Horse Riding Lessons Blog

What Type of Whip Should You Use in Your Horseback Riding Lessons?

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When you first take horseback riding lessons you’ll need to work on developing steady, independent hands before you’re ready to carry a whip. Unless your hands are quiet and controlled, you’ll do more harm than good with one.

But you may find that your leg aids are not sufficient to energize your mount. Ask your instructor if you may be allowed to use a whip as back-up.

Although horseback riding books explain the use of the two basic types of whip, but they are not equally well suited to beginner riders.

Dressage Whips

These are long riding whips, around 43 inches long, used to tap the horse on his hind end or behind the rider’s legs without taking the hand off the reins. It is used to ask the horse for more impulsion when he’s not moving forward with enough energy.

Being long, it’s easy for inexperienced hands to accidentally touch the horse with it. When you begin learning to ride English style and are essentially learning dressage, it’s still not a good idea for you to use this whip. Better to use a form of jumping whip.

Jumping Whips

The crop or bat is shorter, being around 24 to 29 inches long, and not as flexible as the dressage whip. The crop has a popper at the end, which is a loop of leather. The bat has a flat piece of leather at the end, these days often shaped like a hand.

The rider cannot apply it behind the legs without taking a hand off the reins. It is also used to tap the horse’s shoulder as a wake up call to let him know the rider has a whip.

Although made for jumping, this type of whip is better for a beginner rider. You have to make a deliberate move to use it, and won’t inadvertently hit your horse.

If you are riding a sluggish horse which needs a bit of motivating then a jumping crop or bat is a good buy.


What Should You Do If Your Horse Shies? Part 2

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During your horse riding lessons you’ve established trust with your horse. Now that he’s shying at something, you’re keeping your hands low and still with good contact, while talking soothingly to him.

What Now?

If you look up online horse riding lessons or read books on riding, you’ll find two schools of thought as to what you should do next. Some say you let the horse sniff at what’s frightening him so he can realize it’s no big deal: others say you should turn the horse away from the offending object and ride him firmly past it.

The way I tackle the issue depends on the degree of the horse’s fear and where it occurs.

If he’s upset by something small and there’s no danger of his getting hurt, say by passing vehicles, or injuring others if I allow him to sniff at it, then I go for the first option. I keep sufficient contact, while stroking his neck and talking soothingly to him until he stops worrying and we can continue on our way.

If he’s worried by a big object, such as a moving combine harvester on the other side of the hedge, this is not practical. In such instances I turn his head away from the scary thing, using plenty of leg and voice to drive him past.

This is why it’s so important for our horses to trust us not to put them in danger.

Fear or Fun?

The longer you ride the more easily you’ll be able to determine whether your horse is really afraid or whether he’s looking for an excuse to get out of work.

One of my horses goes happily past everything around my arena for the first fifteen minutes. Then as soon as I ask for more effort from him, he chooses something to shy at which hasn’t been bothering him at all up till then!

Horses are pretty smart when it comes to evasion, and over time you’ll gain the experience to tell whether your equine is genuinely afraid or just putting it on.

Either way, keep calm and act as if nothing is wrong. Stay in charge and keep riding!

What Should You Do If Your Horse Shies? Part 1

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Even the most allegedly ‘bomb-proof’ equine can get scared. It’s very useful to learn early on in your horse riding lessons how to deal with a horse when he shies at, or is afraid of, something.

Be Prepared

Horse riding for beginners at an equestrian center will be on quiet animals and it should be some time before you have to put that knowledge into practice. But if you know ahead of time how to react when your horse is afraid, you’ll be well prepared and not have to worry about ‘what to do if.’

Not every horse will shy at or be frightened by the same things. For one horse, a bird flying out of the bush is a terrifying experience, for another horse it’s no big deal.

But whatever the reason for your horse’s anxiety, your calmness is what he needs to overcome his fear. Your horse is a herd animal looking for a leader, otherwise he himself becomes the leader.

Be the Leader

When you learn to ride a horse, you are essentially learning how to become his boss. Being able to be in charge of him. Yes, we’re seeking to develop a partnership with our horse, but think in terms of a senior and junior partnership within your two member equine ‘firm’.

You need to be the senior partner who makes the important decisions for the duo – what direction you both go in, how fast and in what manner, etc. The horse must learn to trust that you will make good decisions which won’t endanger him.

The Payoff

Once this trust is established, the horse will more readily do as you ask.

When he shies it’ll take a second or two for him to listento you, so remember to keep your hands down and still with a good contact. Talk to your horse soothingly, and keep your legs securely on his sides. The horse will then feel safer and you’ll have a deeper seat.

Tomorrow we’ll look at what you do next.




Improving a Short Striding Walk

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We’ve talked about how to correct a horse which rushes in walk. Another walking problem a horse can develop is taking overly short strides. If your horse does this, include following corrective work in your riding lesson plans.

Short Strides: Why They Are a Fault

When a horse is walking properly, his hind hooves land ahead of the imprint of his front feet. This is achieved when the horse is relaxed and allowed to stride out.

The walk is a very important and much ignored gait. If you plan to compete in dressage shows, you’ll quickly discover how much emphasis is placed on a correct walk. Even at the basic walk-trot test level (Introductory Level) the marks given to the walk phase are doubled. This continues throughout the levels.

Why Short Strides Happen

Many riders take their horses out on the trails or wander around the arena with their horses walking painfully slowly on too short a rein, while their jockeys chat to their friends.

There’s nothing wrong with chatting to your friends as you ride: it’s one of the fun parts of riding with others. But don’t restrict your horse’s natural, flowing walk rhythm at the same time. Encourage him step out on a longer rein. That way his walk stays pure and he gets proper exercise!

Your riding lesson plans should include giving your horse a break during work sessions in the arena: use these to keep a good length of walk stride.

By getting into the habit of treating walk as a gait which requires as much if not more attention than trot and canter, you’ll be sure to maintain or even improve your horse’s walk. This will later pay huge dividends in the show ring!

How to Slow a Horse With a Hurried Walk

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 When I tried out my gelding as a five year old before buying him, his walk was hurried as if he were about to trot at any moment. When I saw his owner ride him, I understood why.

As soon as the man mounted the horse, he kicked him into trot. The animal had never been allowed to walk calmly: so when I got on him, he began walking fast because he expected to have to trot immediately.

In the course of your horse riding training, you may also come across horses which are not relaxed and walk with hurried, anxious steps.

If so, when you learn horse riding, how to teach such an animal to relax under saddle and walk calmly will be useful to know.

Ride him in loops around the arena on a long rein or on the buckle. Speak to him in a calm and friendly voice, put both reins in one hand and use the other to scratch his mane. Change direction frequently and ride in large and smaller circles, but avoid changes of speed: keep the same even length of stride, otherwise you’ll undo all your good work.

Halt your horse and teach him to stand still while you talk soothingly to him, with no real contact on the reins. Then place your lower leg lightly against his body so that he learns to react to this gentle aid for walk and accepts the half-halts from your hand as you ask him to regulate his steps.

Only ask for upwards transitions when the horse stops hurrying in walk. He will hurry in trot if he hasn’t slowed down his walk. This process requires a lot of patience, a quality essential in all horse riding training.

A horse which has been rushing his walk for a long time won’t change overnight. But as he learns to trust you, he’ll relax and his natural walk steps will return.