Aids
Decarpentry on the weight of the rider

“The rider displaces the center of gravity of the mass Horse-Rider by altering his own position.

When he maintains his upper body forward, he also moves the centre of gravity forward. When he grips upwards with the thighs, he lifts it. In both cases he increases the horse’s instability; from front to back and in all directions in the second.
However, the influence of the movement of the new position on the balance is totally different from the influence made by the rider to change his position.  In fact these influences are directly opposed. For instance the movement that brings the shoulders back, causes by reaction the seat to push forward, but the pushing effect only lasts while the shoulders are moving backwards. If the shoulders stay back after they have completed the backwards movement, they fix the center of gravity backwards, which is unfavorable for forward movement, whilst on the contrary action of pushing the seat was favorable to it.

Again, the horse does not passively accept these changes of balance. His compliance, and not by any means a wholehearted one, can only be obtained by a progressive education. At the beginning of dressage, he reacts instinctively and more or less in the opposite direction. Even when he is schooled, he only submits to a certain extent and beyond that he starts by retarding the displacement forced on his center of gravity, and then he openly resists it, and finally reacts against it, when his instinct gets the upper hand over his submission.

Those considerations help one to understand why it is so difficult for the rider to make judicious use of changes in his own position in order to influence the balance of the horse. Every change produces two opposite effects usually of unequal intensity: the sudden and fugitive, the other longer lasting according to how long the new position is adhered to. Therefore it is often difficult for the rider to obtain with certainty and precision the exact result he requires.  In fact the results which he imagines he has obtained because of his body displacements are often achieved despite them. Far from helping the horse they hinder them, but nevertheless the horse bravely tried to overcome the obstacle, so he can be left in peace.” General Decarpentry

Producing quality aids that associate an aid a natural balance and movement is almost impossible to achieve in horsemanship today. 

The first obstacle is the rider seat. The reason why the seat is such an effective aid, is the that the seat is a severe aid and the horse has no way to escape the aid, other than toss the rider.

The second obstacle is the lack of natural gaits and balances. Today’s horse industry is so disconnected from the natural horse, and outdoor riding, they have created breeds of horses with artificial gaits.

The third obstacle is the use of the bit to train the horse how to use his head. This destroys the horses natural balance and gaits.

The forth obstacle is the lack of proper conditioning which is essential for correct collection and balance.

The fifth is the acceptance of circus training mechanical actions instead of developing natural aids.

There is no way to understand how to build quality aids with all those issues in play.


This process reduces the aids to the following.

The leading rein for green horses.
The direct rein to control the hindquarters.
The indirect rein to control the fore quarters.
The half halt to control collection
The stop/back
The leg aids to signal forward.

The rein aid is the primary aid and needs to follow the horses natural movements of his head.
“Theoretically, the hands should never move backwards, as all tractions on the mouth are a fault. If the horse releases the tension on the reins by bringing his mouth closer to the hands, the rider should –in theory- adjust his reins by shortening them. This is in fact what he does if the horse gives him the time to do so. Some horses, however, alter the flexion at the poll so frequently and rapidly that it is physically impossible for the rider to keep on adjusting the reins. He must, how ever try to retain a continuous feel by flowing the mouth in all its changes of position, either backward or forward.

In the elementary schooling state, the pursuit of this feeling may bring the rider to advance and withdraw the arms from the shoulders because of the extent of the movements of the horse’s head. Later on, as the stability of the head becomes better established the riders movements can gradually be limited to play of the wrists, the suppleness of which is sufficient to follow these displacements of the horses mouth.  Finally with a schooled horse these displacements are minute , and the play of the fingers, more or less flexed on the hands, permits the utmost precision in following the very small variations of contact.” Decarpentry.


"Control of speed
For a set amount of energy produced by the horse, the speed is regulated by the position in the vertical plane of the head and neck.
When the horse is using himself properly, without resistance or distraction, at the given speed, he quite naturally places his neck at a set height. When he uses the amount of energy that corresponds exactly with the speed required by his rider the latter will let him take this natural attitude, which varies with every horse but which should always be one in which the mouth of the horse is approximately in the same horizontal plain with his hips, allowance being made for the vertical oscillations of the forehand and the hindquarters. The horse is then balanced in his speed." Decarpentry


It is clear in military equation the hands are trained to follow the head of the horse and the aids of the hands are of such presence that they signal the horse, without effecting his head.  When you understand how classical conditioned responses work in a horse, then you can see how the hands control the balance and the speed of the horse, without directly training the head of the horse.

Modern horsemanship has missed this important point and train the head of the horse to follow the bit.  They have disconnected the head and neck of the horse from his natural balance. When you allow a horse to naturally mature, and ride him outdoors, the horse will always strive to carry his head in a balances position. This is where the professional horseman learns the feel of the horse’s natural balance as it carries the rider over rough and varying terrain.

The military had trained campaign horses to train their students how to follow the horse’s head with the hands, before they started training horses. Today, we no longer have the feel of balance that is required to understand how to use the hands, we have replaced that feel of balance with mechanical movement that emulate how we think a horse should balance and move.

If you build your horsemanship around the classical process, you will start to understand the difference between classical equation and modern equitation that tries to build upper level movements without the process in place to build a quality campaign horse first.

If you limit your training to perfecting associating simple aids to pure natural balances and gaits, you will find the actual training of the horse is fairly simple, the skills and the understanding of the horse is what takes the time and thought.

The problem with defining aids, is the correct action is based on a feeling of balance.  The rider cannot train the horse how to correctly balance in any movement.  The ride can only learn the feel of correct balance and condition the horse to balance better as a horse/rider unit.

The flaw in horsemanship, is trying to define the correct movements a horse makes in a technical fashion.  When you do this you train the horse how to move and destroy the horses natural balance. The only way is to teach simple aids and allow the horse to train the rider to feel the proper balances and movements.

The goal in Classical Equitation is to understand the feel of the horses natural balance and insure that feeling is always there when the horse responses to your aids. There is no way to train a horse to do this, the horse is training you how to feel his balance and the aids allow you to expand your feeling of his balance.