The Seeking Reflexes - On The Bit - Rider Biomechanics
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The Seeking Reflexes

By on May 15, 2014

The Seeking Reflexes

This except is taken from the chapter ‘On The Bit – The Mental Problem’
which talks about the seeking reflexes and the typical psychological traps which
prevent riders from learning this essential skill of rider biomechanics.

“To illustrate the difference between cooperating with the horse’s
natural responses (the seeking reflexes) and “teaching the horse tricks,” let us consider the
canter aid. We can teach the horse to canter left (or right) when we
touch him with our left leg, our right leg, or both legs. If we were
patient enough, we could probably teach him to canter left when we
pulled his left ear, and to canter right when we pulled his right ear
(although I would not like to vouch for the quality of the transitions!).
The most effective aid puts the rider’s body into the canter movement,
and when she puts herself into canter on top, the horse has no choice
but to put himself into canter underneath her. The result of her “gear
change” is a reflex reaction, not a learned response.
The most efficient, effective aids always have this as a basis, and
although we often hear that a system of aids should be logical, it is
really far more important that they be reflexive. When used well, aids
are communicated to the horse without his even being aware of them—
and he certainly does not decide his response by means of a reasoned,
thought-out process equivalent to “If the rider does this, then I must do
that.” The many riders who think they are appealing to their horse’s
rational mind have enormously high expectations; they are assuming
that the horse has a degree of choice about his movement patterns
which they—despite their superior intelligence—do not have about
their own. But even when the horse can be taught to give the response
to an aid, and he has a conscience, and he does what he knows he
should, he will do it in a carriage which is determined not by how well
he has learned his lessons, but by how much he is protecting himself—
through his own unconscious mechanisms—from the rider’s

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