I tied a client up last week.
Source: Bite Your Tongue.
November 4, 2016
I tied a client up last week.
Source: Bite Your Tongue.
September 26, 2016
“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ~ Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
One of the most frequent questions we hear at the barn is, “How often should my child take lessons?” Our answer usually is, we expect the rider to ride weekly. Our lessons are scheduled on the same day, same time for your convenience.
Some parents are satisfied with that answer, others wonder if riding twice a week would be beneficial, and others start to explain why weekly lessons aren’t doable.
This makes me wonder. If your child was taking music lessons, not only are the lessons usually weekly, but you would also have that instrument in the house and the child would be expected to practice daily. The same for ballet or any other skill that the child was learning.
Sports teams have games weekly or bi-weekly, and have practice almost daily. Swimmers try to get to the pool as often as possible to build skill and stamina for the meets.
So, why the reluctance to commit to a weekly riding lesson, especially when you do not have a horse to practice on?
Weekly lessons are designed to build on the acquired skills week after week. Horseback riding also uses core muscles that aren’t typically used in everyday activities. Muscle memory needs to be reinforced by performing the same activities over and over again. None of these will be accomplished by the occasional rider. Bi-weekly lessons can advance riding skills but not as much as weekly riding.
During the summer we have three weeks of day camp where everyone riders every day. The parents are surprised and pleased to see how much their child advances after one week of camp. The reason – practice, practice, practice.
So that brings us to the second question – would riding twice a week help. Most definitely, but we hesitate to have real young riders taking lessons that often. Although they would get better faster, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll advance twice as fast. There is a lot going on in the rider’s body and their connection is their horse.
If the issue with weekly riding is finances or arrangements, then, every other week is better than no lessons. But, if it’s scheduling or other activities are taking the priority, and the riding lessons would be once a month or so, then, maybe everyone should wait until a true commitment to riding can be made.
Commitment to regular lessons is what separates the “wanna be” from the person who really wants to do it.
September 17, 2016
Today, September 17, is International Helmet Day.
Wearing a helmet while riding a horse should be a no-brainer, but, almost daily I see a picture of a child or an adult riding a horse with no head protection. All I can do is shake my head and ask why? Why are you taking the risk of riding without a helmet?
Please don’t tell me that your horse is calm. The calmest horse will still spook under the right conditions – which would be the wrong conditions for the helmetless rider. Even the most experienced riders have been injured or killed when their horse did the unexpected. What makes you think your horse is any different.
The sad facts
Horseback riding is in the top 10 for sports that contribute to most of the head injuries suffered in sporting activities. The estimated number horseback riding head injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009 was 14,466! 1
Head injuries can occur from falls that are only two feet from the ground. Depending on the size of your horse, you could be eight feet or more from the ground. 2
The good facts
Even though head injuries can still happen while wearing a helmet, the severity of the injury can be reduced by almost 85%. 1
You don’t need an expensive helmet to protect your head. As long as the helmet is SEI /ASTM certified, you’re buying a protective helmet. 2
Wearing a helmet when riding a horse is a personal decision that you make for yourself or for your child. But why take chances?
Wearing a helmet could be the best decision you make.
Make sure, though, that you helmet fits properly and is worn properly. Then , you will have the best protection possible.
September 4, 2016
I remember my first canter where I felt like the horse and I were moving totally in sync with each other. I can’t tell you how many previous canters felt like I was going to fly off the saddle because the rhythm and movement just wasn’t there.
Later I found out that there was an element missing – the feel. I had no idea what the canter should feel like – or the realization that although every horse performs the canter the same way, their movement, their swing, their lift, could be so different.
If wasn’t until I learned to listen to my horse through my body that I was able to ask for the canter, and get it on the correct lead, every time.
Learning to ride a horse is different from learning to read, or write, or even play the piano. But, is some ways it is very similar.
Most of our learning is based on our perception – what the marks on the paper mean, how to make marks that other people can read, how to press the keys in a way that makes a recognizable tune. But, with horseback riding, we are also learning how to interpret the movements and responses of another living being.
Each horse has its own way of moving. Yes, the walk is always a four-beat gait, but some horses may swing more from side to side where others rock from back to front. Some may even move one leg slower or faster than the other three. Some horses keep an even tempo; others speed up, slow down, or even stop.
As an instructor, I can see when a horse, let’s say if taking a stroll through the park instead of marching in a parade. I can explain to you how to wake your horse up using your aids, but it is up to the rider to be able to feel if the horse is responding and how quickly you are getting a response. It is up to the rider to feel the horse’s energy drop and keep the horse moving before he decided to slow down or stop completely.
Once one of my students understands how to use aids for riding, I may not even offer a suggestion if the horse is not following the cues. This is the point where the rider needs to figure out what to do so the horses responds appropriately.
Knowing the cues and using the aids is important, knowing how to apply them to a particular horse, that is knowing how to ride!
August 30, 2016
Once the rider masters the open rein, we move to the direct rein.
