Oh how I wish, when I was a child, that I had not been taught to pull with the inside rein. What we are taught as kids is what stays for us for life:
the lucky kids who grow up on nice western horses and learn to neck-rein from the get-go don’t have to un-learn the terrible business of being taught to pull a horse directly by its head, or rather mouth which of course destroys any chance of bringing the center of gravity back under the rider - in fact of any 'dressage' or lightness at all.
It was Alfred Hernandez, who teaches Steffen Peters, who first talked to us really specifically about how the outside, the indirect rein, is crucial to dressage. "When I hear someone tell me how they can ride this or ride that in dressage,' he told us; "I say - ok ride me a one-handed half-pass across the arena. Almost never can they do it.'
The point he was making is that it’s easy to forget that all dressage -whether for war, the hunt, working livestock, or Horse Boy work - is designed to be done one-handed, leaving a working arm free to actually do something (fight, lasso, use a lance or garrocha, use a hunting whip or horn, or stabilize a child in the saddle with you). So the progression of the horse and rider's training (or 'dressage') is supposed to evolve to the point where it can be done one-handed with a simple curb.
This means training horse and rider from the get go, even if they are riding two handed, that the outside or indirect rein is always what controls and directs the horse. never the inside rein, because not only will that destroy the chance to bring the horse's center of gravity back under the rider and onto his haunches, the inside rein simply won’t be available once you start riding one-handed.
Manuel Trigo, whose lightness and doma vaquera clinics are gaining a lot of traction, teaches specifically how to graduate from two hands to one, from snaffle to double bridle to curb, and how to train the horse to the wrist and the outside rein on the neck. we found these clinics immensely helpful and saw how all our horses - Warmbloods, quarter horses and Lusitano/Spanish all reacted very favorably to it, and it only enhanced, rather than destroyed, their work with two reins.
it was the Valenca family who took it even further for us: showing us specifically how you train the horse in hand to respond to the outside rein on the circle, and how to connect the outside rein with the outside hind leg (that’s how they get those super-floaty half passes) so that once the center of gravity is brought back under the rider, the horse can operate as a real extension of the rider's thoughts, not simply perform a choreography of exercises but have difficulty accepting any change to that choreography
As the great man, Luis Valenca, says: 'with the outside rein you balance, direct, control, guide, direct. The inside rein simply softens until you can finally give it away completely...'
Thank you mentors