Ha, Ha, as if there is only one correct way.
There are dozens of ways to steer. Just talk to my colleague who can never use her legs because she's paralyzed from the waist down. Or talk to my other friend who can never use his hands, in spite of the fact he has arms, because his hands are missing most of his digits.
In light of all those people who have to be creative about steering their horses, I do want to give some practical advice for those of us with a complete package, including hands, feet, and seat bones.
Number one. There is no "one" correct way to do anything. It's just that some ways are better than others in different situations. For instance, steering with your hands is very useful on a colt with only a few hours in the saddle. Steering with your legs is very useful for bride less riding or preparation. Steering with your focus (including body signals, such as breathing, twisting or redistributing body weight) to cause a horse to respond, is useful too. Especially, when advancing to the peak of performing arts or competition. Combining hand, leg, and focus cues, can be useful too. Some situations require multiple support systems.
On top of focus, hands, and leg yields, there is one more concept to wrap your head around. Some trainers believe you should only steer the horse's nose and the feet will follow naturally. Others believe you should steer the shoulders to prevent imbalances, such as "dropping the shoulder." This also leaves the nose and neck to articulate flexibility and refinement. And still others believe you should steer with the hind end, like a boat rudder. This helps engage the horse into more athletic motion.
So which one is right?
You guessed it!
All of the above.
And because each category is useful for different reasons, it stands to reason that practicing each technique is useful for mastery. I highly recommend taking a day out of your riding career to learn how to steer strictly with the horses head and nose. Only use your hands. No legs, no hips, nothing else but hands. Try it! You might discover some cool new aspects of your communication.
Then take another day to steer with the horse's shoulders. Don't bend the neck in a new direction. Instead, lift and slide the shoulders across in each new direction. This is also called a turn on the haunches. You might be shocked at how difficult it is, not to allow your horse to bend. You'll also find this very useful for causing smarter responses to your hands and legs during normal work.
Then finally, practice steering strictly with the horses hind end, just like a boat rudder. You'll probably have some fun and learn some new things about body shape and balance in your horse. This is all part of the journey to a new level of mastery.
Mastery is about learning everything there is to know about horses, training, and leadership. I encourage you to take a leap forward in your journey and join me on the path to Mastery.
Find out more at www.MasteryHorsemanship.com.