There is nothing quite like a young horse learning to jump. You can feel them “finding their feet” underneath you. Sometimes they give much larger leaps than are necessary over tiny poles. Other times they don’t pick up their legs. It’s just all part of the learning process. As riders we have the responsibility to:
1 – Help the horse stay relaxed and balanced into, over and after the obstacle
2 – Develop its best shape over the obstacle
3 – Stay and/or become increasingly confident over different obstacles
4 – Stay injury free
Training a horse to jump, specifically a young horse, means that the horse rider needs to ride with correct technique and method. We can assist our horses by:
1 – Riding in balance
2 – Riding with confidence
3 – Maintaining rhythm before and after each obstacle
4 – Not over facing the horse – that is taking things slowly
5 – Exposing the horse to a variety of obstacles
6 – Incorporating obstacles as part of regular work
I regard obstacles as show jumping poles on the ground, elevated poles, logs, etc. Working over poles on the ground a few times every time you ride is excellent for horses and riders. Do not over jump your horse. This can make your horse stale and lead to injury.
As we build our blog we will provide more details on how to achieve these aims. They will also give specific exercises.
I only started horseback riding at the age of 26. Although I was very passionate about horses, even before I started horseback riding, I was a very nervous rider. Unlike a lot of people around me, I didn’t grow up with horses. I also have existing injuries which I knew could be aggravated by a bad fall.
Here are some tips that helped me – and still do – overcome being a nervous horseback rider.
1. Take horseback riding lessons
A good instructor will increase your confidence with horses. (See our post on tips for finding an instructor.) Horseback riding lessons will teach you many things about horses, including:
How to ride horses properly
Proper balance, to avoid falling off and causing an injury
The correct way to get on and off your horse
The correct way to approach your horse
The correct way to tack up your horse
A good horseback riding school will make sure you are taught on a horse or pony that is suited to your ability. A good instructor will push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you without scaring you.
2. Get to know your horse or pony
As you bond with your horse or pony over time you will learn what scares them and how they react. Knowing your horse well can make you more confident. There are various horse training skills you can use to make your horse more confident (see our post for making your horse more confident). A brave and confident horse makes a confident rider.
3. Time in the saddle
The best way become more confident with horses is to ride, ride and ride some more. The more time you spend in the saddle the more your skills will improve. As your skills improve so will your confidence.
4. Ride as many horses as you possibly can
Once again, an equestrian riding school will be a great help with this. At a school you will have access to various horses and ponies. Different horses and ponies react differently to situations; they move differently; they have different personalities; they are afraid of different things. Different horses will teach you different things. Learn from them and improve your confidence.
5. Setbacks are learning experiences
Horseback riding, like any sport, is largely a mental game. You will experience setbacks. Take these experiences and learn from them. Don’t let them overwhelm you. Start again slowly, you can always go back to basics and build up again.
The best way to overcome your fears is to face them. Once you’ve experienced a fearful situation you will be able to handle it more confident the next time it happens. Horseback riding takes bravery. No matter what, be brave, be safe and always keep riding.
Grooming your own horse is a wonderful opportunity to bond with him or her. It is also gives you a chance to inspect them, look for any cuts or injuries, any areas where they are sensitive and so on.
The first step to grooming your horse is to build up (or buy) a horse grooming kit. Make sure your kit has all the basic horse grooming tools:
Horse grooming bag
Horse grooming hard bristle brush
Horse grooming soft bristle brush
Soft fleecy cloth
Two sponges (different colors or shapes)
Mane and tail comb
Before you start make sure you have a scarf or bandana to cover your nose and mouth. While grooming your horse there will be lots of dust and horse hair in the air. You could breathe this in and it could be dangerous.
Horse grooming tip: grooming your horse outside is very effective, if you have access to a small paddock or your horse stands still. This will prevent dust that you are trying to clean off from settling back on their coats.
Step 1 – Work systematically
Always work from your horse’s head towards their tail. Start on the left side, front to back, and then move onto the right side, front to back. This way you won’t miss any areas.
Step 2 – Currying
A curry comb gets rid of all the loose hair and dust. Press fairly hard and work in circular movements. This is a like a massage for your horse or pony. The hard bristle brush should be in your other hand to brush off excess hair and dust. Clean both the curry comb and brush regularly throughout this process. Using dirty grooming tools will not clean your horse.
Step 3 – Brushing
Once you curried your horse or pony’s coat, use the soft bristle brush to brush off any hair or dust that might be remaining. The soft bristles also make your horse or pony’s coat nice and shiny.
Horse grooming tip: with both currying and brushing work carefully around your pony or horse’s legs. There is no muscle between the skin and bone so it is a sensitive area.
Step 4 – Cleaning your horses face
Wet one of the sponges and gently wipe down your horse’s face. Pay special attention to their eyes and nostrils. A lot of horses and ponies don’t like their faces being cleaned, make sure you work carefully so as not to make the experience even more unpleasant for your horse or pony.
Step 5 – Cleaning the back of your horse
Wet the other sponge and gently lift your pony or horse’s tail to clean underneath. This is also an unpleasant experience for a lot of horses or ponies so work gently and carefully. If your horse or pony has a tendency to kick, be extra cautious to make sure you don’t get kicked.
Horse grooming tip: different colored sponges will make sure you use the right sponge to clean the right place.
Step 6 – Cleaning your horse’s hooves
Lift up each hoof and use the hoof pick to scrap out compacted material. Work carefully around the frog of the hoof as this can be a sensitive area. Check your horse or pony’s hooves for any strong smells as this could be a sign of infection.
