Turn the Saddle, Not the Bridle

Have you ever heard the phrase “taking the reins” used to mean taking control of something? Yeah, I bet all the time! It’s a pretty common phrase! Well next time someone says that to you, tell them the whole of the english speaking world has been working under a misapprehension about the reins! 

Sure reins are important, but they’re part of a MUCH bigger equation! If you want to turn correctly and effectively, you’ve got to turn with the SADDLE, not the bridle! The saddle is the true steering wheel of your horse. 

Most people, if they want to turn left, they just pull the left rein, but all this does is take the horse’s neck to the inside. This throws them off balance and then they swing their body out to correct this. Then the horse’s whole body just falls to the outside. 

Sure, you’ll get some sort of a turn, but your horse’s risk of tripping will be pretty high, and the quality of the turn will be very low. In fact, turn would be a loose term for what really would just be an extended drift! Turning the saddle is the way to avoid this dreaded drift action!

Here’s how to “Turn the Saddle” to turn left. 

  1. Have a contact with your horse
  2. Push in with outside upper right thigh.
  3. Place outside lower leg a little back. 
  4. Push the saddle around the turn

If your horse is a dedicated drifter from years of bridle turning, don’t worry, they’ll learn! But try this exercise to help teach them the new way of turning gradually. 

Ride a Geometric Shape to avoid the drift! 

  • Instead of expecting a pure circle when learning how to turn through the saddle, turn in tiny increments instead.
  • Give the aids to turn as above, 
  • Then ride straight for a few strides. 
  • Then turn again. 
  • This will result in a pentagonal or hexagonal shape, but as your horse learns and you get stronger giving the aid, you will be able to ride a circle. 

If you’ve been bridle turning all your life, these exercises will really help improve the quality of your turns! Have a look at the video and see the difference in Mercurio when we do each turn. Let me know in the comments if the exercises help you!. 

Thanks so much for watching and Happy Riding!!

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