It is important to apply your cues at a specific time in each stride. You have to pay a lot of attention to the footfalls of each stride. You will need to learn the timing and placement of each footfall in each gait before you can effectively apply cues.
What is a cue?
Think of a cue as a button that you can press that tells your horse to make a change. You can give a cue physically (by touching the horse) or by using body language (eye contact and posture).
– Physical: You physically touch your horse’s girth area and he moves to the side, or you physically squeeze his fetlock and he picks up his foot.
– Body Language: You move toward, or point to, a spot on your horse and he responds accordingly as if you actually touched him. Body language is the key element in training horses.
How to apply cues effectively
Horses can only alter the flight of a leg while that leg is in the air. Therefore, a cue should be given just a split second before the leg leaves the ground and is lifted into the air. Once the leg is in air, the horse can change the movement and direction of the leg with ease and harmony.
What happens when you don’t apply a cue effectively?
If you give your horse a cue at any other time than what we talked about above, he may simply wait a stride and make the change on the next stride. (Most of us do not want this – since we all want our horses to be very responsive and make the change immediately when we ask). OR, he may do something goofy, like hop, buck or jump sideways in order to get that leg into the air to make the change. (Most of us do not want this either – even though the horse is showing that immediate response, it is not rhythmical or balanced).