Horse Riding Lessons Blog

Riding Etiquette: Part II

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Distance From Other Horses (continued)

My last post talked about how you should try to keep a distance of ten feet between you and the other horses in the arena.

This riding rule will be in books on horseback riding which cover dressage, but here’s some additional information about keeping your distance when with horses you don’t know on a trail ride, fun ride or hunt:

(i)  The rider in front of you places a fist behind his/her back

      This rider is warning you to keep a greater distance between yourself and his/her horse

(ii) A green ribbon on the tail of a horse

       Denotes a young and/or inexperienced horse -  therefore his behavior is unpredictable

(iii) A red ribbon in a horse’s tail

         Beware, this horse kicks!

Although you won’t come across these warnings in your lessons or in regular books on horseback riding, store them in your memory for future use.

Walking

One of the biggest annoyances when riding with others in an arena is their ignorance of this simple rule: if you’re walking your horse stay on the inside track! This a distance of approximately 6 feet from the outer perimeter, and leaves the outside track free for faster moving horses.

You cannot imagine how many Brownie points you will score with fellow riders if you remember this rule!

Riding Circles

If you ride in a circle you must give way to those ‘riding large’ i.e. round the outside track.

Passing Other Riders

Riders are moving in both directions pass left shoulder to left shoulder. The rider on the left rein (moving anti- clockwise) goes to the outside of the rider on the right rein.

If your horse is moving faster on the outside track than the one in front, you may pass, but give that horse a wide berth.

This seems like a lot to remember, but over time you’ll appreciate the logic of these rules. And if you go to a show, your considerate manners will earn you respect as a horse person.

Riding Etiquette: Part I

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If you watch English style riders at a show as they warm up together, you may wonder how come they don’t run into each other.

The anwer is: riding etiquette. There is an accepted set of rules about riding in an arena with others which ensures the safety of everyone.

It’s useful to learn these rules as soon as you start taking horseback riding lessons. Other riders will greatly appreciate your good manners and be impressed that you know what to do at such an early stage of learning horseback riding.

Entering the Arena

Don’t enter the riding arena (indoors or outdoors) until:

(a) You’ve made sure no one is about to pass the entrance

(b) You’ve asked permission to enter. In the U.S. the phrase is “Door, please.”

(c) You’ve had a reply from the other riders that it’s safe to come in.

The reason for this, apart from ensuring you don’t get knocked over by other riders, is that a horse already in the arena can easily get spooked if another suddenly walks in. Its rider will not be happy with you!

Mounting, Dismouting & Halting

To perform any of these, ride into the center of an imaginary 20 meter circle at either end of the arena. Do this when adjusting the stirrups or tightening your girth – anything which involves your horse standing still.

Watch out for anyone riding across the diagonal who may be about to ride through your ‘circle.’  When you’re beginning to ride, the more experienced horse people will be lenient if you don’t always notice.

Distance From Other Horses

Try to keep a distance of 10 feet from the other horses. This may not always be possible, and again the more advanced riders will understand that you don’t have as much control as they do.

If you are trying to do the right thing, you’ll be quickly forgiven for any inadvertent ‘gaffes’ on your part.

A Fun Way for Your Horse to Stretch His Muscles Before Your Lesson

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For school horses, riding lessons often mean being mounted by a horse riding beginner who doesn’t incorporate stretching the animal’s muscles before the real work begins. These equines become stiff and uncomfortable to ride.

Here’s how you can improve your mount’s life by stretching his back and neck muscles before each lesson.

Bribery Works Every Time!

You can do this exercise before or after the bridle is on your horse, but make sure he can chew properly without the constraints of a flash or dropped noseband.

Carry about nine small treats in your pocket. Apples are good, chopped into small pieces or sugar cubes, which ensure the horse doesn’t have too much to eat before working.

Stre-e-tch!

Stand on the horse’s left. Show him a treat, and have him follow your hand while you reach for a point a few inches away from his left shoulder. Don’t give him the treat until he’s bent his head towards you and keeps it there without snatching. He must stand still without swinging his body out to avoid using his neck and back muscles.

Repeat the exercise on his right. Then have him follow the treat downwards and a little towards his chest to earn his reward.

