Rider Weight in Lateral Movement ~ Inside or Outside?

Student Question: 

I was reading Alois Podhajsky (former Director of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna) and am wondering; where does the rider’s weight go on lateral moves? This question has historically been answered differently in English vs. Western disciplines.  

My recollection is that in Craig Cameron’s cow horse book, he says that he has, “ . . . never seen a horse not do better when the inside is weighted, freeing up the outside leg to move in the direction of movement.” 

 Alois says, “. . . when the weight of the body is transferred into the direction of the lateral movement, it will support the effect of the outside leg because the horse will try to step under the center of gravity of the rider.”  A man carrying another on his shoulder will step to the left side and not to the right if the burden leans to the left.  I think I saw something similar in Klimke’s book (English Discipline).


Jonathan’s Response: 

This is a great question and it’s not a simple answer one way or the other. 

First we need to clear up the terms, Direction of Travel and Inside or Outside. 

Inside or Outside has to do with Bend. For example (direction of travel is LEFT), if my horse is bent right - inside is the right side. If my horse is bent left - inside is the left side. The direction of travel stayed left. 

Now where do we sit (or slightly lean)? 

I see it in 2 stages, so let’s define moving diagonally forward in Leg Yield and Half Pass movements.

In Leg Yield, the horse is straight or bent away from the direction of travel. In Half Pass, the horse is bent in the direction of travel. In both cases you are sitting on the inside of the bend. Brain twist!

Let's do this! 

  1. Teaching the green horse to simply move laterally (sideways) means he is learning and has very little self-carriage (power) at this time. As the rider you move off the side you want to move. In this early stage the bend is away from the direction of travel (Leg Yield category). Think of it like you were standing still with no power in your body and now you want to move left. You’d need to shift your weight slightly to your right foot to free up the left foot to move over. The same would apply in the saddle. 
  2. The advanced horse is one where he is in self-carriage and has power. If you were to sprint forward with power, you would lean forward in that direction slightly. Or, if you were a basketball player moving quickly to the left you need to lean in that direction to get there; that would help you power up with the outside leg. But, more importantly it would allow you to go fast in balance. To apply this in the saddle; if you want your horse to go left laterally your weight would shift very slightly to the left in the direction of movement and the horse would stay balanced under you as they move left. In this case you are leaning towards or in the direction of the movement. 


I hope this provides clarity for that question. 

With most of these types of questions there is no hard-and-fast rule. There are some that would argue that there is, because they are speaking from a very specific place or discipline. One might be thinking in the early stages of starting a colt and the other might be assuming this is already a highly trained Dressage horse. So in different stages both answers are correct. 

As riders we must be able to adapt to our horse and the stage he is at. Always maintain that the answer is with your horse more than anything else. Your horse will tell you. As quick as it takes him to make a stride, he will tell you. Feel his whole body right down to his feet while you ride. 

Study in-depth these questions with great riders and writers like you mentioned and then become really good at experimenting with your body position and your balance to become an adaptable, excellent rider that helps horses move with ease. Because that is all we are really trying to do! Stay out of our horse’s way. 

Hope that helps.  

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