What I Wish I'd Known Then: Give Clear Aids

Clear aids avoid confusion and provide your horse with clarity and leadership.
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Clear aids avoid confusion and provide your horse with clarity and leadership.

One of the most important things I wish I'd known previously is to always give the horse the benefit of the doubt. I have been ballroom dancing for years, and it has given me a lot more empathy for the horse. When I dance with somebody really good (usually a professional teacher), I feel like a good dancer, and I have no trouble figuring out what my partner wants me to do. The reason is that his lead aids are very clear. On the other hand, when I dance with somebody much less experienced, I find myself constantly second guessing what he wants me to do. I feel like I don't know what I am doing, and I lose my confidence. I can only imagine what a horse goes through.

?Practical Horseman. All Rights Reserved.

?Practical Horseman. All Rights Reserved.

Now in my riding I always try to make sure I give clear aids and, if I have mistakes, I take responsibility instead of blaming the horse. If a horse is anticipating movements, it is usually because the rider's aids aren't clear enough and the horse doesn't have confidence in the rider. Whenever a horse gives me trouble, I try to figure out what I am doing wrong instead of assuming the horse is trying to be bad. My goal is to be that really good leader (dance term) my horse can have total confidence in.

Charlotte Bredahl-Baker is a U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) "S" judge. As a rider, she represented the United States in many international competitions. In 1992, she and her horse Monsieur won a team bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Barcelona. In 1997, she and her horse Lugano were part of the silver medal winning team at the North American Championship in Maryland. In 2006, she competed successfully on the Florida circuit, qualifying both Komo and Eskada for the national championships at Intermediaire I and Grand Prix, respectively.