Go back to his left side and ask him to bend his head and neck a bit further towards his stomach this time. Repeat on his right side. Then ask him to stretch between his front legs to get his treat.

Make This a Regular Routine

Do this before every ride, and you’ll find the horse can stretch a little further each time.

Don’t overdo it at first. Especially with a stiff and/or older horse, be happy with some stretch, and gradually ask for more over a period of a few lessons.

Another Tip

Before tightening the girth to mount your horse, lift his forelegs one at a time and stretch them in front of him to pull out the folds of skin caught under the girth. Your horse will thank you.

Hopefully you’ll start a trend in the barn and all the horses will get this star treatment – making their working lives easier, thanks to you!

Do You Keep Losing Your Stirrups?

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A common problem when you start taking horseback riding lessons is keeping your feet in the stirrups. They have a habit of slipping out, making you lose balance and feel unsafe.

This is pretty scary early on in your horseback riding training because you’re unable to concentrate on controlling the horse while you ’fish’ for that lost iron.

Here’s an exercise to help.

Work Without Stirrups

When a stirrup comes off one foot is supported and the other is left dangling. You lean more on the supported foot and you’re now sitting crookedly which feels precarious.

Halt your horse, and place each stirrup iron across the front of the saddle. Stretch both legs downwards, then put your heels down as if your feet were still in the stirrups. Relax and ask your horse to walk, using your legs as normal. Ride round the arena, and follow this with large circles in both directions.

Center your weight in the saddle. This exercise will highlight any uneven distribution of pressure on your seat-bones and is a chance for you to correct it.

Taking Back Your Stirrups

Uncross your stirrups and place the balls of your feet on the treads. The leathers feel too short, don’t they? You may want to take them down a hole, but it’ll be easier for you to rest both feet evenly in them now.

You lose an iron when you bring your knee up while riding instead of lengthening the leg. If both feet come out, you’re pulling both knees up – and probably gripping the saddle with them.

Riding without stirrups lengthens both legs and centers your weight, so you place equal pressure on both stirrups.

Retrieving a Lost Stirrup

Learn to ‘find’ a lost stirrup without looking down. Stay calm and turn your toe inwards while seeking the iron. It takes a bit of practice. Being able to get back your stirrups without having to halt the horse is very useful and will stop you from worrying every time your foot slips out.

Any time you lose a stirrup, take it as a useful sign that you need to readdress your position in the saddle.

Understanding the Aids – Part 3: The Hands

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The hands (via the reins) are the final natural aid, and used to regulate a horse accompanied by the driving seat and leg aids.

A supple horse willingly listens to the rein aids: a stiff and therefore unhappy horse will resist them. That’s why, when you’re learning to ride a horse, it’s important to create impulsion (forwards energy) in your horse and achieve rhythm and relaxation in a happy, obedient mount.

You apply the hand aids by increasing or decreasing tension on the reins. Here are the types of rein aid you’ll use when you’re first learning to ride a horse.

(a) Regulating Rein Aid

This can be applied three different ways, depending on the intensity required. A light aid is pressure applied on the ring finger (the ’squeezing’ we talked about earlier): a stronger aid is achieved by rounding the wrists to shorten the reins, and the strongest use involves using the whole arm. It never includes pulling!

When you’re learning to ride a horse this rein aid is used to slow down the horse, alert him, halt or rein back. (Other uses only come into play when you’re further along with your riding.)

If you ‘put on the brakes’ by just using the reins, the horse will stop abruptly on his forehand in a sudden and uncomfortable movement. You need to push the horse into the rein contact with your driving seat and leg aids, so he feels the bit more strongly and slows down or halts.

As soon as your horse responds, ease the tension on the reins (yield) to reward him for his obedience.

Another aid in this category is the ‘open’ rein, in which you move your inside hand sideways and away from the horse’s neck: this is used when turning a stiff or unresponsive horse.

(b)  Yielding Rein Aid

This must be applied smoothly, and its range extends from softening of the finger joints to reaching the whole arm forwards.

It is used to reward the horse, and the more exaggerated form allows him to lengthen his neck and stretch. This is especially useful to give the horse a rest between strenuous sessions and again at the end of your ride.

And in case you’re wondering, the other rein aids are the ’supporting’ and the ‘non-allowing.’

Later on we’ll be looking at the artificial aids and their uses.