Training & Tutorials

Thought for the day – Training Aids for the Rider and Instructor

Day 1

Hi All before the first thought for the day goes out I would like to tell you a bit about our history.

First of I would like thank God who has lead me to a deeper understanding of myself and the horse. Also to tell you all the reason for my involvement in this amazing way of life as an Instructor and stable owner, who is very passionate about the work I do, I can only put it down to the magnificent animal known as The Horse. Who has been my teacher, friend, counsellor?

My horses demand from me the whole range of my emotions that can possibly exist: from the extremes of frustration when I fail to the heights of ecstasy when I have succeeded.

This PARTNERSHIP of immense depth and feeling is what I am trying to build in my training whether between myself and my horses or between my students and their horses.
They – the horse – all remind me that it is not me but WE that perform at our best and NOT rider dominating or pitching against the horse but BOTH attempting to resolve the problems and difficulties that arise in an uplifting subtle conversation with no tension or bullying.
I specialise in the training or re-training of young horses or horses needing behavioural training with immense success to competition level.
So therefore train all types and range of emotions found in horses.
My motto is all horses can turn into caring relaxed offering beautifully balanced and enjoyable riding for their owners.

Training in its whole purpose is the formation of a partnership which should be based on mutual respect and trust, which in turn should lead to a real and lasting friendship more than partnership. This is applicable for both Instructor and Rider.

Day 2

Riders Thought for the day –

Quote from 10 commandments yesterday where the horse says; “Give me time to understand what you want from me”

So think about this – how clearly do I let my horse know what I want from him/her????

We live in a world of fast foods fast cars and fast service. So this fast way of life is drawn into the training of our horses and students as Instructors to speed up the training process due to pressure from people or parents – as a trainer we should not give in to this pressure for want of pleasing people.

But it does take time to train any animal.

The one advantage is that the horse has a marvelous memory can work in our favour, its only disadvantage being that they will remember the bad as well as the good. So as a rider / trainer we must maximise our input of good ideas to his brain and minimise the bad,.

What are we trying to achieve in our training of the horse?

I believe the answer to this is we are trying to create from a untouched (raw) if not wild animal into one that is to a certain extent tamed, domesticated and relates to us the human as a leader showing us the respect and leadership a stallion would have in a herd, both on and off the horses’ back.

Starting out training therefore is most important to start with our senses of feel and touch to influence the horse to speak the horse’s language from the ground in the initial and first training of the horse. Learning the horse’s language has been a huge break through for me in most difficult cases. It brings security, understanding and a bond between horse and rider, even before one has sat on the horses back. Grooming / touch another important feel and touch sensory tool. Spend time on the ground in the paddock with your horse bond become his/her friend. Get to know each other. Love them take good care of them.

believe in your horseTraining of Horse and rider takes time, patience, knowledge, wisdom and understanding of emotional and physical needs of the horse / & rider.
I have experienced first hand some instructors that have the riding but not the teaching knowledge of how to get rider and horses through the levels or movements, but some unfortunately cannot transfer their knowledge to the rider.
This then makes the instructor irritated that he/she cannot get the rider to understand something so simple to the instructor.
Therefore the tension building within instructor and rider then leads to the horse becoming tense and anxious.
And the whole scenario becomes volatile.

One phrase as a rider or trainer we should repeat again and again is “I have time” not that we should wasted time or that the horse should be allowed to get away with no discipline.
I myself have put all the theories and techniques I will share with you into practice on the horses and riders I trained with alarming success in both casual riding, Dressage and Show Jumping. In these studies I have also brought the anatomy (Muscular and skeletal) of both horse and rider together systematically to be used as one in perfect balance complementing each other working for the best of both partners.

Happy riding to all who read these notes God Bless

Day 3

Hi All
Day 3 of our Riders thought for the day. Hope you are all enjoying and getting something out of them.

With what aids do rider’s / trainer’s communicate with their horses?

Aids refer to the way a human communicates with a horse whether natural or artificial.

We use known aids which we are taught when we learn to ride right from the beginning, the ones we use consciously and then there are aids or communications used which are more subtle and unknown to some riders. These skills / feel and thoughts are continually being brought to the fore in our training of horses and riders.

