Some people always question the motives behind rules. When learning to ride as a child and being told to put her heels down or her shoulders back, Esther often challenged the reason for this. As she did not have the best motor skills, part of asking why was to understand what she should be changing and how. The other part was wanting to know the reason behind everything because she was always curious.
When she started to work with young horses, she needed these questions answered more than ever. The blank canvas the youngsters presented did not respond to usual tricks or pre-installed buttons a rider just had to press. Training a young horse meant installing those buttons yourself and thinking about how to do that to get the desired result. This was an eye-opener for Esther, and when training more young horses and even some “problematic” horses, she often needed different ways of explaining to all kinds of horses what a rider meant with and with which aids. She found that only one aid should be applied to make the horse understand what was asked in order to make the horse connect that aid to the desired response.
When Esther started teaching humans as well as horses a while later, she had to be able to explain the aids for an exercise in such a way that her pupils understood what she meant. She sometimes needed a selection of explanations as not everybody's minds and bodies work the same way, something she had experienced herself in her own early riding days. Just regurgitating what a common riding term was (for instance: ‘heels down!’) was not sufficient; Esther had to delve into the biomechanics of what happens to a body when the heels go down, and also what effect this had on a horse. Her own horse Moreno, which she backed and trained herself, was extremely responsive and would not accept any stiffness or blockages of the rider, so he proved a great teacher and mirror for Esther.
Some riders ask for too many things at the same time or think they are asking one thing but are actually meaning something else entirely so it is vital they realise how to precisely request a specific response. Moreno was extremely clear about what he accepted in his rider’s aids so he was instrumental for Esther to learn how to be transparent and pass this on to her pupils. The effect on the horses when the riders improved was impressive, and much more significant than focussing only on the horse, which is often the conventional way of instruction.