CategoryTraining and Riding Archives - Ramm Fence Equestrian Blog
I wrote this article some time ago – but it is always important information to keep in mind when working with first-time riders…
Many people know that I have had horses for years. And like me, I’m sure you get frequent requests from people who want to ride your horses. Does this sound familiar? “My children love horses, they have always wanted to ride a pony!” Or, “I used to ride horses (at summer camp), I know all about them, could I ride yours some time?” The automatic answer is “Sure, just let me know when!” But afterward, we realize that this is not just a “ride”.
Tip 1: Any first-time rider should have instruction before they take their first ride. This takes extra time on your part, but it is a very necessary step. If not, it could be dangerous for them, as well as you.
I talk to numerous people, and many times the subject of horses comes up. About 90% of one-time riders tell me the same story. “Yes, I rode a horse, got bucked off and that was the last time I will ever get near a horse.” The accounts amaze me; horse bites, riding run-away horses, saddles that fall off, getting kicked, and all because the horse owner did not give any instruction beforehand. I try to explain that if they would have known a few simple things before they got on the horse, they truly could have had a wonderful experience. Most people shrug and say ”never again.” With a little instruction, we can help put a stop to these incidents and make first time rides safe and enjoyable.
Before a rider ever gets near the horse, we need to explain some key points. Riders of any age should know that you will be assisting them, and they must listen to what you tell them for their safety.
One of the first steps we can take to help ensure a great experience is with attire.
Tip 2: Proper helmets should be worn, as well as a protective boot or heavy shoe with a heel. Flat-soled shoes increase the risk of the foot slipping through a stirrup and getting caught-up.
Tip 3: If you have protective vests, use them also.
Tip 4: During the warmer months, let parents know that long pants are the best attire. Although shorts may keep their child cooler, a pair of jeans will be much more comfortable than a child’s bare legs rubbing against the leather of a saddle.
Some other basic instructions should include:
Tip 5: How to touch the horse by gently petting, not patting, with easy movements. Explain that horses can spook with fast movements.
Tip 6: Voices need to be kept at indoor levels for smaller children, not outside voices.
Tip 7: Explain how to walk around a horse at least 2 arm-lengths away from the horse’s haunches and tail. If younger children are involved, walk with them explaining how far this distance is.
Tip 8: Talk about walking around the front of the horse, touching him as you go, and talking to the horse.
Tip 9: Small hands, as well as adult hands, automatically reach to the horse’s head and mouth. Show new riders how to hold their hands. If you allow people to feed your horses treats, show your guest how to hold their hand flat and feed with their palm instead of their fingers.
Tip 10: Explain that you stand on the left side of the horse to hold, lead and saddle-up.
Tip 11: Show how to lead properly by having slack in the lead rope and allowing the horse to carry his head at a natural level.
Tip 12: The lead rope should NEVER be wrapped around a hand or arm. If smaller children have a hard time with a long lead rope, find them a shorter one or help them hold the horse.
Tip 13: . Demonstrate how to brush the horse, with a curry-comb first and a brush second. Show them how to follow the direction of the horse’s hair. Also, explain the “ticklish spots” and areas where gentle brushing needs to be done.
Tip 14: New riders should never ride a horse that is not a calm packer. If older (or younger) riders ask to ride a horse because they like the way it looks, but the horse is too spirited, tell them “no”. It is better to have a bit of disappointment than the consequence of an accident.
Tip 15: Once you have groomed and saddled the horse, be sure to use a lead rope or a lounge line with the horse. The best scenario would be to have a small paddock or round pen to ride in, in addition to using the lead rope or lounge line. This will give the new rider a sense of security, helping them to relax.
Don’t forget how it feels to ride for the very first time. It seems very high from the ground, unbalanced, almost like you could fall. It feels like you’ve lost control, and there isn’t much to hang on to! Take these thoughts into consideration and you’ll realize that a short, well-guided ride is better than a long, unsupervised experience.
Tip 16: Due to liability issues, be sure your insurance will cover any mishaps. It is an issue that most of us feel will never come up, but many accidents can turn into more than ever expected.
Tip17: Be sure all young riders under 18 have parents present with consent to let their child ride. Be sure all older riders understand that accidents can happen, and they are not going to hold you liable.
Tip 18: Contact your insurance company, the experts in this area, and get their advice before you let friends ride. It’s worth it.
Tip 19: Additionally, check the equine liability laws in your state. Some states require that signs be posted throughout a facility, while others require signed waivers. Some require both. Make sure that you follow whatever your state requires so that you, your horses and all riders and spectators are protected.
Tip 20: Give the gift of kindness when you think about allowing someone to ride your horses. Be sure it’s a safe, informative, and fun experience. After all, we all have our passion because we truly enjoyed a horse ride-way back when. Pass it on!
