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Basic riding: The idea behind inside leg to outside rein

inside leg to outside rein a key concept in dressage training. photo archive.
inside leg to outside rein a key concept in dressage training. photo archive.

It's a bit like putting on an old, scratched record. It plays in the same groove over and over, repeating a phrase again and again. In the same way, we remind ourselves repeatedly when we sit on the backs of our horses: "Inside leg to outside rein!" But what is actually the idea behind this technique? Why is it so important? And what exactly should one do?

inside leg to outside rein appears to be a teaching phrase that sticks. photo archive. graphics malgré tout.
"Inside leg to outside rein" appears to be a teaching phrase that sticks. Photo: Archive. Graphics: Malgré Tout.

The challenge for the rider

Riding is about balance and finding the right feeling, as close to the horse's own feeling as possible. The main reason that riders struggle to achieve this in collaboration with the horse is that our brain thinks from the perspective of having two legs, not four. It's completely normal for the human brain to think that when you want to turn something to the side in front of you – like a horse – you should make a strong movement in the direction you want to go. This might mean pulling strongly on the inside rein, just as one turns the handlebars on a bicycle or in a car. This, of course, is entirely wrong when sitting on a horse.


Because the horse has four legs, its coordination – the interplay between body and brain – doesn't work like a human's. When it moves, it works largely diagonally. Therefore, as a rider, you must ride with inside leg to outside rein.

Working diagonally, in other words, is completely natural for the horse. It is a reflex. We humans, however, must use our minds thoroughly to remind ourselves of this. And the more times we repeat it, the easier it becomes for us. It will, so to speak, become "engrained in our spines" if we train it enough. However, we will always need to think about it and remind ourselves of it to maintain the ability to do it.

Read also: Jumping: 3 Exercises that can make you flawless

How can you practice it?

A good exercise to practice riding the horse from inside leg to outside rein is to alternately have the horse make lateral movements and go straight. For example, perform a leg-yielding from a corner and halfway towards the center, after which you ride a few meters straight ahead. Then do a leg-yielding back towards the track and again straight ahead when you hit the track.

Without outside rein and inside leg, you and the horse will fall inward

It is basic knowledge that the outside rein helps to keep the horse in place on the track, while the inside one is used to guide the horse and round it off. Without this technique, the horse will fall into the volte when you turn it. It can be best compared to also needing to distribute your weight correctly when sitting on a bicycle and turning. Otherwise, it will topple inward to the side you are turning.


How to ride with inside leg to outside rein

  1. Upper body: Turn your upper body in the direction you want the horse to go. If you want to turn the horse, you should turn your upper body in that direction. Make sure to also look in that direction with your head. The more you want to turn the horse, the more you should also turn your upper body.
  2. Inside seat bone: Make sure to put weight on the seat bone that is inside relative to the direction you want to ride. By doing this, you tell the horse how it should distribute its own weight when it gathers under you. This way, you prepare it to turn.
  3. Inside leg: Use your inside leg to apply pressure on the horse's inside side. The horse should yield slightly to this pressure.
  4. Outside rein: Your outside rein should support and capture the energy from the pressure your inside leg provides. If you have given the horse too much pressure with inside leg, you will probably also need to take a bit more in the outside rein to keep the horse on track.
  5. Outside leg: Your outside leg is used to tell the horse that its hindquarters should follow. The horse should be able to move for your outside leg in exactly the same way as it can move for your inside leg.
  6. Inside rein: Your inside rein remains relatively passive but should gently show the horse which way to go. This is done by applying a light pressure in the horse's mouth on the corresponding side.

Read also: Frost in the water trough? How to keep it ice-free with creative solutions


Ashleen Lee, The Plaid Horse: The Madness Behind the Inside Leg to Outside Rein
Dressage Today, Instagram: To achieve the correct connection on the outside rein during a turn…⁣
Horse Listening: “Inside Leg To Outside Rein” – The Cheat Sheet


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