To return to the Student Coaching Certificate Test Card CLICK HERE


Natural and Artificial Aids

Horses and Ponies are trained to respond to a system of "aids"
Aids are the language that we use to communicate with the horses and ponies that we ride.
It is important when coaching Novice riders that they develop a clear understanding of this "language" and that they are able to develop the skills to use it with feel and empathy.

Incorrect use of the "aids" will lead to frustration and disattisfaction, and will be unfair on the horses and ponies that are used for learning on.

New riders have to learn the "aids" systematically, starting with a very basic understanding, and progressing over time to a more thorough knowledge and greater ability to communicate with their mount. To try to teach too much in the beginning will cause confusion, but to fail to develop a riders knowledge as they gain in experience will limit their development.

The "aids" are shown here with the most important aspects listed first (the critical information) and the more detailed knowledge shown second (the desirable information). All reference to "The horse" means "horse or Pony"



Critical Information

Desirable Information

The Natural Aids

The Seat and body


The seat and body are what tell the horse how balanced, confident and secure the rider is. If the horse senses that the rider is insecure or unbalanced then he will become unsure and loose confidence, usually causing him to either slow down, stop or accelerate.

The riders ability to control the seat and upper body is what tells the horse how much the rider is in control.
The rider can greatly influence the carriage, speed, bend and tempo of the horse with the seat and upper body.
Whilst the legs create energy it is the seat and body that influence how the energy is directed.

The Legs

The leg aids are the way in which a rider indicates to the horse that he wants him to move. The leg aids should not be seen. If the rider needs to make the leg aids "stronger" they should always be aware that they should not allow the seat to become "tight" when they use a stronger leg aid.

Both legs at the girth creat energy on a straight line.
The inside leg on a curving line creates energy.
The outside leg placed behind the girth on a curving line helps "position" the horse and assists the rider to remain in balance.
Whilst the legs create energy it is the seat and body that influence how the energy is directed.

The arm and hand

The arm and hand are what give "rein aids"
The rein aids are used to direct the horse left and right, and to indicate to the horse to slow down and to stop.
To be most effective there should be a soft, even and elastic feel on both reins.

When the rider can "sit" well enough to create sufficient balance and energy that the horse can work "on the bit" then the rein aids are used to contain and direct the energy created. At a point where the horse is "Collected" then there an be less contact in the inside rein on a curving line.

The Voice


The voice is a "Natural" aid that is used to reinforce the rein and leg aids, and to reassure or reprimand the horse.

Many horses when they are first trained are taught "Voice Commands" on the lunge, making it possible in some situations for the voice aids to confirm the leg and rein aids.
The use of the voice is not allowed in dressage competitions.

The Artificial Aids

The Whip

The whip is used to reinforce the leg aids.
Some horses are much more sensitive to the whip than others, and riders should always take care when carrying a whip on an unknown horse.

Whilst the leg aids are something that the horse has to be trained to under

stand, the reaction to the whip is more instinctive. The whip should be used to develop or reinforce the learned reaction to a correct aid, not to replace the correct aid.


Are used to refine the leg aids and to reinforce them on a horse who has become insensitive to the leg aids. They can be unsafe if the rider does not have an established seat and a secure leg position.


Schooling Saddlery


There are many different items of saddlery used to "assist" the aids. They are used when there is a training issue with the horse, and often get used when the rider has insufficient skills.


The "Emergency aids"

Seat, Leg and Rein

In an emergency the seat leg and rein aids are used strongly to have an effect.
Riders must learn to know what is an emergency and what is a minor temporary loss of communication.
An emergency is generally when someone could be in potential danger.
Using "Emergency Aids" on a regular basis will make the horse less and less sensitive, and therefore less likely to respond to normal "Natural aids"
Riders must learn the different types of "Aid" and be competent to use all of them at the appropriate time.