Known communication is normally the following:


Natural aids

  • The rein aids
  • Leg Aids
  • Seat Aids
  • Weight aids

Artificial Aids

  • Crops
  • Spurs
  • Gadgets

Ground work:
Lead / hand aids through the halter Voice

Unknown Subtle aids known to some but not covered by most instructors


  • Body language
  • Thoughts
  • Voice
  • Feel
  • Seat
  • Weight

Ground work:

  • Body language / posture
  • Eyes
  • Arms and hands
  • Give and take on lead or halter
  • Voice
  • Feel
  • Thought

If we look at the above one will see we can influence a horse in many ways. We will be looking at each aid (way of communicating with our horses) individually in the following thoughts for the day. Hope they will help all to get a greater more in depth knowledge of the aids and their uses.

training a horseAs a well trained Rider / trainer using all the above aids we can establish a long and lasting partnership with our horses. Creating a deeper and lasing relationship built up on wisdom, knowledge, softness and building a trusting relationship as apposed to a dominating, tense you will do what I say military style relationship which will not encourage the horse to want to do what you ask of him willingly but rather through fear. At first this willingness is not always present but thorough repetition, understanding and softness of both rider and trainer this will turn quickly to the horse being very willing to please both his horse and trainer. Speaking softly i.e. “Good Boy/ Girl” “Well done” etc, for affirmation stroking massaging when the horse does well is all positive building blocks in creating willingness in a horse. Or a firm but not screaming or shouting voice for bad behaviours will help to stop negative reactions i.e. No stop that. Positive posture and firm voice helps dispel most naughty spells. We will go into this in more detail later. One thing to remember with a horse is that we need them to either – hear, see, or feel you at all times until their confidence reaches a level where he becomes more inquisitive about than frightened by your presence.

The stable is your first place of training the horse should be taught to move over if you push him gently, in an orderly fashion and in prompt response to your request. The horse should not push you back or be in any way your boss. Similarly, if you have asked him to pick up his foot, you expect him to pick it up, when you ask. What we are saying here is that horse should be responding to you as the boss or alpha of the herd, not through fear or pain should he respond.

The horse should not be at any means fearful of you. Otherwise trust is lost. Your temperament or lack of anger and irritation is to be zero based. We need to learn to control ourselves our emotions our Reponses etc.

Rather leave the horse go kick a fence get rid of anger and then think about the situation see how else you can possibly ask them the same question then return with a quieter relaxed approach.

Your horse should be looked upon as your friend and only in this way can basic trust and understanding be built up between them and you. The partnership may not be immediately apparent but can be developed by spending time in the stable getting to know your horse, before actually commencing the ridden work.

Day 4

Riders thought for the day

Taken from the FEI rules which state that we should:

“Work towards the “harmonious development of the physique and ability of the horse. This will make the horse stronger, more athletic and longer lasting. The horse will become more confident, attentive and keen; eventually there will be perfect harmony between horse and rider.’”

(Therefore training not rushed trainer/rider taking their time to establish each area of the training scale, before moving on to the next or more taxing movement.)

So today we are going to concentrate on the most important part of the rider, one that can have the most positive influence the most negative influence on the horse, in so far as tension and restriction in movement on the horses frame and ability to perform well and go in a harmonious relaxed way. This aid is the rider’s seat on the saddle situated on the horse’s weight bearing surface the back. The seat aid should be taught correctly and become one of the most important aids the Instructors concentrate on in the beginning of all riders who have started of in their riding careers.

The Rider’s Position – The Balanced Seat

What we should be aiming for as empathetic riders is when we sit upon our horses we are well balanced not relying on our legs or hands to grip or give us balance but on our seat or pelvic area. Our position should be flexible and adaptable to suite a wide variety of conditions. At either end of the scale we have an upright seat (schooling / dressage) and light or forward seat with a full range of variations in between.

Out of all the variations of the seat the most balanced and one a rider should always return to is the upright (or dressage) seat this should be done as often as possible. In the dressage seat the rider is in the best optimum position for the horse to carry his rider’s weight in balance. Also in this position the rider is able to or can feel and influence his horse through her/his seat, from their seat bones and though out the whole of the rider’s body.

Because of this the dressage seat will be referred to in these notes. (The Jumping or forward seat will be spoken about at a later stage)

Please Note throughout the use of and influence of the rider’s seat there is NO TENSION, GRIPING or EXTREME MOVEMENT backwards or forwards IN THE BALANCED SEAT. But with one of FLEXIBILITY, SOFTNESS AND FLUIDITY always MOVING IN HARMONY WITH THE HORSES MOVEMENT and FRAME.

