Second Year Student
One of the fundamental skills in riding is the application of leg aid. The student has to learn the basics of how to apply the leg aid at all 3 gaits. In rising trot, once the student can follow the motion with relaxation in balance with the horse, and identify the diagonal pair of legs when rising or sitting, it is an easy progression to learn the types and timing of the leg aid.
The most natural timing of the leg aid is when the rider is in the sit phase of the rising trot; that is when all of the joints close and the lower leg is able to come onto the sides of the horse. The student can simply close the lower leg onto the horse’s barrel as they sit and relax the lower leg during the rising phase. The result of this is a rhythmic application of the aid. The timing of the leg aid when rising on the outside diagonal is also correct in that the leg influences the inside hind leg as it lands on the ground and pushes off into the flight phase.
Some dressage riders are taught to put their leg aid on during the rising phase of the trot, with the theory, that you can influence the motion of the leg the most during the flight phase. If you have tried to squeeze with your lower leg while rising out of the saddle, you know that it is very difficult, especially for the beginning student, since it requires more control in your seat and body position. If you feel as an instructor that your student needs to have the leg aid on during the flight phase of the rising trot, you can have your student rise on the inside diagonal while leg yielding from the quarter line to the rail. Eventually, developing the ability to apply the leg aid in the rising phase of trot or at any point when you need it does become another skill in the student tool box.
At this point, the student is also ready to learn different types of leg aids and the degrees of the leg pressure, keeping in mind that aids are skills the student is continually developing and that the rider aids are often individualized with different horses.
Types of Leg Aids:
1. Keeping Leg – The rhythmic application of the leg aid in order to maintain the trot.
2. Driving Leg – Using the leg to ask for more forward, create energy, to collect
3. No Leg or Receiving Leg Aid – the leg may be completely off the horse’s side or lightly resting on the horse’s side; this leg aid might also be described as a receiving aid, since it allows the horse to move from the pressure of one leg into the receiving or open leg as in a lateral movement or after the bump from a driving leg when both legs need to come off or relax to allow the horse to respond to the driving aid.
For a more thorough understanding of leg aids and the training of the horse, please visit the website of Meredith Manor Internation Equestrian College and read the excellent articles and blog posts written by Faith Meredith and Nancy Wesolek-Sterrett, specifically read:
Understanding Leg Aids by Faith Meredith
Using Leg: A Confusion of Terms by Nancy Wesolek-Sterrett
Leg Aids: Thigh Bone Connected to the Hip Bone by Nancy Wesolek-Sterrett
For exercises to practice the rhythmic application and timing of the aids, refer to the article George Williams' Kindergarten Exercises to Learn the Aids by George Williams with Beth Baumert.