The question of ‘why’ should be used to shape every action.

When asking a horse to canter, you put your outside leg back and ask for the transition. When I first learned this, I asked my trainer why this was the method we used. She told me that it was the command the horses learned and as such should be used each time. I was unsatisfied with this answer but did as I was told.

As I started to take my riding more seriously, I sought out another trainer to take me to the next level. I immediately asked her why putting my outside leg back is effective in getting a smooth transition. She explained that just like us, horses have a dominate side. Because it might be more difficult for them to go left or right it is the rider’s responsibility to help to balance them in every step. By putting your outside leg back, you are shifting the horse’s haunches to their direction of travel and facilitating balance.

This realization opened a new world of riding to me. There is always a reason we use certain techniques. To accept a sequence at face value will never be enough. You must understand the purpose of action to truly learn any skill. With this understanding, you can apply techniques you learned in one context to a completely different scenario. One should never accept pushing a button and expecting a result, ask why this action is worth it in the first place.