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Basic Riding - Before You Mount Your Horse

Apr 4, 2008
Most people view riding as cutting cattle, galloping over an open range or serious competition in jumping or other events. Before any of that can happen one must master the basics.

You're facing a large animal with power, big teeth and an instinct of self preservation above all else. The fear of sitting on this should be tempered with the confidence that most horses do not want to hurt people. Communicating with the animal is not the same as with another human or with a dog or other creature. The horse is "wired" uniquely. Respect him for his ability to take pieces out of an opponent, for the power that can crush a threat to his life and the speed to flee a dangerous situation - respect, don't fear. Remember that with a little understanding we can temper those tendencies for our benefit. Being fearful instead of a leader he needs means he's the leader - and many horses don't want to be! So they misbehave, someone gets hurt and the horse is blamed.

Instead approach him with the knowledge that in the wild world he was created to be food, and an appreciation that despite that he allows us to drape equipment on him and ride him! Watch your actions to keep him comfortable. So often a rider gets in the horse's way...and creates a problem where there was none.

Get on safely. Wear shoes or boots with enough of a heel that your foot doesn't slide through. Prepare yourself. These exercises will seem silly - but they will help you!

Stretch your legs out. Use a solid fence board - raise each leg individually as if you are going to step up on the fence. Brace your body and gently lean forward...don't "bounce" or lean all the way to the fence at once...this stretches the muscles in your upper leg. A few of these on each side can make a big difference.

Take a 2X4 or 4X4 board and place it on the ground in a level area. Place your toes and ball of the foot on the board, with your heels on the ground. In sets of 10 to start, then build up to 25 over a few weeks, raise yourself up, then ease back down - this stretches and strengthens the leg and, further, "teaches" the leg automatic heels down. When you get on the horse your leg is then automatically in the position to cue him with your leg, and is less likely to bounce against him when you don't intend to kick him.

On your board stand on it solidly...arms at riding position, and work up to 10 squats. Slowly lean to each side, front and back, and back up. This positions the body for automatic balance. If the horse does spook your body can more easily adapt, absorb the spook and stay in the saddle rather than on the ground. The fall from a 4X4 isn't nearly as hurtful!

Use a few solid blocks, the back of a trailer or truck or another higher area for the last exercise - ideally next to a post with a hay twine. The object is to, with your left leg, raise yourself up to the surface in one step, with minimal pull on the hay twine. While this may seem silly - that higher surface is your "stirrup" and the line is the reins - you don't want to pull on the reins (or the horse's mouth) but can grab the post (or saddle horn or mane). An old manual said a real horseman can mount a horse without the girth being on the saddle, and while that is a challenge that can be a goal with today's tall horses that sometimes isn't so easy! For those of us who are "vertically challenged" getting on a 16.2 hand horse means a patient horse, practice and sometimes a step or hill!

These exercises can be done, quickly, as a warm up before getting on each ride. They'll help you physically do the task at hand, and further help the horse to do his job.

Having a healthy horse to ride is important, but you can work on riding long before mounting up! Exercises to increase balance and leg will make it easier on both you and the horse.
About the Author
Ron Petracek was raised in southern Idaho with horses and the great outdoors. With this continued passion He now shares through a a vast equine network. Learn more by clicking the links below. Amazing Equine Network System - Horses for sale or trade anything equine related. Get More Horse Classified coverage and distribution with less cost and work. Equine Social Community
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