Dressage Today - - Ask The Experts -

I am sorry this hap­pened to you, but good for you for be­ing con­cerned about your horse’s wel­fare. You should be able to ride your horse with or with­out spurs with­out caus­ing rubs. A good start­ing place would be to have an in­struc­tor or knowl­edge­able friend eval­u­ate how you are us­ing your legs and see if, in­deed, you are over­do­ing the spurs. It may turn out to be a sim­ple case, re­quir­ing a dif­fer­ent type of spur.

More im­por­tant than the spur rubs is your feel­ing that the horse is not re­act­ing sen­si­tively enough to your legs with­out spurs, which is a good rea­son to take them off. As rid­ers, our most im­por­tant job is to get the horse in front of our legs. Us­ing stronger legs isn’t al­ways the an­swer, as horses can be de­sen­si­tized by overus­ing aids as much as they can be sen­si­tized to them. There are many pos­si­ble rea­sons for your horse’s in­sen­si­tiv­ity. For the sake of this re­sponse, let’s as­sume it’s be­cause your horse has be­come de­sen­si­tized to your leg aids. The sim­plest ex­er­cise to im­prove his re­ac­tion to your legs is tran­si­tion work: ask­ing your horse to move for­ward promptly from your leg aid and re­in­forc­ing it im­me­di­ately with a sharp tap of the whip should he not lis­ten, then re­peat­ing this pat­tern

sev­eral times un­til your horse starts to re­act more read­ily. This can be done from the halt to the walk, the walk to the trot, etc. The ex­er­cise can also be ex­e­cuted with lat­eral aids, again re­in­forc­ing the aid with the whip should your horse not re­act quickly or eas­ily. The im­por­tant fac­tor is that your horse gets a clear, con­sis­tent mes­sage from you any time he doesn’t re­act promptly enough for your lik­ing.

When think­ing about ex­er­cises to help you steady your leg, it’s im­por­tant to remember that legs are steady when they are draped around the horse and not squeezed tightly on his sides. Start by mak­ing sure your stir­rups are ad­justed prop­erly, as I see rid­ers hav­ing prob­lems when the stir­rups are too long. When the stir­rups

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