Implementing Leg Cues
- January 25, 2018
- Savanna Simmons
Using and defining specific leg cues with your spurs can help your horse figure out exactly what you’re asking of him. I use three cues on my horse’s side to independently move the three general parts of him. These cues are the main reason I wear spurs; they offer my horse a clear, concise message for what I’m asking. I can get more done with less thumping. These leg cues may start pretty dramatic and big on a colt, and get to within an inch or two of another as your horse becomes more broke. Defining these cues, or buttons, can allow for less need for reins as well.
Keep in mind, you need to develop these buttons in your horses. Like anything else, it doesn’t come standard, but it seems to make sense to horses, and they pick up on it pretty quickly.
So, what are these buttons and what do they do?
Button 1, marked in red, is just behind the cinch (don’t get your spur hooked in your cinch!) and controls the shoulders. So, tipping your toe out and reaching forward a little should cue your horse, with some work, to move his shoulder over. With the help of some inside rein to go in the right direction and some outside rein used just enough for support and “whoa”, horses generally figure out how to get a spin going with button number one.
Button 2, marked in blue, controls the ribs. It’s located right where your leg falls; just tip your toe out a little and you’ve found it. So if you’re traveling and you want your horse to round out his body, apply a little pressure on button two on the inside, and his ribs will begin to pop out a little and he’ll have a nice round shape. Also, if you’d like your horse to sidepass or work a gate, cue button two. You’ll need reins for direction and “whoa” (similar to the turnaround for button one), and pretty soon you’ve got a nice little sidepass.
Button 3, marked in green, is for moving that hind-end. Reach your spur back a little, often right in front of your back cinch (and the reason I generally ride in a single rig—I don’t often rope critters!) and you’ve hit button three. If you need your horse’s hind-end to move over, to get closer to the gate, or line up with that steer you have roped, or if you’re sidepassing and his hind end is falling behind, reach back and encourage that hind end to move over with button three.
Use finesse when teaching your horse about these buttons and using them. Don’t just jab your horse with a spur. Like anything else, think about how timing can come into play, and when your horse “gets it”, take that spur off and give some relief. I don’t ask with my spur in a solid manner; instead, I touch him with a spur, and when I get a reaction, I take it off. I keep doing that. So spinning may actually be me putting my spur on and taking it off five or so times in one revolution. I don’t leave my spur on him to dull him to the sensation.
If your horse is searching for the right answer but not finding it, stick with him and keep asking, upping the pressure if need be, but be considerate and give him some time to think it through. If you’ve not used these cues before or have a new-to-you horse that may not be familiar with how you use your cues, it may take some time. Don’t stress it, just keep at it.
Give that a try, and I’ll give you some advanced maneuvers to use your leg cues after a bit!
About Savanna Simmons
I'm Savanna Simmons and I live north of Lusk, Wyoming, on the Four Three Ranch with my husband Boe and our sons, Brindle and Roan. I grew up evolving my horsemanship with clinicians like Ray Hunt, Joe Wolter, and Jack Brainard, but not within a...