Make your horse an easier ride with these training tips

RF Scandalous-IMG_0712

MD Barnmaster-Ad 1-770x170

 

Make your horse an easier ride with these training tips

I have a novice horse for sale, and a lovely young adult came to try him on Saturday. I got on the horse first, as customary, to put the horse through his paces and show he can perform as advertised. He was a little distracted during the first few minutes of warmup, but he eventually settled and showed a pretty good walk, trot, and canter. I hopped him over a few low fences, and then the potential buyer was ready to give him a try. I advised her that he was pretty straightforward, ride leg-to-hand, with light, small aids.

She struggled a little bit to figure him out, and the horse was working to understand her style as well. She carried a bit more tension in her arms than the horse is used to, and he reacted by flipping his head and bouncing on and off the contact. After some circles, she managed to ride him steadier and had some lovely moments. As she finished, she looked at me and commented, “You make him look SO EASY! He is not an easy horse at all! I don’t mean that in a bad way– he isn’t difficult, but I thought you were just sitting there.”

As a seller, it’s not reassuring when a potential buyer says your horse “isn’t easy.” As a rider, though, it’s a nice compliment. It isn’t the first time I’ve heard that, either… quite a few other times, trying to sell other horses, I’ve had riders tell me I make it look too easy and they are shocked that the horse isn’t as push-button as I made him seem.

Isn’t it supposed to look easy, though? Isn’t that the point of riding, to make something difficult appear simple? To make it look like the horse is practically performing on its own? Of course we all know riding isn’t easy, but some horses make the job less work than others.

 

Asmar-banner-2_700x85-NEW

Goresbridge-May2017-770x85

 

As I was hacking horses today (including the sale horse…he hasn’t sold just yet, though the young lady would like to see him again) I thought about what I do that must make it look easy. I think the most important thing is that my horses respond to small aids. I rarely have to yank, pull, kick, or make big motions with my body. Most of my horses are quite sensitive, and closing my fingers or lightly squeezing my calf is all it takes to influence their way of going.

How do you train your horse to respond to small aids? First, they have to be in front of your leg. A dull horse behind the leg will always look like work! Your horse should “shout” a response to a quiet “whisper” of your leg. You may have to use a whip or some big thumping kicks to reinforce that light leg aid (see the “Sensitizer Test”). Similarly, your horse should respect your hand and seat: slowing the motion of your elbow or seat should inspire the horse to slow down, before you ever have to use your hands. David O’Connor is a big proponent of riding the horse off your seat. Starting at the walk, use your seat to influence the horse’s length of stride, and teach him to halt by stopping the motion. Build on this at trot and canter, so that you can use less hand or leg to stop and go.

When your horse fully understands and responds to the aids, there is still something important in the “easy” equation: timing and feel. This is probably what separates the wheat from the chaff among riders. Can you FEEL when to use your aids? Timing is important; the horse cannot respond promptly if you ask at the wrong moment of the stride. “Feel” also includes catching minor errors or misbehaviors before they turn into major ones. If you wait a whole circle (or longer) before correcting the horse for dropping his inside shoulder, you may have to use stronger, more obvious aids to fix it. Conversely, if you apply inside leg when your horse just THINKS about dropping his shoulder, just a simple squeeze of the calf may be enough to keep him straight. Every day you ride, try to influence your horse’s thoughts before he has a chance to act on them in a negative way.

What else about the rider? A rider blessed with good body control and awareness goes a long way. When the horse wants to drop his inside shoulder, as a rider I do two things: first, quickly check my position to make sure I’m not ducking, leaning, or sitting unbalanced. Then simultaneously, I apply aids to correct the horse: a little leg or hand as needed. Riding isn’t all about “fixing” the horse’s mistakes: it’s first about correcting yourself, knowing your own weaknesses, and then making both you and the horse better.

Scroll for more top stories on Eventing Connect

BACK ON TRACK-1-770x170

Monday’s SCOOP from Eastern Hay | Eventing Connect   Monday’s SCOOP from Eastern Hay Today’s SCOOP sponsor: Eastern Hay is the premier source of hay bales in Eastern USA.   …

These seven ‘studs’ will give you foal fever | Eventing Connect   These seven ‘studs’ will give you foal fever Normal people get ‘baby fever’, which is the burning desire to have a human baby. But …

Eastern Hay 770x170-March-2

Legendary Eventing saves that will inspire you to hold on tighter | Eventing Connect   Legendary Eventing saves that will inspire you to hold on tighter It’s not over until you hit the dirt. These incredible eventers d…

Guide to start Eventing: The realist edition | Eventing Connect   Guide to start Eventing: The realist edition Eventing is a glorious thing in all its forms. No other horse sport requires so much f…

