A horse that is not working forward from the rider’s leg is often described as not being, ‘in front of the leg’.
Having your horse in front of your leg is very important if you are to achieve anything when schooling your horse for dressage.
So, how do you put your horse in front of your leg?
Here are some helpful tips you can use in your schooling sessions.
Get a reaction!
From the dressage judge’s point of view, there’s no greater giveaway than a rider who is constantly kicking and nudging at their horse to try to encourage it to move forwards. These signs immediately tell the judge that the horse is not in front of the rider’s leg.
If a rider persists in applying multiple leg aids or squeezing the horse until they are blue in the face in an effort to persuade it to walk on, they are effectively teaching the horse that these are the aids to move forward.
Instead, you must be clear and consistent about how you ask the horse to move off the leg. Make your rules black and white.
With any transition, whether it’s between the paces or within the paces, you must ask once with the leg and release it quickly to allow the horse to move instantly forward.
If the horse does not move off instantly, then you must bring your legs away from his sides and kick hard with no squeezing, as quickly as hitting a ball with a tennis racket.
This must be repeated until the horse responds by moving forward.
Then you must reward him for giving you the right answer, so he understands that you are not punishing him, you are just teaching him what it is you want when you use your legs.
Working on transitions is the way to improve your horse’s willingness to stay in front of the leg.
However, it is very important that once you have the horse moving, you do not then continue to keep using your leg. If you lose the forwardness, you must ask once clearly to get a good forward reaction.
Continuously banging on the horse’s sides or squeezing with no response will just make the horse dead to the leg. Therefore, it is important that once you have your horse moving, you have a quiet still leg until you want more.
If you stick with these rules, you will find your horse soon responds to your forward aids and is indeed ‘in front of the leg’.
Try to use the most subtle leg aid you can to get a reaction. Eventually, you should find that the slightest ‘whisper’ of your leg on your horse’s side will result in an upward transition.
- Legs away and kick till you get a forward reaction and reward when you do.
- Always ensure that your contact allows the horse to go forward, otherwise it will contradict your leg aid if the rein aid restrains or blocks.
- Once the horse goes forward, the leg must lie quiet and still to allow the horse freedom. This also acts as a reward for going forward.
- Do not nag constantly with the leg as this will dull the horse to your leg aids.
- Make every aid count!
Once your horse learns to stay in front of your leg, riding him will be much more enjoyable.
Set the rules out clearly for him so that he understands the forward aids, and use transitions to sharpen up his reaction.
Your improved dressage scores will soon reflect your horse’s willingness to work forward from your leg.
- How to be a Dressage Rider
- How to Refine Your Aids for Dressage
- How to Sharpen up a Lazy Horse
- How to Create Energy in the Dressage Horse