The Sunday School answer to just about any equestrian problem in the saddle is “add leg.” Can’t find the distance? Add leg. Need more self-carriage? Add leg. This course has gone to hell in a hand basket. Add leg. But adding leg is a symbiotic relationship and the effectiveness of your leg is gauged by your horse’s response or lack thereof.
At my trainer’s barn I ride an athletic, arrogant Connemara cross named Frost.
Oh, he can move! It’s just not always in the direction you intended. With his ninja abilities, there is no front/back/right/left. He accesses all the Cartesian coordinate higher dimensions learned only in engineering. And being a higher thinking equine, he has defined and rated the different types of leg pressures riders apply. Here is how Frost defines “Add Leg”:
Pressure: (n) The Feeder’s means of communicating a change of pace or direction, usually administered to stomach belt area of body.
Order of Importance Scale: 1-10, with 10 being “I will be sent to glue factory if I don’t listen” and 1 being “I will consider your opinion tomorrow.”
Pressure Type #1: Most common, is applied once Master Feeder has closed gate and walked into center of sand circle. Generally feeder on my back is telling me to keep walking or don’t move that way or we need to stay in sand circle and not walk onto grass.
Order of Importance: 6
Pressure Type #2: Applied once I have stopped to scratch my leg.
Order of importance: 1
Pressure Type #3: Only feeders of higher riding caliber access this pressure. Typically applied by one leg when I have decided to take a more expeditious route around the turn by cutting the corner or when feeder has decided to change course without consulting me.
Order of importance: 3
Pressure Type #4: Only attributed to higher riding caliber feeders. Usually occurs once Master Feeder gives the slow down order and all equines turn to center of sand circle. I am halted and once pressure is applied I am to move my back legs away from pressure. Best method to evade pressure is backing up with occasional head tossing.
Order of importance: 4
Pressure Type #5: Occurs after trotting session and before launching session. Pressure is used to access my canter.
Order of importance: 6 if it’s a good day, 3 if feeder has forgotten treats
Pressure Type #6: This pressure is added when I am told to launch my body over objects. Feeder tries her best to see a distance to obstruction and then apply pressure to obtain a smooth launch.
Order(s) of importance:
1 if obstruction is stick on ground
3 if obstruction is cross sticks
7 if obstructions is vertical sticks
9 if obstruction solid/tall obstruction
Exceptions to Rule:
If I have already performed an exemplary transition or launch and unnecessary pressure is added then sulking, bulging, tail swishing and lead swapping will follow.