Dodgy Steering Isn’t A Laughing Matter
If you were driving your car along a narrow lane and needed to tuck into the side so that you and the driver of another vehicle coming the other way could pass each other without incident, wouldn’t you be alarmed if turning the steering wheel suddenly had the opposite effect that you were hoping for and your car veered out into the road completely out of your control? I’d be scared stiff!
Well this is pretty much exactly what I witnessed just the other day. I was driving my car and a lady was riding her horse towards me. As she did her best to tuck her cob into the side of the lane by tugging on her left rein, he swung further out into the middle of the road. I couldn’t help noticing the look of complete terror on the poor woman’s face. Fortunately, she wasn’t in any danger as her trusty cob, with a very resigned expression on his face, made the sensible decision to ignore the human pulling on his mouth and walk calmly past my car.
The point is though, riding with unreliable steering isn’t funny at all. The symptoms can range from being unable to stay out on the track or ride an accurate circle in the school, to your horse veering out away from the ‘exploding’ pheasant in the hedge, straight into the path of a much-too-fast car.
A quick flick through a few basic “How to Ride” type books reveals a confusing collection of conflicting advice on how to steer a horse. Searching the internet just muddies the waters even further. The one thing everyone seems to agree on though, is that you have to increase pressure on the rein on the side you wish to turn towards, by anything from a gentle squeeze of the fingers to “moving your hand towards your body without pulling, whilst not giving with the other hand”. (Errrm, how is that even possible?)
Unfortunately, the reality of riding is that this approach simply doesn’t result in reliable steering. In fact, as the poor lady on the cob discovered, pulling on the left rein (sorry, I mean gently increasing pressure on it…) is a reliable way to make your horse bulge through his right shoulder and veer out into the road, no matter what you do with your other hand, your legs or your seat to try and stop this.
I’ve been there too, it’s most unpleasant.
The good news is, there is a better way. In our online coaching programme, Schooling Made Simple, we explain how to manage your horse’s balance very accurately by using a system of simple aids which are logical and easy to understand for both horse and rider. Amongst many other benefits, this produces extremely reliable steering, even when things are a little more exciting than you’d really like. Your horse will be much happier too when he’s free from anything resembling pulling (even very gentle pulling) on his mouth.
Such a good, well written, and important message. When we understand that the steering mechanism is in the horse’s rear end, where the motor is, we will understand that it is the inside leg which ‘initiates’ the direction, by causing an outward disposition of the haunch, while the hand with it’s outside rein merely ‘solicits’ that direction, while the outside leg guards against any excess of outward disposition of the haunch…..Gen. Alexis Francois L’Hotte in ‘Questions Equestres’.
Thank you James. That is indeed an intriguing quote from Gen. L’Hotte.
I have a horse with problems regarding steering and bitting. I usually ride in a cavesson. I am very interested in pursuing the work of Phillipe Karl and the school of Legeret. Is this the method you teach in your course? I would like to know more about it.
Hi Christine! Yes, our Schooling Made Simple course is based on Philippe Karl’s teaching. We now have a free “First Steps” mini course which you can access from the front page of this website: https://derekandjo.com
We’re giving a masterclass in which we’ll go deeper, starting on September 24th.