Horse grooming tip: if your horse or pony isn’t good at lifting his or her hooves for cleaning, rub the chestnut on the inside of their legs to encourage them to life up their legs.
Step 7 – Brushing the mane and tail
Use either the hard bristle brush or mane and tail comb to brush your horse or pony’s mane and tail. This will get rid of any knots or anything like twigs or sawdust in your horse or pony’s mane or tail.
Horse grooming tip: mane and tail conditioner is great way to keep your horse or pony’s mane and tail shiny and soft.
Step 8 – Wipe down
Use the soft fleecy cloth the wipe down your horse or pony’s coat. This is a great way to give them a nice shiny, clean coat.
I got my first pony when I was two years old. I’ve owned many ponies and horses since then given than I’m about to turn forty three. Some of them have been great successes, and others dismal failures. One failure was a pony we bought when I was eight years old. He had won national championships, and we bought him thinking it would be fabulous to have a champion pony, but not realisingfully that I wasn’t ready to ride him. Our ego (and poor advice from my coach) had gotten in the way. Luckily it took my parents three nights of me waking up in tears because I was petrified of the pony to realise that this was not a good match. They sold the pony, bought me a calm pony that had not won a thing in its life, and I was happy as ever again.
Each of us is quite different and wants different things from riding and our equine friends. What’s key is that we recognise this before we go looking at horses for sale and before we buy a horse.
From my experience I’d give the following advice to anyone wanting to buy a horse:
Decide what you want the horse for and look for a horse to suit that purpose. If you want a dressage horse, look specifically for a dressage horse. If you want a horse to do quiet trails on then that is what you should look for – and pay for. When I was looking for a beginner’s horse for my daughter, I would ask people on the phone before going to view the horse if the horse would suit a beginner. This saved time for all of us. It also helped manage my daughter’s expectations and ensure I wasn’t putting her onto an unsafe horse when we got there.
Decide if you want a younger less experienced horse, a going competition horse, a school master, or an older horse. They all have their pros and cons. The price varies greatly. Your ability to ride will influence what you can best manage. It also comes down to a matter of choice – I’m at the stage of my life now where I don’t want to be schooling babies if I don’t have to. I prefer to buy going horses for myself. When I bought my daughter her horse I made a conscious decision to buy her a school master to teach her and help her along. It was the best decision I made.
Never feel worried or harassed about making a decision to buy a horse.There are so many horses around that you will find the right horse. Don’t sit on a horse when trying it, panic and think “If it’s not this horse it’s NO HORSE”.I think it’s essential to find the “right fit”. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Many of the most successful horses I’ve had, I’ve bought after sitting on them for only fifteen minutes. I’ve never even tried them again – I’ve just pulled out a cheque book. Other horses I’ve sat on and after five minutes said that I was not interested.
Check the horse is sound for the purpose for which you need it for. A friend of mine had a horse vetted before buying the horse. The vet failed the horse because it roared. When she later explained that she was not going to event the horse but was going to show jump at a very low level, the vet later passed the horse.Remember that everything is negotiable. If the owner realises that the horse is going to a good home he or she may discount the price. There are adverts “horses free to a good home” and cases of “horse adoption”. These are worth following up if you can’t afford a lot for a horse. I’ve seen some truly superb horses transfer owners in such circumstances including ex-derby winners. You may just have to promise not to sell the horse on and to keep the old owner informed of the horse’s condition.
It’s also always worth checking if the horse’stacks for sale since it should fit the horse. I’ve managed to get real bargains this way. If the owner is giving up riding altogether you may also be able to buy the horse trailer so check if the horse trailers for sale.
Good luck with your horse hunting. Let us know how it goes.
When it comes to horseback riding there is no substitute for “time in the saddle”. But this is not always practical; bad weather, work, family commitments and a whole lot of other thing often interrupt saddle time.
Here are some exercises that you can do “on the ground” and with your horse or pony that will help improve your riding.
1. Good base fitness
Horseback riding requires a certain amount of base fitness – it’s a form of cardio exercise. Any type of basic cardio exercise will help improve your riding: running, walking, cycling, rowing etc. If you’re unable to ride your horse or pony consider a cardio session in the gym or a good road run or cycle as an alternative.
Pilates is an excellent way to build up core strength and balance. Good core strength and balance are essential aspects of good riding. Pilates will also help improve your posture, so you’ll sit up straighter on your horse or pony.
3. Lengthen your Achilles tendon
Many horseback riders have the problem of lifting their heels. This affects your balance and causes your feet to slip forward in the stirrups. Often the problem is a shortened Achilles tendon. This can be caused by various things (often wearing high heels makes the problem worse). To help lengthen your Achilles tendon: find a step, stand with just your toes on the edge of the step (so your heel hangs down), and gently push your heels down. Don’t bounce! Hold it for 15 seconds and then lift your heel again. Repeat this as many times as you can and often as you can. The key to this exercise is slow stretching over a period of time. Don’t force you heel down otherwise you could injure yourself.
4. Horse grooming
Grooming your horse or pony is a great total body work out. Your arms, in particular, get a great workout.
5. Use your horse to help you warm up
As with any other exercise, you have to warm up before you go horseback riding. Here are some ideas to warm up that you can do while riding your horse or pony. You should do these exercises while walking your horse or pony to warm them up as well.
While walking your horse or pony, take your feet out of the stirrups; working from your hips lift both legs as high as you can away from the saddle. Hold this position for a few seconds; drop your legs back down. Repeat.
Keep your horse or pony walking and your feet out of the stirrups. Working from your hips swing your legs backwards and forwards i.e. when your right leg is forward your left leg should be back.
Both of these exercises are great way to help loosen up your hips.