide to Using Rein and Leg Cues

Being able to guide and cue a horse, especially in competition, takes a lot of skill, practice, and ongoing education. Follow along on the video as Dennis Moreland of Dennis Moreland Tack visits with Chris Dawson of Dawson Performance Horses about the best ways to communicate with your horse through correct rein and leg cues.

Knowing exactly when to apply and remove pressure with a rein or leg, and how much to apply, is critical to getting the response you want. One of the first things Chris points out is how softness and timing in your hands is beneficial not only for improving communication with your horse, but also to improve the way your horse reacts or responds to the rein cues you give. Chris says horses will sometimes “tell on you” by opening their mouth or reacting in other undesirable ways if you are pulling on them too much. To prevent this, an important thing to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring softness with your hands, is to use your reins as a way to guide them in a certain direction but use your feet to drive them there says Chris.

“I want to make sure, that horse, has time to respond to my hands and I want to use my hands for direction,” explains Chris.“ If I want to send my horse in one direction, I am going to use my legs and feet to follow up and send that horse to where I’ve directed him with my hands instead of trying to force him there with my hands.”

When communicating with a horse using his legs, one thing Chris says he likes to pay attention to is to go in slow with his feet and gradually increase pressure as needed. “I want to start with my boot top, add my calf pressure, then add my spur, and as soon as that horse moves away, I want to remove the spur pressure but maintain my calf pressure,” explains Chris, “That will teach him to move away from this leg without even having to put your spur on him. ”

By directing the horse with your hands and then driving them with your feet, Chris says you aren’t forcing the horse’s body through turns. Another way Chris says he likes to stay light with his hands is by using as little pressure as possible when he asks a horse to do something. He says that when you can train the horse to respond with just the lightest amount of pressure, it will carry over as you begin to increase speed or add maneuvers.

“When I ask a horse to back up and I take the slack out of the reins, I want to get his feet moving to the softest touch possible,” Chris says. “That will translate as we get to moving fast and he knows that just a soft touch is going to make him bend his hocks.

Another vital component to communicating successfully with your hands and legs is to ride with high-quality reins and spurs “With everything that goes into learning how to best communicate with your horse, it only makes sense to use reins and spurs that will accurately transfer your hand and leg movements to your horse” says Dennis Moreland. If you have any questions or would like help choosing which reins or spurs will work well for you, please give me a call at 817-312-5305 or email [email protected].

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