Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Real Rider Story: Discovering the Corridor of Aids by Holli B. Shan

This article was originally published in February 2010. It has now been dusted off and re-published as part of November 2011’s “You Look Familiar” Series. Enjoy!

Story by Holli B. Shan

I’m an adult “re-rider” who came back to riding after long hiatus. I began riding when I was young, then stopped since there wasn’t anywhere to take lessons and I couldn’t afford a horse. Then in 1997 we moved to an area that was considered “Horse Country” and I found a job as a stablehand. I did stable work in exchange for lessons. All of my life I have wanted a horse. After leasing horses for a couple of years, I was ready to own my very own horse.

My horse is an old “schoolmaster”. When I purchased him he was 18 and he shows no signs of slowing down. He is a warmblood mix who has been there, done that, spooks at nothing and knows precisely who is on his back – and what they are capable of. I tell him everyday that he is nothing like I expected – yet everything I have ever wanted. My horse stands at 15.2 (and a half) hands, is a gorgeous chestnut gelding named William (Wills – as I like to call him), and is my dream of a lifetime come true.

All of my riding life I have been taught “The Great American Hunt Seat” (my term for the hunt seat style that is taught by most Americans). I thought for a while that I was doing rather well. People would tell me that I had a good seat with soft hands (I prided myself on having a light touch). So I would ride and I would see others ride and I would wonder to myself “Can I do better?”

As it turns out – I could do better. My re-education has come in the form of foundational dressage lessons. A huge part of these lessons is the understanding and use of the Corridor of Aids. I had only heard of the CoA, but didn’t really grasp it. There were moments where my instructor would say “Look to the right, now apply the left leg” and miraculously – my horse moved on. One day I asked her if we could spend some time practicing using the CoA, since I wasn’t getting it. That day I did grasp it and my horse noticed the difference.

Since I have begun to sit back on my sit points, and shape the channel/corridor where I want him to go with focus and confidence – I have a whole new horse under me. William responds easily to each aid I give him. He has a forward marching walk, and a strong, gliding trot (I still need to work on my confidence with the canter). When I am balanced on his back, his head comes down naturally (instead of needing to “see-saw” the reins). I looked deep into my horses’ eyes after a lesson and he said “Speak to me in a language I can understand, and I will answer your questions.” Since I have started to use the Corridor of Aids properly – I have done better for myself as a rider, and therefore done better for my horse.

Some tips for others:

  • Most importantly, BREATHE.
  • Keep an open mind when it comes to the Corridor of Aids.
  • Remember that you are applying pressure to where you want the horse to move away from.
  • When guiding with the reins – it doesn’t have to be a hard pull on the mouth – just a gentle, firm contact.
  • When guiding with the legs, use the lower leg (not the thigh).
  • Keep a nice, open angle with the hips.
  • Enjoy yourself!

Thank You, Holli.

If you have a Real Rider Story that you would like to share with Tack n’ Talk Blog, please email Larissa at tackntalk@ymail.com – I would love to hear from you about your discoveries with riding and horses!



  uberVU – social comments wrote @

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by ridingcoach: On TacknTalk today >> Real Rider Story: Discovering the Corridor of Aids by Holli B. Shan! http://ow.ly/177jp

  A Horse Named Focus wrote @

[…] setting experiences Micah is very passionate about the process of achievement.Related blog postsReal Rider Story: Discovering the Corridor of Aids by Holli B …Kevin Durant Wins H.O.R.S.E. Again – http://www.webege.com – deep web …UK Weekend Preview ? 13/14 […]

  Barb wrote @

Great story Holli! Continued success in riding!

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