How to separate cues.

Richard and Elektra 26th September 2011

My mentor, Richard Thompson is in Austria right now. I didn’t get chance to work with him when he was here last year, so I’m doubly happy that we were able to hook up this year. Especially as he came round to see how Elektra was doing.  We got on to the conversation about how to separate aids and how difficult this is to teach to people and for me to discipline myself in too!

This is the first entry in a short series about how to separate aids or cues or signals for your horse to respond to.

So many aids applied at once. Conflicting aids. Contradictory aids. How can our horses NOT become tense, evasive and resistant?


How often do we see this picture? So many aids applied at once. Conflicting aids. Contradictory aids.

How can our horses NOT become tense, evasive and resistant?


So how do we separate the aids or cues?

In this example, I’ll be showing you how to teach your horse to respond to feather light rein aids and how to back up the rein aid with a body language cue if necessary.

But firstly, what do we use the outside rein for and why is it important to be able to use feather-light aids, cues or signals when riding your horse?

“The secret of riding is the outside rein” Hector Carmona

The outside rein has many jobs to do in riding:

  • Speed control.
  • Steering control.
  • Keeping your horse straight.
  • Connecting aids to put your horse on the bit when combined with “driving” and “bending” aids.
  • Half halts.

Introducing the outside rein in the roundpen. Controlling the speed and the direction.

I and many other trainers start introducing the horse to the outside rein from the ground.

We use a separate and clear signal.

We expect the horse to follow the suggestion of the rein. If we want the horse to move over a step we start by laying the outside rein against the horse’s neck and expecting it to respond by moving over a step with the corresponding outside foreleg.

Elektra is flexed to the right. The left rein is the outside rein. Richard lays the outside rein lightly on Elektra's neck and waits.


If the horse doesn’t step away from the outside rein we can back it up with a body language cue, signal or aid.


Elektra moves her left foreleg away in response to the pressure from the left rein. She maintains right flexion. Richard releases the pressure. Elektra waits for the next cue.

When the horse reacts in the direction we want it to move, we stop giving the signal and the horse learns that the outside rein used in that particular way means we want that particular reaction.

The horse learns that a specific cue aid or signal requires a specific response.  He learns to wait for the next cue, aid or signal. We learn to develop timing and feeling. The horse learns to remain relaxed.

Many of us are mistaken when we believe that we just have to use stronger aids.

I had to work on separating my cues when I was working Elektra with Richard.


I had to work on separating my cues when I was working Elektra with Richard.

I know I can get Elektra to move away from my hand and so I had to work on myself to give her chance to react to the outside rein aid signal I’d given her.

I have to wait for her to react and then back it up with a body cue if necessary.

If the horse doesn't step away from the outside rein we back it up with a body cue. In this case I would bring my right hand up to the area between Elektra's right eye and ear and creat some activity with it. Just enough for her to respond by moving away fom that pressure. And then stop givingthe cue.


These exercises help you to become more aware of your outside rein.

They also help to get the horse’s mind focussing on us.

Have fun practicing these outside rein exercises.

Coming up in the series: How to seperate the “go” aids. How to seperate the “stop” aids. How to seperate the “back up” aids. How to seperate the “turning aids”. How to seperate the “go sidewards” aids. See you soon.

All these tips from Richard Thomspon can be found on his new Level 2 DVD available from his website.

Use the comment box on the blog itself to send me your questions about horse training. You can also write in about any problems you might be having with your horse.Either I or one of the resident expert trainers will do our best to answer your questions.
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Always wear appropriate safety items of clothing, gloves, shoes and head protection when handling or riding your horse. There is always some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Be sensible and stay within your level of training. This information illustrates the training methods and techniques I and my colleagues use. It is your responsibility to use it wisely. It is not intended to replace personal instruction from a professional instructor. Keep yourself and your horse out of trouble. if you wish to learn more about these methods contact us at:
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