The Natural Aids

I have learned through watching others to teach students how to ride a horse in an order like this:

  • 1. how to woah (pull reins back to hips)
  • 2. how to walk on (say “walk on”, give a squeeze, hands forward – number of aids depends on student)
  • 3. how to steer (pull direct rein to hip, look with eyes, eventually add inside leg)
  • “Ask then tell” – soft aid first, then stronger if the horse doesn’t respond.
  • Use the 4 “natural aids” – hands, legs, voice, seat.
  • Note: some instructors prefer their students to pull to their belly instead of their hips, because they feel it keeps them centered instead of leaning to the steering side, and that touching their belly makes them sit up straight.
  • Note: as much as I don’t like to use the word “pull”, I haven’t come up with a better one except “bring”, as in “bring your right hand back to your hip”.

I recently came upon two articles from Julie Goodnight’s wonderful training library that explain the natural aids very clearly and in a way that ties them all together, because each affects this other:

Article 1: “How should I use my legs to cue my horse?”

Article 2: “How do you teach riders to use all the natural aids together–leg and rein aids?”

Here are some interesting points:

  • She teaches 7 “natural aids” – seat (weight), legs, hands, voice, eyes, breathing, and rider’s brain
  • All aids start at the seat. When you change your seat and weight, it automatically affects all the other other aids.
  • All the aids are connected. When you use one, it affects the others. Therefore you never use just one aid, but many in unison.

I think these insights are great for teaching your students. It opens up some new opportunities for how to teach students aids. Also, it opens the eyes of the instructor that all the parts of the body are connected – even if you are only having the student use one aid at a time, their body will still be doing more than one aid due to how changing one part of the body affects the others, either helping the student complete the skill or telling the horse to do something different.

What about you – how do you teach the basic aids? What words do you use?


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!

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