If we look closer at the make up of our seat we will see that within this seat we have our seat bones see diagram below.

The rider should be sitting easily in the centre of the saddle when the horse is halted and being ridden in a straight line.

When riding circles or turns the rider must take precaution not at the initial training stages to allow the seat to slide to the outside of the saddle creating an imbalance which will put the horse into an unbalanced state. And can cause the horse to fall in or out on the circle due to imbalance. Later more advance training one looks at using the weight aids.

The hip bones and seat bones should remain horizontal to the ground, with a flexibility that swings with the horse’s movement and not a tension that would prevent the forward movement of the horse’s muscles through his top line muscles, we want to allow the horse freedom of their backs in order to have the hind legs coming through and to have a swing or Schwung through his back and hips.

Our seat should be placed comfortably in the middle of the saddle and not pushed out towards the back of the cantle of the saddle, causing a fork seat (see diagram attached). In this position it is difficult for the rider to remain and move with the horse’s rhythm without an effort or certain clumsiness. The rider in turn to counteract this sliding backwards under an upright position, there is a grave danger that to try and improve the balance the rider will allow his/her top part of the hip bones to tilt forward. Automatically this stiffens the hips and hollows the back which will result in and impulsion blocking influence on the horse beneath the rider.

Solution to this is to ask instructor or a friend to check that the correction is done and that you are sitting in a position with your seat bones facing forwards facing the same direction the horse is travelling. The most probable cause for this fault is carelessness, bad riding habits, too-short stirrup leathers or a faulty saddle not fitting balanced on the horses back. i.e. tipping forward or backward therefore putting rider into a forked or chair position.

The rider should sit with a natural ease and poise on his two seat bones. This can be known as the foundation of which your horsemanship is based. With pelvis in a “neutral” position this ensures rider balance above the seat bones and thus can feel and communication with your horse through the whole of his body. This also ensures the economy of effort with only a few of the muscles and tendons of that area in action. From this position the rider can call upon additional muscles for increased support and strength as and when you wish. You can move weight or increase muscle usage or slow muscles down to either create more impulsion, or collection. All this with no unnecessary muscle tension that will prohibit theses minor changes. This helps you the rider to enhance your aids with minimum tension/pull on or use of the rein aids.

Just remember all this takes time and patience. A rider’s seat is not built overnight and requires hard work and time.

To become a rider with a good seat one must have a trainer/instructor or mirrors to criticising your self on a constant basis. Lunge lessons are vital, work with out stirrups but instructors please are careful you do not create more tension relaxation and suppleness is what we are looking for. Rider should not be bouncing up and down on the horses back all stiff from knees to shoulders.

The whole idea is for the rider to sit on the back of their seats with seat bones facing forwards moving hips swinging with the horse with torso stretched upwards with relaxed shoulders and torso. Legs should be long and down not gripping up into knee rolls or towards withers.

A good tip for you as a rider is to learn how your pelvis area functions how the bones look this gives you a great insight as to what is happening while you ride. We will carry on tomorrow with more insight into the workings of a rider’s seat.

Happy riding all of you J

evolution of the rider

Day 5

Rider’s thought for the day

Thought – Rider’s must be aware of their “Seat bones” their placing, action and influence they have on the horse, as the seat bones carry the bearing weight of the whole rider.

We carry on with the seat today. As this is the most important and influential aid a rider has to communicate with our horses.

The two most common faults found on the positioning of the pelvis, both of which are very grave riding faults for they have a seriously adverse effect on the whole of the rider’s position and his influence on his horse.

These are:
When the tops of the hip bones are tilted forwards, the spine above is often over –hollowed with a lot of stiffness in the riders lower back. This results in a forked or hanging seat – the rider’s general attitude looks and is doubtful or nervous looking, timid and precarious.

When the top of the hip bones are tilted to far back – this is usually combined with the riders knees being to high shoved into the knee roll, and a rounded spine above. This results in a chair seat with a impression of untidiness and thoughtless heaviness.

The seat bones are the small bony area at the bottom of the rider’s hip bones. When sitting on a horse can have the same effect as high heels would have on a wooden floor. Digging in and creating pressure points or holes in a wooden floor or sinking into a soft grassy area.

The Principle is the same the concentration of the weight upon a small area is multiplied a hundred fold as in this case our seat bones being the small area where our body weight is balancing.

