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Equestrian terms: What are aids?




Equestrian trainers and horseback riding instructors go to great pains, telling riders to use their aids properly. What does this term mean?

Here's how equestrian aids might be defined simply, so riders and non-riders alike might understand what they are. Basically, aids are signals that a rider (or equestrian driver) may use to communicate to the horse. Equestrians may use both natural aids and artificial aids.


This article originally appeared on another publisher’s site, which is no longer open. All rights reverted to the author, so it appears here with full permission.


Natural aids

Natural aids include the equestrian’s own body only. The seat, legs, hands, and voice (such as words, clucking, whistling, and other sounds) may all be used as natural aids to guide a horse. Some equestrian disciplines forbid the use of the voice during horse show competitions, although equestrians almost universally employ vocal cues while training and schooling horses.

Artificial aids

To the equestrian, artificial aids include spurs, riding whips (such as bats or crops), special bits, martingales or training forks, side reins and other equipment that may be used to direct the horse. Artificial aids are intended to confirm, or emphasize, what the rider’s (or handler’s or driver’s) own natural aids have already communicated to the horse. Of course, artificial aids are to be used as gently as possible, with the least amount of force needed to achieve the desired result from the horse.

Aids are considered the equestrian’s key tools for communicating with the horse while riding or driving.
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