Balance and signal. To us, this is the essential formula for good effective equitation. The horse needs to develop the thought and muscular conditioning to hold himself and his rider in a balanced position while in motion, so that he can move in any direction when asked, and with the least signal from his rider. Teaching this to the horse can be a long process. Any single lesson may be fairly simple, but there are a thousand individual lessons.
Since the horse naturally carries sixty percent of his weight on the forehand, balancing requires shifting weight off the shoulders, onto the hind quarters. Then the hindquarters, while taking unaccustomed weight, must develop the ability to move with grace and strength.
This is accomplished mostly with slow movement at the walk. First, we ask for a shoulder’s-in movement, unmounted, in hand. Then we repeat the lesson mounted. As our revered master, Nuno Oliveira said, “the shoulders in is the aspirin of equitation, I do nothing before I do shoulders-in!!”
Take it slow, and reward the slightest attempt, and keep lessons short. Like curly in “City Slickers” says — “One Thing!”