Think of this in a different way – pretend you are a horse and another person the rider (I use to do this a lot at school in my younger years) but instead of piggy backing your rider you go down onto all four’s and have the person sit on your straight back as you do with a horse. Feel their seat bones on your back? If the rider is in a forked seat position it will feel as if the person is digging their bones into your flesh just like someone who would push his thumbs into the muscle on either side of your spine. Ouch you will react quickly by hollow your back to get away from this pain.

Just as the horse will when being asked to halt meeting with the seat bones digging into their back will hollow their backs into a halt.

good riderWhere as with a seat at the full postural position (diagram from yeaterday) seat bones following the horse’s movement as you tuck your seat and lengthen your leg this allows a softening and freedom on the horses back which in turn will allow the horse to use or fill out his back muscles in order to bring his hindlegs further under the mass of his body to make a smooth and perfect halt.

There are other factors that could also create a hollow back but we have focused here only on the seat.

Food for thought – we have 45 muscles with in the pelvic area and as a rider we are doing a sport in a sitting (or mostly sitting) position. So it is a sport which is taken sitting down and as such a considerable amount of strain is removed from the body, which in turn has given the rider the most advantageous posture by the simple act of sitting. At no time do medical or equestrian experts advocate tipping the top of the pelvis forward and hollowing the small of the back. Clearly such a move would be detrimental to the health and the performance of both the horse and rider.


We have had many a rider come to us saying they have back, neck, shoulder pain, sore knees etc when they ride and just by sorting out their positioning and teaching them to relax into the saddle with no tension these pains have gone away.

Day 6

Thought for the day

Riders Inspirational notes for the week: Riders leg position

I feel a passion to help the rider and trainer where I can and hope these posts are helpful for all of you?

The Training of the horse and Rider has been a passion of mine over the last 3 decades. Horses are such kind forgiving and trusting animals that as riders I feel we need to do the best we can to make our time in the saddle comfortable and enjoyable for them. To understand how we the rider or trainer (our bodies, legs, seat hands etc) can have negative and positive influence on the horse.

We spoke extensively on the Riders seat in the last 3 thoughts of the day before changing them to a weekly inspiration.

We will now be travelling down the riders body to the rider’s legs looking at the following parts of the legs – thighs, knees and lower legs (calves and feet).

But first lets get start with what leg aids are and how we use our legs. The leg aids are signals given by the rider’s legs and are understood (assuming the horse has had some schooling in this department or is a well schooled horse) and are therefore one of the most effective of the horses’ forward-driving influences, the rider’s leg must be ever-present – and never absent. ( Ever-present meaning the lower leg close to the horses body all the time never away as this makes the horse feel he is left on his own to deal with whatever the task is you are asking of them) The rider’s boots must have a constant supply of encouraging messages.

One must understand that the strength and effectiveness of the leg aids depends on the seat of the rider and the balance within the seat area. This will directly and indirectly affect the influence the leg has on the horse.

Our leg aids can be divided into 4 area’s or groups:

  1. Qualities needed in our leg aids
    Position of legs – rider’s legs should be long and low creating balance and security for the seat no matter what discipline you are doing.
    Placing of legs – different disciplines require different length stirrups therefore depends on length of stirrup.
    Effectiveness of legs – depends on the above with no tension
    Tact – how we use our legs, calm, confident, with precision and accuracy.
  2. Placing of leg for reaction needed
    By the Girth – Impulsion, softening and bending
    Just behind the girth – sideways-moving. Or in a supportive role for bending and impulsion
    Occasionally we have the leg a little further back, moving over or otherwise controlling the hindquarters when asking for more bend with the inner leg.
    Occasionally we have the let slightly in front of the girth – urging a sluggish horse, softening a spoiled, stiff horse. Straightening a crooked horse (Although this is not used that often as it effects the stiffness in the knee and creates some tension- rider has to be very aware of the negative implications of this forward movement)
  3. The Main Influences of the legs
    Forward – driving
    Sideways – moving
    Regulation or containing
  4. Qualities we do not desire in the leg aids at ALL
    Weak position – heels rising or toes turned unnaturally in or out
    Knees stiff – fixed into the saddle or turned unnaturally in or out or rising up to withers.
    Gripping of thighs/knees on the saddle – restricting movement of the hips.
    Wrongly placed – stuck forward, or used too far back
    Absentthighs leg position
    Overused – stiffness, gripping or thoughtless banging, numbing the horse’s mind as well as his sides

To end with we have 4 different sections of our leg aids

  1. Upper leg (thigh from seat bone to knee)
  2. Knee area
  3. Lower leg (just below knee to ankle)
  4. Foot or heel area

We will talk about each of these and how they should work for the rider in our ability to communicate with our horses.

