Buy good tack! There is no substitute for quality when it comes to saddles, bridles and training equipment. If you are not sure what to buy, ask a professional, we always have an opinion! I prefer saddles and tack that are made in America, preferable handmade. Buying used tack is fine, as long as you inspect it, looking for excessive wear. A good saddle will last a very long time, if it is care for properly. Buying a used saddle is a great way to get high quality at a lower price!
Your horse is your dance partner and if you have poor rider body position, you will step on your horse’s “toes.” When your horse is not performing, ask yourself …is it my horse or is it me? I see it time and time again, people are the road block to their horse’s performance improvement. A horse cannot move properly if the rider is not positioned properly. Because of this, I teach the rider how to ride. While many clinicians teach training techniques, I teach “people” techniques.
When you put solid pressure on the reins and your horse will lay on the bridle rein in your hand. The more you pull, the more your horse will brace or even pull back. With continually pulling on your horses’ mouth, your horse braces against your pulling, they stiffen their jaw, neck, shoulder and possibly ribcage, taking away any ability for lateral flexion. Without lateral flexion, you cannot have collection. In addition, a horse which stiffens their neck and shoulder can also bolt, rear and buck.When riders don’t get what they want from their horse, they apply more pressure. Horse doesn’t slow down when you pull on the reins, you pull harder. The solution is a give and take approach with a “less is more” philosophy. Instead of solid rein pressure, bounce the rein with your fingers. Take out the slack just until you feel resistance, then bounce your rein by wiggling your fingers. That is NOT a jerk, but a gentle bump. When you feel a change, let go and reward your horse. Same applies to your legs.
One of the most time consuming training issues I deal with are horses who have been jerked on so much, that they have absolutely no lateral (side to side) bend or flexibility. Yes, the horse may be moving with their head down and neck level, but they have been pulled on so much, that they are stiff, to the point of rigid, from their throat latch all the way through their ribs, and very forehand heavy in their movements. . Think about it, if I punch you in the mouth enough, not only will you hate me, but you stiffen your jaw, neck and back. By the way, just because a horse moves with their head low, does not mean they are collected, but that is a subject for another article.
Bottom line…bump and wiggle fingers instead of pulling on the reins and bump with your legs instead of squeeze. As soon as you get a change, no matter how small, release the pressure. And as I always say…”Don’t Pull!”
Your horse is your dance partner and if you have poor rider body position, you will step on your horse’s “toes.” When your horse is not performing, ask yourself …is it my horse or is it me? I see it time and time again, people are the road block to their horse’s performance improvement. A horse cannot move properly if the rider is not positioned properly. No matter if you ride western or English, trail, barrels, jumping or dressage, learn how to start to be a good dance partner with your horse.
Clinics are filling my schedule this time of year, both at private barns and at our facility. Be sure to check out my website schedule for a listing. My clinics are highly instructional. I teach people how to ride with their seat and legs as well as their hands to take their riding to their personal next level. Proper rider body position is everything in riding. Without proper rider position, you cannot achieve collection, true control or peak performance. Learn what you can do to Ride-In-Sync® with your horse. To improve your horse, you must first improve your horsemanship!
Cadence and rhythm being important. So how do you achieve it? If you can count to four, you can begin to learn your horse’s rhythm. While walking your horse in a circle, start to feel the rhythm of your horse’s feet and start your count with the inside front leg. One-two-three-four. Your goal is to have all four feet to hit in an even cadence, similar to the beat of a metronome (one of those gadgets that your piano teacher put on the piano that goes tick-tick-tick). So you count your horse’s feet over and over. As you count, pay attention to your count. If you are beginning your count with the front inside foot, are you counting ONE-two-three-four, with the ONE count being more pronounced? That means your horse is heavier on that foot. Not sure what we mean? Listen to the hoof beats and determine if one is louder. If so, your horse is heavier on that foot.
Horses learn by repetition. They need the same thing done over and over before they understand your expectations. They also have an amazing ability to see things in great detail, hence their great ability as wild horses to see the slightest movement or change in the landscape to detect danger, as part of their self-preservation. Where we humans mess up, we don’t see things in great detail and we focus too much, missing the details. So when we think we are training our horse and think we are training an aspect over and over, because of our lack of attention to detail, we actually are not doing the same motions in repetition. We are actually sending all kinds of mixed messages. For example, the other day I was giving a riding lesson and told the rider to pick up their inside rein and “feel” it. When the horse gave their nose, I told the rider to let go, teaching their horse to give to the rein pressure. Then I told the rider to do that exact same thing another 10,000 times (to teach their horse to give). What do you think the chances are that the rider will pick up the inside rein in exactly the same way and release the pressure at exactly the point that the horse give to the pressure? Repetition and attention to detail are the keys to training your horse.
Sometimes I find that when I have a horse that is progressing very well, my expectations out pace his progress. Example: I am riding one of our colts and he is doing so well that I find myself wanting to ask new things of him too fast. I have to force myself to be patient and not out pace his learning abilities. This colt is very smart and reactive. I need to be careful to keep his training at a reasonable rate. If you are having trouble with your horse with something that he should know, back up and go back to basics for a while. One of our sayings... lower your expectations to lower your frustrations.
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