The 4 Basic Cues

I see riders that are frustrated because they don’t have the very basics down…they ride with their butt and not their brain.  They try to recreate maneuvers that they see others doing when they have no solid basic foundation. The 4 Basic Cues helps riders keep their rides simple and straight forward and that is “something we can build on”  When I see my riders getting frustrated, we go back to the 4 Basic cues and find where the miscommunication is happening. From kids to adults this simple way of thinking helps to keep the ride positive
You see horses in all disciplines doing amazing things and even horse that we see mis-behaving can be rendered down to the 4 Basic Cues


Introducing a simple way to make communication between you and your horse successful!


Purpose:  to help riders understand the very basic control points for a safe and successful ride on a horse


To achieve a simplified understanding of basic control and communication of a horse so as to optimize the outcome of the ride

We are going to go over the very basic ways to communicate with your horse in a way that both rider and horse can understand. Remember this is a very BASIC cue and all others relating to the horses performances are simply more advanced as they become combinations of the other cues applied with precision timing and feel of the rider.  The more experience the rider or more training on the horse is just learning and understanding the applications of these cues. Frustration of both horse and rider begins to surface when rider and horse team have skipped steps and are not really solid on these 4 cues.  By keeping expectations very basic, beginner riders can feel success with their rides as they begin to build the “grab bag of tricks” and the cues become second nature.  This helps also builds a relaxed “Functional” seat as the riders find instant gratification and become confident as they are feeling the communication happening! (This works for starting a young horse as well)


“Cue”  what is a cue?

A cue is a action by the rider that communicates a specific physical response from the horse.

“adequate Cue” 

the amount of pressure that must be applied to the horse to communicate the desired response. 

In the basic levels a cue should include complete leg or hand pressure so the rider feels confident the horse understood. The response time of the horse to the cue is rider dependent. It would not lend to a successful ride if the horse over- responded for the level of the rider and the same goes for under-response.  Timing and feel of the advanced rider sets the tempo for the horses required response. For beginners as kids, either extreme responses leads them to feel out of control and that sets up frustration.


is an action that follows the application of an adequate cue to help the horse understand the physical response that it is being asked to perform.  The standard is to apply cue and allow horse to respond. If the horse fails to respond, application of adequate cue again followed by a correction. Corrections are based on timing, feel, and response time require for the horse to do its job with no resistence.

“Functional Seat”

is a balanced and relaxed seat that places the rider in a position to provide the horse with “adequate cues” without loss of balance. When riders do not have a Functional seat first they struggle with communication which can lead to a fearful rider as they feel they don’t have control.


is the ability of a rider to make the horse an extension of their own body. This keeps the rider aware of the horse’s foot, neck, back and hip placement in relationship to the rider’s body.


is the application of a cue that is synchronized with the horse’s movement

“Feel and Timing”

combined with the 4 Basic Cues is the ultimate in communication and is the building block to achieve “the dance”

The Dance

is when communication between the horse and rider is mutual and seamless. 



Communication made simple: The 4 Basic Cues

  1. I pull you give
  2. I use 2 legs you move forward
  3. I press with my right leg you give left
  4. I press with my left leg you give right


is the first of the basic cues and used to communicate what you want the horse to do with its head ( ultimately its body)
Clarification:.  Flexion means the horse says “yes” with its head and stays there without any more pulling.  “adequate Cue”  pull enough until the horse responds as desired and the release the pressure.
Horses must respond and understand Cue 1 as it relates to stopping, backing, and collection as we advance our techniques

2. I use 2 legs you go forward 

Again the very basic cue to keep the horse understanding forward.  It ultimately cues the horse to engage its hind quarters when asked for collection.  “adequate cue” enough pressure to send the horse forward.

Clarification:  This cue is the basic concept for the horse to control it hind end and move forward effortlessly

Horses must respond and understand Cue 2 as it relates to forward motion that is initiated at the rear.  This cue is necessary to for control and collection

Now we can control the front and the back….we need the middle


This is interchangeable with cue 4. When pressure from your leg is applied as an “adequate cue” the horse will understand to move its body in a more sideways motion.  This controls the middle and all leteral movemts ultimately come from this cue sidepass is the next level
This cue in combination with 1 and 2 can help you communicate to your horse movements including-hip in and shoulder-in lateral movemnets as well as the basic sidepass


This is interchangeable with cue 3.  (same concept as above)

Common problems
I use adequate cue so the rider can be certain that a correction is in order.  I see so many new riders either over correct or under correct. I find that the simple definition can help new riders maintain and set good boundaries with their horse. And feel confident when a correction is in order.

When we communicate to the horse using an “adequate cue”  using the 4 Basic Cues concept we ensure that we have control of the horses head, rear, and middle sections. Even at a very basic level these 4 basic cues can help keep frustration out of the equation and replace it with success! “we can build on that” is something I say often.  It’s the successful little steps that build a confident, functional, and successful team. Young riders to young at heart can apply these simple cues to help keep the communication open and the rides fun. Whether its out seeing the beauty of nature  on a trail ride or competing  in the show pen.  This is a great way to start building the foundation to success!


"A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient horse walks in front of you, but a noble companion walks besides you."
- Unkown