The direct rein takes a little more skill to master. Unlike the open rein, the direct rein uses both hands and both legs to cue the horse to turn.
In this article, we will focus on the hands and reins, but remember, the legs play an important part so we will discuss that as well.
We start by asking the rider to take the hand in the direction of the turn and move it to their back pocket and look toward the horse’s tail. This is very effective for our young riders because their legs hardly reach down to the horse! What this does is stabilize their leg at the girth and as they turn, their outer leg moves behind the girth. The horse moves in the direction of the rein movement.
The hardest part of this, is the release that is needed from the outside hand. If you move your inside hand in the direction that you want to turn the horse, and pull back with the outside rein, the horse will not turn and will stop. So, the outside hand needs to move forward slightly to give the horse the freedom to turn.
As the riders progress, they can use less effort in the direct rein and presses back to the outer thigh. Notice that the outside hand and rein are released and, in this case, the rein is supporting the horse’s outer neck and shoulder.
When the rider starts to move her weight to the appropriate seat bone in the saddle, the horse will make the turn with less and less rein movement. At some point, the movement to turn the horse may only need a squeeze back from the rein and the shift in weight in the saddle.
In any case, the inner leg is always at the girth and the outside leg is just behind the girth.
One of the biggest errors that I see is when the horse responds with only slight pressure from the rider and the rider starts to move the rein toward the pommel of the saddle. This movement must be performed with coordinated leg aids. We’ll discuss this in the post about indirect reins.
August 24, 2016
One of the first skills we teach a young rider is how to control the horse by turning left or right, making circles, and serpentining the arena.
The easiest way to understand how the horse moves in a new direction is by teaching the open or leading rein.
Leading the horse
When we lead the horse from the ground, our hand is on the lead line near the horse’s halter. When we want the horse to turn, we move the horse’s head to the left or right by moving the lead line in our right hand to the left or right. The horse moves in the direction of the lead line.
The thing to remember is that we are not “pulling” to horse left or right. We aren’t pushing the horse either. The horse is moving away from the pressure.
Huh? What does that mean? Think about it. If you are moving the lead line to the left and the horse moves her head to the right, there will be tension or pressure on the horse’s face. To eliminate the pressure, the horse moves in the direction of the lead line.
Open or leading rein
Now let’s transfer the concept to the saddle.
This rider is asking Leslie to turn to the left. Notice, the rider’s left hand is moving the rein to the left. She is NOT pulling the rein to the left, she is opening the area between Leslie’s neck and the rein by moving the rein away from the neck. Leslie’s nose is moving in the direction of the rein, to the left.
This is exactly what the rider in the first picture did on the ground. Move the rein in the direction you want your horse to go in.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I will say “Pull right!” to a young rider as the horse is moving in toward me. That’s quicker, the rider understands it, and I don’t get run over! But once the rider is old enough to understand the concept of opening and closing the reins as if they were doors, we stop say “pull” and start saying “move.”
It isn’t long before the rider is ready for the next step – using the direct rein.
August 5, 2016
It’s that time of the year at our barn. Our annual horse show will be held on Saturday, August 13th. For our barn, we only do one show a year and it is a fun show. We feel our riders should have the experience of performing in front of other people. It also gives them the opportunity to invite their relatives and friends to watch them perform on their favorite horse.
For some of our riders this is an exciting, fun day; for others, they are concerned they won’t do good enough.
Yes, there will be a judge. Yes, she will score your ride. Yes, there will be ribbons based on that score. No, no one will think any less of you because of where you place.
What we try to impress on our riders is that a score and the subsequent ribbon is based on that moment in time. Given another ride, your score might be higher or lower. The same is true of the other riders. So there is no reason to get upset if you did not get the color you were hoping for. And even if you got a lower place this year than you did last year, there are other elements that could make the difference.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
If you moved up a level in riding this year, the test will be more difficult or challenging for you. This is good. It will make you stretch to perform better.
If it is a new test, you may feel a little uncomfortable with it even though there is a reader telling you the next move. That’s okay too. In life you may find yourself in new situations. It’s what you make of the new situation that counts.
The score is an accumulation of the points you received. If you rode the same test last year, compare your score against last year’s score. Did you improve? Probably. If you didn’t where did you fall short? Don’t compare your score against the other riders – even though the ribbon and placement are based on “the score” it’s best to compete against yourself.
How is your horse today? Your horse is part of your team. If your horse is having a bad day, it will reflect in your score. You could give your horse a pep talk, but chances are if her joints are hurting or if it extremely hot or cold, you aren’t going to get the same ride that you would under ideal conditions. You have to always take your horse into consideration.
You are the other half of that team. If you didn’t sleep well the night before, your horse will feel that you are tired and neither of you will perform well. The same thing if you are nervous, tense, or otherwise upset. If you can’t focus or concentrate, neither can your horse.
When you put all the pieces together the best way to approach you show is to relax, feel good about yourself and your horse, and smile – regardless of the color of the ribbon.