THE best procedure for the beginner would, no doubt, be to master all the details of seat, position, and the manipulation of the reins, while the horse is standing still. Few pupils, however, are at all willing to undertake any such patient labor. Young or adult, they want, not merely to walk, but to trot, before they have any idea what is to be done, either to direct or to control their mounts. My own experience is, therefore, that it is really better, on the whole, to let the beginner do, within reason, a good deal as he likes.
In the usual or lateral equitation, the rider possesses two aids or means of controlling the horse. These are the hands holding the reins and the calves of the legs, or in the case of the rider on a side-saddle, the left leg and the whip.
The effects of the hands are three:
- By pulling straight back on the reins, the rider signals the horse to diminish the speed of its forward motion or to stop it completely.
- By raising the hand vertically, the rider lifts the horse's head. The horse, in consequence, raises its front hand, and therefore, its front legs.
- By drawing more strongly on either rein, the
horse's head is pulled to that side, and it tends to turn in that direction.
The rider's legs, on the other hand, have only one effect:
- When both are pressed against the horse's flanks, they determine the action of its hind legs, since, to avoid the pressure, it advances the whole body. Either leg used alone pushes the horse to the opposite side.
If, then, the horse is standing still, the pressure of both the rider's legs starts it walking forward. If the horse is in motion, pressure with the right leg, accompanied by an increased pull on the right rein, turns the animal to the right, and vice versa. Such use of rein and leg on the same side constitutes the right or left lateral effect. The rein gives the direction to the front hand. The leg gives the impulse to the hind hand, which thereupon pushes forward in the direction indicated.
It is, however, most important always to bear in mind that such effect of hand and legs is always by means of an added pull on one rein and an added pressure of one leg, never by the diminished contact of rein or leg on the other side. The principle is that the effect of one rein or one leg, without the usual contact on the other side, will not alter the direction of the animal's forward motion, but will pivot him on the fixed spot. If, then, the horse is advancing, held to a straight line by, let us call it, two degrees of contact of reins and legs, and it is desired to turn him to the right, the left hand and the left leg still maintain their two degrees of pressure, while at the same time, the right hand and the right leg increase theirs from two degrees to three and from three degrees to four. But as soon as the horse has made the required change of direction, right leg and right rein return to their former two degrees of effect, and give once more the straight line forward.
These effects are the same at trot and canter.
In the usual equitation, the rider remains upright in his saddle, except that the body inclines a little forward to cause the horse to advance, and inclines slightly backward for stopping and backing. In this sort of equitation, the horse is not maintained in any state of equilibrium, the location of its center of gravity is problematical, and therefore, the weight of the rider has little effect in governing its movements.
At the trot, the rider may either keep a close seat, or he may rise at each step, in what is called the English motion. But in either case, he has to sit close in order to use the pressure of his legs for changes of direction or of gait, or for other control. He can, indeed, turn his mount by the reins only, without using his legs; but the animal obeys only because it is willing. Without pressure of the legs, the rider cannot compel obedience.
As soon as the learner has acquired sufficient confidence and a firm seat, it is helpful exercise to practice jumping obstacles.