Horse Riding Lessons Blog

What is ‘Warm-Up’?

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You will often hear the term ‘warm-up’ when you learn horse riding. It applies to both dressage and jumping riders, and it’s useful to know what it means and how it affects you.

Purpose of Warm-Up

The equine athlete needs to warm up his muscles before strenuous exercise in the same way as a human athlete.

Horses are big animals and we don’t think of them as being prone to muscle ache or tendon pulls. But they get hurt as easily as humans and it takes many months (and expensive vet bills) to bring a horse back into work when it’s pulled a tendon, ligament or suspensory.

How the Beginner Rider Can Warm Up a Horse

As you become a more advanced rider, your warm-up techniques will become more sophisticated. But there are many things you can do to warm-up your horse even when you first learn horse riding.

1. In an earlier blog I explained how to stretch your horse easily before riding. No matter what your current level of riding is, you can do this.

Before putting the bridle on your horse (or if he’s tacked up already, make sure he can open his mouth easily) ask him to follow your hand, holding a treat, as you move it towards his girth area. Give him the treat when he’s bent his head as far as is comfortable for him. Make sure he bends his head and neck and doesn’t swivel his body round! Repeat this on the other side.

Then see how far he can bend his head and neck between his legs to get another treat.

Older, more arthritic horses will not be able to bend very far, so be considerate of your horse’s comfort zone.

2.   When you have mounted and adjusted your girth and stirrups, ask your horse to walk forwards on a light contact. Move him round the arena, then ask for large circles in both directions. The horse should walk energetically for about ten minutes to get rid of any stiffness and accustom him to your weight, before you ask him for trot.

Two Extra Riding Tips

1.   Always give your horse ‘breathers’ in walk between vigorous work sessions.

2.   When you’ve finished working your horse, allow him to cool down with ten minutes of walk on a long rein.

If you follow these guidelines as you learn horse riding, you’ll help your horse avoid injury while creating a fair and comfortable environment for him to work in.

Can an Older Person Learn Horse Riding?

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Can an Older Person Learn Horse Riding?

It’s common to assume that we should learn horse riding as children or teenagers. That’s when we’re more agile and courageous than after we become adults, and less concerned about falling off.

But what if you wanted to learn horse riding while you were growing up and never had the chance? What if you’re a parent with horse-crazy kids  and would love to join them in their fun-filled passion for equines?

Is it such a dumb idea for an older person to begin riding? Of course not!

But take some precautions before you begin.

Physical Fitness

Especially if you’re not getting regular exercise, you’d be well-advised to ask your physician if you’re healthy enough to take up horseback riding.

Things to be aware of include osteoporosis, heart problems, allergies and breathing issues such as asthma. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so tell your doctor what you intend to do. Knowing how to take care of yourself is important to the success of your riding venture.

When you ride a horse for the first time, you’ll become aware of muscles you never knew you had – especially in your legs. You’ll be using your calf muscles a lot when you apply the leg aids, so here’s one way to strengthen them.

Stand on the lower step of a stairway, balancing only on the balls of your feet. Move your heels up and down slowly and hold the banister for support.

You’ll feel your calves working hard so only do five to ten repetitions at a time. Take a day off before doing any more, and build up to twenty over the period of a week. Once you start riding, you’ll feel the benefit of having prepared this way and be able to apply the leg aids easily.

Another useful exercise is lying on your back and rotating your legs as if you were on a bicycle. Lie your hands flat on the ground for extra support and don’t do too many rotations in one go. Build up gradually, performing a number you’re comfortable with.

Mental Toughness

Being more mature, you may find yourself over-thinking situations. Try to relax and go more by ‘feel.’

Try not to let your age become an excuse when riding gets difficult. All riders come up against problems, and you just need to take your time to work through them.

Age alone should not be a barrier if you want to learn horse riding and it’s a wonderful way to stay fit well into your later years!

Riding the Canter: Some Basic Terms

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The canter is the last of the three gaits you’re taught when you learn horse riding. You begin with the four beat walk, followed by the two beat trot, and now comes the three beat canter.

The Correct Lead

Unlike walk and trot, which are not right or left handed, the pattern of footfall in the canter is such that the horse needs to be ‘on the correct lead’ to stay in balance on circles and in curves.

The horse begins canter with his outside hind leg (first beat) followed by the diagonal pairing of his inside hind and outside foreleg (second beat) and ends the canter stride on his inside foreleg (third beat).

This inside foreleg determines which ‘lead’ your horse is on. When you canter on the right rein, the horse should finish his stride on his right foreleg: he is on the right lead.

Getting on the Correct Lead

If your horse strikes off (goes into canter) on the wrong lead, bring him back to trot and calmly ask him for canter again. It’s much easier to get the correct lead if you strike off in a corner or on a circle.

Counter-Canter

When a horse is deliberately asked to canter on the wrong lead at a more advanced level of his training, the term is ‘counter-canter.’ It is only successfully performed after proper schooling and tests how well balanced the horse is.

If, when you learn horse riding, you canter on the wrong lead, it won’t be considered counter-cantering!

After you’ve been cantering for a while you’ll get a feel for the correct lead without having to look down at your horse’s shoulder to check which foreleg he ends the canter stride on. If he is on the wrong lead, he will be very unbalanced round corners. Now you know how to correct it.