I had a lot of different types of students; some were quick to catch on some not so. Some I became friends with and am still friends with to this day. Some rode with me for years, some just a few times or a few weeks. I taught mostly one on one, but also had opportunities to teach groups. There is a difference.
Since I was used to teaching one on one, when I started teaching groups for an established farm, I found it difficult to actually teach them anything since all they did was go around the edge of the arena, which in vernacular terms is going “whole school”. While I could correct things like their seat, or their hand position,
I could not really get into steering the horse, which is the hardest and very important part of good riding.
I was used to 20 meter circles, half turns, and all sorts of school figures. But, with groups, this is hard to do. In one class, there was a horse who would not come away from the rail at all, because he was so used to sticking with it! The outside of the ring would develop a deep rut, until it was dragged level again with a tractor and a drag.
So, I decided to get creative and find a way to teach steering. I had the group (usually about four riders) go across the diagonal of the arena. At least they could turn away from the rail, and not be in each other’s way. So, I would give the command, “Go across the diagonal from H to F, and change rein at X. I would add change rein, because in the past, students had gone across the diagonal and not changed direction, which in riding terms is what change rein means. So they would end up at the end of the diagonal line making a sharp, sharp turn to go the same way. Some actually knew they were supposed to change direction but somehow, got lost.
In one of my classes, with adults, I went about the business of changing direction across the diagonal. It came to my attention, that each one of them upon crossing X, would “flip” their reins across the horse’s withers. At first I thought it was just a fluke. I thought the reins had become tangled in the horse’s mane, or maybe it was just more comfortable. Then I noticed they were all doing it. Right at X. I thought, maybe they thought the reins had to be on a certain side, depending on direction. Then I thought, no, this was too deliberate and on the spot. I decided I had to ask.
“Ok”, I said. What is with all the flipping and the flipping?” One of the students spoke up and replied, “Well, you said to change rein at X”. Mystery solved. I explained how the change of rein simply meant change of direction, and you always did this in the very center of any riding figure. Of course, the diagonal line is straight and the turn doesn’t occur until the rail. However, the change of direction still takes place at X, where your aids change also. For example, if you were posting the trot, you would change your trotting diagonal at X, not the rail.
You would have a new inside and outside rein, hence the change of rein.
They all seemed to understand this, and the flipping stopped. Plus, I think they learned something new, and a subtle part of steering. But I must say, they were very obedient about the changing at X.