Talking with the ears

When I am riding and my horse doesn't understand me, I often wonder what I need to do to help him. I've become aware recently that it is not the horse that needs to listen but it's me who needs to communicate more precisely. I was practicing the rectangle Buck Brannaman teaches (it's a counterclockwise move that includes backing up, stepping sideways, coming forward and stepping sideways again to come out exactly where one started). 

The only thing that worked was the forward. I was sitting on the horse, frustrated, when my eyes caught his ears. They were aiming in my direction, both of them. Revealing a fully concentrated horse willing to execute whatever order he would receive from back there in the saddle. I had been about to pull on the reins and reinforce my aids with the crop in order to assert myself (which is a pretty common sentence in German riding lessons by the way) but I suppressed what was an unfair punishing impulse. 

If you encounter the situation that your horse does not react on the first subtle cue, have a look at his ears before you start reinforcing. If they aim at you you know that your horse is listening - and you don't have to up the phases of you aid but try to communicate what you want in a different way. Just amplifying the first cue that hasn't worked would be a match for asking for something politely in vain and than screaming your orders. He who doesn't understand what you mean in normal volume will neither get you no matter how much and how loud you repeat it. 

In the post to come I will give you some ideas what we riders can to do differentiate our aids and show you some pitfalls where we tend to be in our horses' way. 

Additionally I will list some of the prerequisites, that I find very important, so you can apply this method of changing your aids instead of reinforcing them. Because there are times when you would rather want to reinforce. And I want to separate the options as clearly as possible.

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