Riding without reins is not such a big deal. All horses learn this pretty quick. It is the rider that finds it hard to let go of the reins. For lots of riders the reins are where the control over the horse is. As you might have read before, I feel reins are only indicators. Most of the riding is done with seat and legs.
If you want to ride your horse without reins, you need to teach him to move away from leg pressure.
If I put both legs on, I want my horse to move forward. Most riders can already do this. It gets harder when they want to steer. For steering I need my horse to understand that one leg on means move in the opposite direction. So I want to put my left leg on, my horse will move to the right.
Now this is going to happen:
You put your left leg on, your horse starts to push in against it. Basically he is not willing or listening and says to you: "No I don't want to do this." The more you push the harder he pushes back.
First of all, I don't want you to apply constant pressure. If you put your leg on and keep it on, it is a lot easier for the horse to push back. Constant pressure is for more advanced horses that know the concept and start to melt away from your leg. I want you to push intermittent in the rhythm of your horse's walk. One, two, three, four etc. Make sure your body is also in the correct position, look at where you want to go, turn your head, shoulders and seat in the direction you want your horse to go. If your horse still doesn't move, up the pressure till he does. When he moves slightly to the right, quit and reward him.
Some horses will start to trot when you apply more pressure, They want to listen, but are not certain of what you are asking. They haven't distinguished between both legs on and one leg on. If your horse starts to trot, DON'T stop asking. If you do stop your cue, your horse will think he did the right thing and you basically taught him a cue for trot. Keep asking with your leg, help him with your right rein until he walks again and does a step to the right, then stop your leg cue. Keep doing this until you can put one leg on and your horse moves in the opposite direction.
Now you can ride without reins!
If you can't get it right, come for a lesson and we will help you with timing and feel.
Please note: as in a previous post stated, we are working on one cue at a time. In this exercise we are working on move away from pressure. I take no notice of the horse's shape, collection, bend, balance, straightness etc. We will teach the horse these cues in other exercises. Then when the horse knows all the different cues, we put it all together.