What attributes to look for in a Riding School?

I have been asked by a few parents what to do and look for when their child starts riding or when they want to enrol at a yard or riding school. I have written down a few important things to look for and to ask about when enrolling in a riding school.

The best advice is the following.

Always go to the yard first for a brief meeting with the instructor as this will tell you a lot about the person and the horses. Remember to ask as many questions as possible about the horses and referrals from people they have taught. Remember being cheap or expensive is not always a guide of the professional treatment you will or will not receive and should not be the reason to send your child to a riding school. This could hinder the safety of your child and cause problems in the long run. Your child is a special asset and should be treated so. As a client you have the right to make sure your child will be well cared for and safe this unpredictable sport.

Safety of the rider should be the instructors number one priority, make sure the riding school you attend with your child that the instructor is firstly qualified with either SAEA (South African Equestrian Association) or an International qualification and secondly they supply hard hats for your use as riders and are adamant on safety. Have rules and regulations so you understand the implications that could take place if not adhered to. Do they have public liability insurance for the yard and riders? And that the instructor or someone in the yard has an updated First Aid training certificate and are able to handle emergencies if necessary.

In about 2015 the SAEA will be bringing in a law that riding schools have to have a recognised qualified person running or teaching in their yard. Unfortunately now anyone can open a riding school and teach but remember the qualified instructors are the ones who are trained in their profession and are normally more safety conscious.

The horses are just as important as the safety as they are what the instructor will be using to put your child on to teach them. The horses should be relaxed and quite when waiting for a ride. Not jittery trying to bite or kick each other or the humans, or grooms. They should be cleaned daily and well looked after with clean safe tack. The arena’s to be used especially for beginners should be fenced. Beginners should not be put into a group lesson until they are able to control the horse. This would be looking for trouble. The Schooling of the school horses should be top priority for the instructor. Good manners are essential from a horse there should be no biting shoving or kicking running towards people. The horses should be under the authority of the Instructor not visa versa. Chaos is always a sign things are not good. Or horses that are scared of the instructor i.e. when the instructor walks up to the horse they should put their ears forward and long to be touched by them not back peddle away or turn their heads away from them.

Always watch a planned lesson before enrolling with the school. So you can watch the way the instructor teaches the quality time the child receives from the instructor, their knowledge, and the manner in which they give the lesson, also the quality of the horses – if they buck /take off or are listening to the instructor etc the latter is obviously recommended.

If you are satisfied that the school you have chosen is acceptable on all aspects above Happy Riding. This should be a pleasant and fruitful time you have at the school.


Established in 2005 and previously known as Equestrian Centre Arabella. ECO endeavours to provide children and adults with a professional, safe and affordable lessons that are given by a qualified Instructor, outrides are accompanied by professional guides, therapy lessons (for low muscle tone, depression, ADD and ADHD, Autistic and down syndrome) given by qualified Instructor. We run organised camps and holiday programmes for the children during the holidays. Casual and social riders welcome the outrides are beautiful and safe with no main roads to cross.

We have within the last year moved closer to Kleinmond (4km outside) and have stunning new premises with loads of space.

ECO Supports the community and does charity work with a charity known as LIG. By helping the underprivileged find the niche in the horse riding world, training them in stable management and riding skills. We supply the occasional rides to the Child welfare as part of our community work.

The Manageress of the Centre is Sarah Milton who went to England to do the bulk of her training coming back with BHSII which is an Intermediate instructor’s certificate for teaching and stable management. Since then she has been on numerous courses for animal behaviour, training the horse, Dressage seminars, and become a Panel C Equitation judge in SA, and having done an international course for coaches.

The term Equestrian means a centre that has the facilities for more than 2 or 3 disciplines in their training. We offer the disciplines of Show Jumping, Dressage, Equitation, Showing and Eventing. Holding shows and seminars we want to improve the knowledge and training of those that ride with us whether competitive or fun riders. We cater our riding for the competitive and casual rider also having social rides – day rides with lunch, Team building for companies, parties etc

In 2011, we had 4 pupils taking part in the SANESA ( South African National Schools Association) league and all four were chosen to represent Western cape in the Nationals in JHB in the above disciplines. 2012 we had 6 and 5 made it through.