Finding the Feet

Timing your cues to the horse’s footfall begins with understanding it.

Riding through Pole Canyon, a gorgeous hole in the ground near Quitaque, Texas, the scenery took my breath away. And then so did something else: horse feet.

With my horse striding out nicely underneath me, back rounded and hind feet swinging forward, that’s when I could truly feel it. No guessing, no cheating by looking at the front feet. I felt the hind feet. And I couldn’t stop grinning.

If you know where the horse’s feet are – and the hind feet are the toughest to feel, for me, at least – then you’ll know when to apply your aids. Everything from yielding the hindquarters to asking for lead changes is smoother.

Curt Pate offers 10 tips for building a positive relationship with your horse in Training Your Horse for a Better Relationship report.

Here are AQHA Professional Horseman Brent Graef’s tips for finding the feet:

    • As your horse is walking, concentrate on your right leg. Feel the sway of your leg as your horse walks… it will sway out, then in, out, then in.

    • When your leg feels closest in to the horse, the front foot on the same side is about to come off the ground. When your leg feels the furthest away from the horse, the hind leg on that side is about to come off the ground.

    • Concentrate on one leg at a time and consider asking for help from the ground. If someone can call a particular foot, say the left hind as it’s about to leave the ground, you can register what your body feels like at that moment.

And, different things make sense to different people. So here’s another option for finding the feet.

    • At the walk, you’ll feel your hips raise and lower alternately… left, right, left, right.

    • Using the right hip as an example, as it is at its highest point and just starting to drop, that’s when the right hind is leaving the ground.

    • As your right hip is at its lowest point and about to start rising, that’s when the right front is about to leave the ground.

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Remember, the only time you can influence a horse’s foot to move somewhere is when it is beginning to leave the ground.