Ride A Circle Part I

“You have a hole in your corridor of aids” - what?  A hole?  Corridor of aids?  What in the hell is she talking about? 

For what seemed to be the 100th time in just one lesson, my horse calmly switched direction in the middle of my attempt to circle.  I was at the limit of my ability to stay calm and positive.  And unfortunately, I yelled back at my instructor, “What in the hell is a hole in my corridor of aids?  Stop speaking in metaphors and just tell me what to do.”  I then found myself, at age 28, sitting on my horse in the middle of the arena in “time out” until, I, “could get my attitude realigned”.  I sat on my horse silently fuming for the rest of the lesson. 

I was beyond frustration.  I truly did not understand what my instructor was talking about.  I felt incompetent.  Like a failure.  Lack of understanding rendered me incapable of learning at that point.  My physical body refused to cooperate.  My brain was steadfast in previous assumptions.  I had prior knowledge in the way.  Physical memories to rewrite.  Wires needed to be cut and re-soldered into place.  Unfortunately, this was not happening in this lesson.

I had been turning my horse into new directions and riding circles for years.  But I primarily steered my horse by pulling on the inside rein.  I had no concept of weight or leg aids, except for very rudimentary ones.  And I had no idea how my outside rein worked.  No matter how many times I heard the explanation of my aids on a circle, no matter how many times my instructor told me to burden my inside seat bone with my inside leg at the girth and my outside leg back, to use my inside rein only to flex or position my horse’s head to the inside and to use my outside rein and outside leg to turn my horse, my brain refused to believe that I could make my horse stay on a circle without pulling the inside rein. 

Therefore, the minute I felt my horse start to change direction off my intended circle, I did what my brain and body were programmed to do – I grabbed the inside rein and twisted my body in the direction I wanted to go – AND my horse promptly changed direction with me completely off balance and frustrated. The few times I managed to overpower my desire to yank on the inside rein and ride with an exaggerated loop in the rein, all the while steadfastly looking left, my horse still changed direction and happily trotted back to the rail going the other way.  No matter how many times I tried to ride a circle, my horse executed a change of direction. 


My instructor loved metaphors and one of her favorites was a “corridor of aids”; however, I was not able to make a mental connection from my prior riding experience and my body was operating by reflex from previously formed physical responses that had become habit or muscle memory. 

And so I sat on my horse in the middle of the arena – frustrated to the point that I was no longer able to learn.