Asmar-banner-2_700x170-NEW

Non-horsey people commentate on show jumping and things get hilarious – VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   Non-horsey people commentate on show jumping and things get hilarious – VIDEO Break To a non-horsey person, a show jumping round …

Six horsey things to splurge on and six to save on | Eventing Connect   Six horsey things to splurge on and six to save on Equestrian sports are undoubtedly expensive to be a part of. Everything from tac…

Perris-April-770x170

Stable cats living the dream and getting InstaFamous: Part 19 | Eventing Connect   Stable cats living the dream and getting InstaFamous: Part 19 Eventers are always showing their dogs love via posting adorable pict…

Virginia International H.T. show jumping action – VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   Connect with the Virginia Horse Trials action: [Website] [Times] [Results] Virginia International H.T. show jumping action – VIDE…

profchoice-770x170_girth

Take a virtual walk around the Houghton Hall CICO3* cross-country course | Eventing Connect   Connect with the Houghton Hall International H.T. action: [Website] [Schedule] [Times/Results] Take a virtual walk around the …

18 Bizarre but very real fears that all riders have | Eventing Connect   18 Bizarre but very real fears that all riders have Owning and riding horses is incredibly fun and rewarding but it can also be e…

offbeatsafaris-4-770x170

Friday’s Five – Summer reads to take your riding to the next level | Eventing Connect   Friday’s Five – Summer reads to take your riding to the next level Spending an afternoon reading and basking in the beautiful sum…

Friday’s Fashion – Browbands that will dazzle | Eventing Connect   This series features fashion “must have” items for riders and their horses. Tune in every Friday with your (or your parents’ or …

Goresbridge-May2017-770x170

When you just really want attention – VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   When you just really want attention – VIDEO Break This little foal was sick of the farrier paying attention to his mother and tho…

These 13 photos perfectly explain #TackroomGOALS | Eventing Connect   These 13 photos perfectly explain #TackroomGOALS Some girls dream about having a perfect wardrobe, but equestrians dream about ta…

bitofbritain-Week1

This flawless four-star specimen could be yours in four days! – Goresbridge Auction | Eventing Connect   May Select Sale of Eventers (May 29th): [Website] [Catalogue] [Performance footage] Over the next week and a bit, Eventing Conn…

How venturing outside of arenas will make you and your horse BETTER | Eventing Connect   How venturing outside of arenas will make you and your horse BETTER My farm is nothing fancy, but it is functional. I have big, sa…

World class pony Eventing action – VIDEO Break | Eventing Connect   World class pony Eventing action – VIDEO Break In approximately two month’s time, young jockeys and their ponies will be compet…

Rider Connect from Bit of Britain: Stephanie Hancock | Eventing Connect    Rider Connect sponsor: Bit of Britain has been a trusted source for quality horse tack and equestrian clothing since 1987. Ri…

Six simple but impressive ways to be a more helpful equestrian – Sponsored by Back on Track | Eventing Connect   Great for muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. Products for horses, dogs and people. Visit www.backontrackproducts.com Six s…

Add this event to your calendar – Mars Essex H.T. returns with $25,000 in prize money | Eventing Connect   Connect with the Mars Essex H.T. action: [Website] [Schedule] [Tickets] Add this event to your calendar – Mars Essex Horse Trials…

Powerful advice on keeping your horse’s hooves healthy – Sponsored by MD Barnmaster | Eventing Connect   MD Barnmaster is the leader in custom designed barns, horse housing,  professional equestrian facilities, horse stalls, modular bui…

Five more core exercises to solidify yourself in the saddle | Eventing Connect   Five more core exercises to solidify yourself in the saddle Developing core strength will make you a better rider in all three phas…

This gelding will make tackling CCI4* events fun – Goresbridge Auction | Eventing Connect   May Select Sale of Eventers (May 29th): [Website] [Catalogue] [Performance footage] Over the next week and a bit, Eventing Conn…

19 things all riders do secretly but don’t talk about | Eventing Connect   19 things all riders do secretly but don’t talk about We all do things in our lives that we are not necessarily proud of doing. N…

Whose wounded legs will be sporting a brand new pair of Noel Asmar Equestrian breeches? | Eventing Connect   Whose wounded legs will be sporting a brand new pair of Noel Asmar Equestrian breeches? We are thrilled that when we asked for pic…

Is your horse sporting a crappy halter? Enter for a chance to win a custom Perri’s leather halter | Eventing Connect   Is your horse sporting a crappy halter? Enter for a chance to win a custom Perri’s leather halter We are thrilled to partner with…