Our riding lessons always start by grooming the horse. I have had parents ask why their child has to groom and tack the horse when they are paying for a riding lesson, but I explain that learning about caring for an animal is a lesson as well. The grooming and tacking is very important both for the horse and the rider.
Currying the horse is very much like a massage. Yes, it brings up the dirt and dead coat, but it also a rub down for the skin and muscles. It feels good to the horse. Always curry with some pressure and use a circular motion.
For the rider, this is an opportunity to find out how the horse is feeling. Once in a while, the horse will react to the curry by moving away or moving its head toward to person grooming. Is that a sore spot? Maybe another horse kicked or bit the horse. Check it out.
Throughout the grooming process, you learn a lot about the horse. Was it rolling in the mud all day or night? Are there cuts or scratches that need to be taken care of before the ride? Should the horse be ridden?
In the case of a minor injury, the rider learns what to do for the horse. Especially if there was a kick that drew blood, I ask the rider to watch every week to see how long it will take to heal completely.
Let’s not forget to clean the horse’s hooves. Rocks, stones, or worse can get caught in the cleft. The hoof may have cracked or chipped. If the hoof grew faster than normal between farrier visits, it may rip. Here’s another lesson for the rider on caring for a horse.
It doesn’t take long before there is a bond between the horse and rider. The rider feels ownership of the horse and wants to learn more about keeping the horse healthy. And it all started with the rub.
This post is the first of a five part series on the makeup of a riding lesson.