Horse Riding Lessons Blog

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.

Above or Behind the Bit: Dealing with the Evasive Horse

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We discussed earlier how to get your horse on the bit, a vital part of horse riding training. But horses sometimes take advantage of their riders, and avoid seeking contact.

A horse can do this by going above or getting behind the bit. What should you do if you run into these problems?

Above the Bit

This is when the horse raises his head and uses his jaw and the muscles under his neck to lean on the bit without softening.

To make him seek the contact, move the bit slightly in the horse’s mouth with your fingers. Avoid see-sawing, as this will only aggravate the horse further.

Ride him forwards with your legs. He should drop his head, but if not, ask for bend on an active 20 meter circle. When he ‘gives,’ lighten your contact as his reward.

It will take patience and repetition, but eventually your horse will understand that he’s more comfortable dropping his head and accepting the bit.

Behind the Bit

Here the horse curls in his head and neck to avoid contact. Easing your hands won’t bring out his nose out.

As with most problems in horse riding training, the answer is to drive him forwards with your legs and seat, maintaining a soft yet firm contact. The horse will realize it’s more comfortable for him to accept contact with your elastic hands, than remained curled up.

As soon as you feel him wanting to stretch down and out, reward this behavior by allowing it.

If your horse is evasive, check he’s not in pain. The bit may hurt him, he may have problems with his teeth and gums, the saddle may be pinching him, or the girth may be rubbing. Always make sure your horse is able to work comfortably.

Avoid Soreness During Your Horse Riding Training

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Early in your horse riding training you may develop sore areas which seriously detract from your enjoyment of the sport.

Here are ways to prevent common wounds.

Saddle Sores

These refer to painful rubbing in the seat area. I’ve found it more likely when doing a lot of walk work in the saddle, and since you’ll walk a great deal in the beginning phases of horse riding, how to prevent these sores becomes important!

1. Buy a seat saver – a soft gel or sheepskin cover to put on the saddle – available at any online saddlery.

However, you’re not allowed to use them in many equestrian competitions, including dressage.

2. Wear padded Lycra bicyclist’s pants underneath your riding pants.

3. For men, it’s advisable to wear jockey underpants rather than boxer shorts.

Knee Sores

If the insides of your knees become raw, you’re clutching the horse’s sides with them instead of lengthening your legs and resting your calves against his flanks.

Until you feel more confident aboard your horse, under your riding pants wear knee support braces which you can find at any drug store.

Ankle Rubs

Your stirrup irons may move back from the balls of your feet, causing the hard metal tops to rest on the front of your ankles and rub the skin. Two ways to keep the stirrups in place are:

1. Shorten them to where it’s easy for you to push your heels down. You can lengthen them later when you’re better at keeping the front of your foot on the treads.

2. Wear boots with rough soles. These will ’stick’ better to the stirrup treads.

Blistered Fingers

The skin inside your ring fingers will not be used to holding the reins, and you’ll likely form blisters there. So wear riding gloves.

It’s hard to relax in the saddle if you’re in pain. The above tips will improve your riding experience by keeping you comfortable.