Top level riders are inspiring to watch. The famous Lipizzaner stallions of The Spanish Riding School of Vienna performing their ‘airs above the ground’ are a shining example of the perfect partnership possible between horse and rider.
But there is a huge difference between the kind of horse ridden by those riders and the type suitable for someone at the start of their horse riding training.
A horse that will be asked to perform high level dressage movements or jump high obstacles will often be highly strung, unlike one expected to quietly carry beginner riders on his back. Top competition horses in peak condition need to be more on edge than is safe for someone who doesn’t yet know how to ride well.
A beginner rider needs a placid horse, forgiving of his rider’s mistakes and not easily upset. Certain breeds of horse are more likely to fit this profile than others. Thoroughbreds and Arabs are not usually good first horses for rookie riders, whereas types such as the Morgan, Quarter Horse and Irish Draft Horse are a better bet for your initial horse riding training.
Look for horseback riding books giving details of equine breeds. Spend time reading about them and note those with a placid and friendly disposition.
A top performing competition horse needs to be in the prime of his life to stay in contention.
By contrast, a horse that will become the guardian of an inexperienced rider needs to have ‘been there, done that.’ This comes with years of exposure to different environments and the maturity of age.
A competition horse which is too old to actively take part in shows can still be a good candidate, as not all ex-competition horses are nervous types. They’ve been to hundreds of busy venues and are not easily rattled.
When you first start to ride, horses tend to look huge. So it’s important that the horse you learn to ride on helps to dispel your anxiety. He needs to be large enough to carry you comfortably, but not so big that you feel unable to control him.
The breeds mentioned above are a good mixture of height. Morgans and Quarter Horses are the right height for shorter to medium height riders, while the pure Irish Draft fits taller and heavier riders. The sanity of the Irish Draft crossed with the athletic Thoroughbred produces a mid-sized horse suitable for medium height riders.
Watch the top riders and be inspired by them, but choose a sensible horse for your own mount when you’re starting to ride.
Posted on 2010-05-25
Understanding your mount is an essential component of horse riding training. Inexperienced riders tend to expect a horse to behave like a human, but our equine friends are animals with inherent primitive reflexes.
The keenest of a horse’s senses is his sense of smell. When you offer him a tidbit he will smell it first to see if it’s safe to eat.
Unpleasant smells will upset a horse and your horse will react negatively if you suddenly wear strong perfume or aftershave when visiting him. Riders are better off not wearing these.
Horses have extraordinarily mobile ears: they can swivel in a full circle without their having to move their heads to hear noise coming from any direction.
A horse’s ears speak a distinct language. Flattened back ears indicate mistrust: ears pricked forwards show a positive attitude.
Horses’ eyes do not have adjustable lenses like their human handlers. They cannot focus as we do, but have to lift their heads to make out distant objects and lower it for objects close to him.
Your mount can often see an object moving in the distance sooner than you do, which explains his strong reaction before you see what the reason is.
A horse can feel a fly land on any part of his body as he’s very sensitive to touch. Notice the long whiskers around his muzzle. Some owners like to cut them off to give a more refined look, but that is the same as chopping off a cat’s whiskers – both animals need them.
This sensitivity to touch means we as riders have to be accurate when applying our aids.
A horse’s sense of taste is closely connected to his sense of smell. Like us, some equines like tastes which others don’t.
As you advance in your horse riding training, increase your understanding of your equine: become his comfort zone. When your horse trusts you he will try his very best to please you and become a reliable partner.