When riding, the order of the aids should be seat, leg, hands. I always ask my new students who are more advanced what they think it should be and they never give me that order. This is effective to engaging the horse’s hind end. I want to see more “push” from the hind end than “pull” from the front legs. I see so many horses going around on the forehand while the rider “pulls” the horse’s head into what they consider an ideal position. This in turn causes the horse to “pull” itself around rather then “engage.” I also see so many who fear the horse’s natural forward. I personally, would rather take a horse who is “too forward” and balance what they are giving me and utilize it in a positive way rather than have to nag the horse who wants to stay behind my leg. I also feel that the horse needs to be supple laterally first, then longitudinally second. I want my horse to give to pressure from my leg then I can put them better between my leg. When I ride my downward transitions, I keep my leg ON. This also helps my horse from falling on it’s forehand. My mare is one of the toughest to ride. When I got her, I had to ride off of my knees initially due to the fact that she would over-react to my leg. She had no concept of what a half-halt was and wouldn’t respond to my set but rather, run away from it. This type of “training” is much harder to work through. It would have been so much easier to start from scratch. I also believe that a horse should (as soon as it can handle it) go long and low in the warm up. I feel this is essential to preserving soundness. You can’t put a horse on the bridle right away without giving their back a chance to warm up. A lot of lameness problems are related to chiropractic problems. I use my hands as a last resort. I don’t use them to balance on. Remember, as a rider, your goal is to have an independent seat AND hands. I write this because of my own horse and her experience. Because she was trained ass backwards, I have a lot more work to do that will take a lot more time to work through rather then if she had been done correctly. I feel such progress with her. I will not take short cuts to make it happen and while she is older then a lot (9), because of it, it may not be till she is 11 or 12 before we compete. I will not show her till we can pull off a decent dressage test. So for those of you struggling with training issues with your horse, it takes time. It takes patience and correct riding to make a good horse, not short cuts. They will always come back to bit you in the ass later on. That being said, sometimes you have to throw the eq out the window to be a more effective, soft rider. While my mare may be tough to ride (I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if she was simple and easy), it will so be worth it in the end.