A horse is in the legs when he obeys at the slightest indication and when the gentle closing of the calves is sufficient to make him move out boldly to the front.
Perfect obedience to the legs is to be considered as the characteristic sign of successful training.
In the use of the horse everything is based upon the movement to the front; the upper aids merely utilize and direct the impulse produced by the lower aids; and if this impulse is wanting or is incomplete, the horse escapes more or less from the rider's control. We have said several times that the lesson of the legs must take precedence over all others and that it is necessary to return to this lesson every few minutes during the whole period of the instruction of the young horse.
A horse is behind the legs when he remains indifferent to their action either through sluggishness or unwillingness.
A horse behind the legs is, as a natural result, behind the bit. He is completely out of his rider's control; this is the beginning of obstinacy.
Length of stirrups.—Our regulations (French) say:
The stirrups are suitably adjusted if the tread of the stirrup is level with the top of the boot heel when the trooper is sitting properly on his horse, with the knees closed and the legs hanging naturally.
In his treatise on equitation, Count d'Aure admits the same principle but states it less precisely. According to him, "the tread of the stirrup, before the foot is inserted, should be at the height of the rider's heel."
In the Austrian cavalry the stirrups are worn somewhat shorter. Their regulations say:
The trooper adjusts the stirrups so that the tread shall be about 1 inch above the seam at the heels. If, from this adjustment, the trooper stands in his stirrups, there will be a space of four fingers between his crotch and the saddle.
- In the United States Cavalry Drill Regulations a horse is described as "leg wise when he obeys the lightest correct combined action of the rider's legs." Although this definition is almost identical with the first clause of the definition of "in the legs" as given in this text, the second clause establishes the difference in meaning. To understand a signal is one thing, to be ready to move at the signal is another.