Copyright 2010 Ramm Fence Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
So as I went to the barn, I was not very excited about working with the horses. In fact, with the last visit, just a few days ago, I had an unpleasant lounging experience (yes, it can happen to all of us), that I could not explain.. Hootie, whom I have been working with for some time, started to get fidgety on the lounge line and ran ‘through’ my hands. To make matters worse, I was using a nylon lounge line.. with-out gloves. Zippppp… and away he ran….. and there was the nylon burn on my hand to prove it!
Prior to getting Hootie groomed and on the lounge line, I decided not to grab my gloves ~ yes, I actually thought about them (that made matters worse because I did not follow that little voice inside saying “Get your gloves before you start”). Funny how we have that ‘little voice’ that we should listen to, but just don’t always do it.
So after grooming, Hootie and I went into the indoor arena. Lounge line snapped on his halter and we started at the ‘walk’. The sudden explosion happened shortly after I asked him for the walk and off went Hootie..yes tail in the air, arched neck and at a full gallop and a nylon burn on my hand.. shoot, I needed those gloves! Where is the camera when you most need it? My beautiful Hootie looking like a fancy dressage ‘stallion’ (he is definitely a gelding), floating on air all the while the lounge line was dragging along side of him.
It didn’t take me long to recover my new ‘stud’ horse and we went back into the indoor and finished on a good note -both directions. But I left the barn that day feeling concerned as to what had happened. What could I have done differently? Don’t we all face that question many times along the training path with our horses?
So back to today…as I was saying, off to the barn I went not very excited about working with Hootie again. But once I got there I was able to talk over what happened with two other people at the barn. In retrospect, Hootie is becoming so much more focused on what is being ask of him….and he is listening!
~As I was told, “Horses are born with their complete vocabulary right from the start. They understand 2 very important actions in the herd – ‘Reward and reprimand’. The alpha horse in a herd will kick, bite or charge other horses to make the point ‘back off and get away’. The reward is when the alpha horse stops the action. We have to understand and be on their level to communicate with them so they listen to what we ask.. and not confuse them with mixed messages. ~ Simple, right?
So when I was able to think over what I was doing with Hootie on the lounge line, I ask for exactly what he gave me. Rather than being at a 90 degree angle at his shoulder, I was behind him and rasing my hand asking for the walk, when indeed he listened to my request which was to move away from me and with a raised hand too far back by his hip.. he took the cue and ran. I even pulled on the lounge line to try to stop him. However, instead of giving a sharp tug telling him to ‘STOP’ (the reprimand), and then letting go to say – ‘THANK YOU’ (the reward), I ‘pulled’ and hung on too long which even helped to spur him on more. ~What a good boy to listen to what I said! ~
After I realized my mistakes, I went into the indoor and worked with Hootie based on a new set of rules. I needed to tell him what to do AND give him correct cues. I also made sure that I was paying complete attention to him and myself without being distracted.
We had one of the nicest times together that I can remember. The ‘repramands’ that I give have to be swift, not necessarily harsh but rather, direct and just at the right moment. The ‘reward’ also needs be given as soon as my horse gives me what I’m asking
Hootie is making progress and as he becomes better ‘tweaked’, I too must be better ‘tweaked’ in telling Hootie exactly what I want without confusing signals. ~ So we reached a truce today.. he put his head down at the walk and I stayed at his shoulder during lounging, without having to raise my hands or fuss with the lounge line.
Such a good day at the barn. I cannot wait to go back very soon! 🙂
Have you had a similar experience with your horse? I would love to hear how you worked it all out. And let me know if the ‘reward and reprimand’ method works for you. Have a great week with your horses, I know I will!
I have seen it happen many times. A rider gets on their horse only to end up having a really rough ride – or worse – a bad fall. It could have been someone in your family, someone that you know or even you…. no longer confident – the riding just stops.
I have known several people that had some really tough falls. And for many, the negative experience of a fall takes its toll. Some of the ‘would be’ happy riders don’t get back on horses. In some instances, horses and riders really are not a good match. Finding just the right horse can put a timid rider back in the saddle quickly and successfully. However in other instances, a person can become almost paralyzed with the thought of mounting a horse again. Read more »
I have been riding a lot lately and truly enjoy working with many horses as well as my own. You learn so much when you get the chance to work with other horses..and other seasoned riders!
Though the years I have had the opportunity to ride many disciplines and have learned from both lessons and ‘trial and error’ (although I tried not to be on the side of error often). It seems that I have found, just when you think you ‘have it’, sometimes, you don’t! There is always so much to learn, it amazes me. And maybe it’s because I continually look for better, easier or, if you will, a simpler way to ride. ~ Which leads me to one of the most fundamental and basic principles…the walk.
The simple walk can profoundly be one of the most over looked gates that riders ‘skip’ learning. As Steve, a family friend and trainer from Ultra Morgans says, “The flat-footed walk is one of the most important gates to attain with your horse.” And why? Because when you have a flat-footed walk, you have gained the horses complete ‘trust’! Read more »