“My turns are delayed and take a lot of effort when I’m using my Bitless bridle - How do I fix this? “
Here is how we work on this:
Exercise: Start from halt. As you guide your horse to turn with your seat, look to the direction of the turn and apply the opening rein aid ( a bit like opening the door ). Be careful of not to pull your rein back.
Make sure you do this movement slowly and deliberately. Horses don’t like sudden aids. Hold this rein position until your horse moves his inside front leg. Do not kick with your outside leg. We want to train the turns from rein ad alone.
Now, as your horse steps sideways with his inside front leg, you will release the pressure. You can reward with a treat or a little wither scratch. This makes learning faster.
If your horse does not understand the rein cue alone, you can re enforce this by a light whip tap on the outside shoulder. Keep tapping, until he takes a step sideways. As soon as he will lift his leg and takes the first sideways step, you must stop tapping ( also remember to release the rein aid ). Then walk a few steps forward, stop and repeat. Don’t panic - you will not need to always carry a whip when you ride, pretty soon the horse learns that the rein aid is followed by a whip tap and he will take a step sideways from the rein aid alone. Eventually, when the first step occurs from a light aid, you will be able to ask for another step. Do not rush the turns. It is easy to get quicker turns at a later date, once the horse fully understands the cue first and responds to it immediately.
Your timing here is critical. You must release as soon as your horse steps sideways. The Release from Pressure is the place where Learning takes place. If you keep holding onto the rein pressure, the horse will not understand what you want. Remember these 3 phases when applying your aid: 1. Pressure - 2. Escalate pressure ( if needed ) - 3. Release
If you continue applying pressure ( sometimes riders accidentally forget to release ) when horse responds, the horse soon will become unresponsive and no longer follow the rein aid.
Now, you can proceed to walk and try a Turn in Walk. Exercise: - Ride a square. Come to halt in each corner and turn his front legs 45 degrees - ride to the next corner and repeat this action. Then change direction and practice on the other rein. Once all goes well, you can ride your turns in walk and proceed to ride other figures such as serpentine, whilst continuing the walk.
At the beginning of each ride, always make sure you get precise turns in halt & walk. This will be your new warm up routine for a while. Once your turns are great in walk, you can start to ask for turns in trot. Only when you master great turns in trot, it’s reasonable to ask turns and circles whilst in canter. Do not rush with training the turns. Depending on your horse, this can take some time and that is completely normal. Failing in turns simply means that your horse does not understand the aid well enough. Pay close attention how you ask for the turns and the timing of you releasing the aids. Pretty soon your horse will figure it out. Changing to heavier equipment is not recommend, if you follow these steps and your horse becomes light to your Turn aid. What ever equipment we ride in, we want our horses light!
Finally, an important reminder: Any problems with the turns will only magnify when speed is added. As the horses feet move quicker, the turns become more difficult and the response time required for both, horse & rider, becomes longer. The foundation of good turns is training them in WALK.
Once your horse travels well in bitless, he will be classically conditioned to turn of your seat. This is because we used the rein aid to re enforce the first phase of the turn, which was turning your head towards to the direction of the turn, which we then followed by the opening rein aid.
// Remember, rein aids are for decelerating and turning, leg aids are for going forward and yielding the hind legs //
We want the turns feather light, off the seat and the rein aid
***Disclaimer: This is not written with the intention of providing an entire comprehensive horse training manual compressed into a social media post. This is an exposure, a snippet on the topic of negative reinforcement rather than a comprehensive study of the entire subject of training horses, horse & rider biomechanics and so on***