Horse Riding Classes

Are Horse Riding Classes More Fun on Your Own Horse?

Horses should not normally be compared with cars - since one is an animal and the other a machine – but this is one time when it’s appropriate.

Teenagers are better off learning to drive a solid and safe car without too much power. Beginner riders will gain confidence if they learn horse riding on an older, saner equine without the energy or desire to argue with his rider.

As a teenager’s driving skills improve, he’ll want a faster vehicle. When the beginner rider turns into a competent novice, she’ll likely feel ready for the challenges of a younger, more responsive horse with the ability to take her to the next level.

Your Equestrian Debut

That’s why the mount you take your first horse riding classes isn’t necessarily the right type for you later on. Learn on a beginner’s horse, then get the kind of animal to suit you over the long term.

If your goal is to go on safe trail rides, the quiet type of horse may well be perfect for you.

But supposing you buy a horse that only suits that purpose? If you later develop ambitions to compete but your horse is not up to the task, you may need to sell him before you can afford the one you now need. It will be hard to part with your original equine love!

First Things First

If you’re new to the sport, you have your work cut out with learning to ride. Taking care of your own horse demands a lot of time and effort, and can feel overwhelming.

Before you tie yourself to that level of commitment, learn to ride on a school horse or a friend’s dependable mount. There is plenty of time later for buying your own horse.

When You’re More Proficient

Once you’re secure in the saddle with a better idea of the direction your riding will take, you’ll be ready for a horse of your own - one that fits your current level.

That is the perfect time to take your equine buddy to more specialized horse riding classes. You’ll advance together towards your goals and develop a partnership to last for many years to come.

As mentioned in the car analogy at the beginning, your horse is a living being. When you’re ready for a more advanced horse, he’ll reward you handsomely for the time and effort you put into riding him well, and you can do that when you’ve mastered the basics on a beginner’s horse.

Developing Contact in Your Horse Riding Classes

Posted on 2010-06-15

One of the major ways of communicating with your horse is through the reins. How well you handle the reins in your horse riding classes will determine the quality of communication - and subsequently of your relationship - with any horse.

Remembering that the horse’s mouth is at the other end of your hands will help you stay sensitive to how he reacts.


A correctly trained horse learns to accept the bit and seek contact with the rider’s hands. There should be no tension in the horse’s mouth when you ask him to move forwards with your legs. He should round his back and stretch his neck downwards into that contact.

You’ll be taught in your horse riding classes to ‘feel’ the horse’s mouth through the reins. Even at this early stage, work on keeping the movement of your hands completely independent of your body’s motion.

A Beginner’s Lesson in Developing Contact

The hands don’t create contact: your seat and legs ask the horse to move forwards and ‘into your hands.’ Pulling the horse’s neck into a ‘frame’ isn’t true contact and will produce a stiff, unhappy and uncomfortable horse.

Be patient, and keep a steady but elastic hold on the reins while you encourage the horse to accept the bit. ‘Elastic’ means letting your hands move a little with the horse’s head and neck motion.

Avoid developing ‘dead’ hands, which become a lead weight on the horse’s mouth and will make him lean on your hands. He won’t engage his hind end, and you’ll spend all your time holding his head – which is very heavy! The goal is to encourage the horse to ‘carry himself’ and become light in front and easy to ride forwards.

A Reality Check

If you’re taking horse riding classes on a school horse, he’ll have developed many ways of evading the rough and ready aids that most beginner riders use. He won’t be as responsive as a well-ridden, privately-owned horse.

Don’t be put off by this. An advantage is that he’ll also be more forgiving of your mistakes. Concentrate on riding the right way, keeping a consistent, quiet hold on the reins, not moving your hands up and down when you post to the trot, and not using the reins to balance on. Always remember there’s a mouth at the other end!

If you do this, you’ll give the horse much needed relief from other inconsiderate riders.

A final way to check the quality of your contact is by pushing the reins gently downward and forward for a few strides of trot or canter, maintaining support with your seat and legs. Keep the contact, but with longer reins.

The horse should remain ‘on the bit’ stretching his neck and relaxing. That is when you know you’ve achieved true contact.

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War Horse Instead of Riding School Horse

Posted on 2010-05-27

While mastering the aids for walk, trot and canter in your horse riding classes you might spare a thought for the rigorous training European horses and their riders used to have to endure in preparation for the battlefield.

In the 1700s the French equestrian master François Robichon de la Guérinière wrote one of the most famous horse riding books of all time, ‘School of Horsemanship’ which includes the training of war horses.

Airs Above the Ground

Those beautiful movements performed by the famous Lipizzaners of The Spanish Riding School of Vienna have their origin in what Guérinière called the ‘art of war.’

Soldiers needed reliable, well-trained mounts to take into battle and the equestrian principles which evolved gave rise to the original riding schools.

Two examples of movements taught to a war horse included the passage and the passade.

The Passage

The passage is a very slow, elevated trot, in which the horse moves twelve inches forwards with each step. According to Guérinière it ‘sets off to good effect the officer on a day of review or parade.’

The passsage is still seen today at the highest levels of dressage, and requires great muscular strength on the part of the horse.

The Passade

In the ‘passade at the canter’ the horse would canter in a very collected (short striding) gait on a straight line, then do a small half-circle turn to either the left or the right (demi-volte).

The rapid passade involved a collected canter to a mid-point along the line then a full-speed gallop to the end where it the canter again became collected (shortening the steps) before executing the demi-volte.

This movement was useful for head-on attack and rapid retreat and is no longer part of the repertoire of the classically trained horse.

Today’s rider is not looking to use his equestrian expertise for going into battle. The horse has become an animal for pleasure rather than war and luckily for us, we aren’t expected to perform airs above the ground before we’re considered able to ride!

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