Horsemanship Training Foundational Lessons

  • Added:
    Aug 28, 2013
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Horsemanship Training Foundational Lessons Photo by Ian Kirkham

There are four foundational lessons that every horse rider, whether a recreational rider or a professional horse trainer, needs to master with each and every horse. These foundational lessons teach you how to gain and keep control of your horse and establish a foundation for teaching performance riding maneuvers. They focus on the three main parts of the horse: the head and neck, shoulders, and hips.


The foundational lessons are:

1. Soft nose and collection
2. Same rein, same foot
3. Reverse arc
4. Hips-in


Each of these horse training lessons focuses on getting flexibility in separate parts of the horse. When they are done properly with numerous repetitions, the horse’s nose and neck (foundational lesson 1), both shoulders (foundational lessons 2 and 3) and hips (foundational lesson 4) will give easily to light leg and rein cues. To maintain performance in your horse, you need to continuously practice foundational lessons. A great time to do them is during your warm-up, as you walk and trot your horse before starting a horse training session.


Soft Nose and Collection – Softness in a horse is responsiveness to the bridle and leg cues; softness helps you create a frame of mind in your horse to accept a request. A horse with a soft nose is light, responsive, willing, happy and under control. A collected horse carries more weight on his hind legs than on his front legs. He will lower his hindquarters and elevate his withers. Collection may be achieved at any gait.


Same Rein, Same Foot – This foundational exercise teaches your horse to follow his nose, and it one of the first exercises you should teach your horse. Whenever you pick up on a rein, make sure you ask your horse for a change not related to his headset. For example, ask your horse to get his feet moving, elevate his front end or change speed. If you correct only the head, you teach the horse that when you pick up the reins he can give you his head while continuing to do whatever he was doing. Here, you want to establish a connection between the reins and the horse’s feet.


Reverse Arc –  This is a counter bending exercise that softens the ribs, shoulders and neck. As the name suggests, the horse moves around a circle with his body bending in the opposite direction. It helps correct a horse who drops his inside shoulder when doing a circle. It can be used to slow your horse, regardless of gait or speed.


Hips-In – The fourth foundational lesson, hips-in, is intended for more advanced riders. It is a three-track gait that improves flexibility in the hindquarters; it is one of the most important exercises for gaining control and improving performance. Like the reverse Arc, Hips-In slows down a gait (dramatically so at the lope) and is useful in transitions and lead departures.


Company – LL Inc and the Lyons Legacy School of Horsemanship offer a wide variety of equine educational materials, including a series of horse training and riding courses, manuals, and videos for online and on-the-ground learning.


Contact – Ian Kirkham, LL Inc., ian.kirkham@gmail.com. A biologist with a PhD in animal behaviour, and a writer for much of his career, Ian now focuses on one of his lifelong passions – horses. He’s owned and trained horses in Canada, US, Zimbabwe and Costa Rica. Ian divides his time between training horses and creating educational products for horse lovers.

Author's Profile

A biologist with a PhD in animal behavior, and a writer for much of his career, Ian now focuses on one of his lifelong passions – horses. He’s owned and trained horses in Canada, US, Zimbabwe and Costa Rica. Ian divides his time between horse training and creating educational products for horse lovers. horse trainer


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