Horseback Riding

Riding Exercises for Strength and Balance, Part 1

September 29, 2014

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Andy Moorman recommends these simple horseback-riding exercises guaranteed to make you stronger and more balanced in the saddle.

posting without stirrups

Posting without stirrups is just one of several exercises that increase strength and balance in the saddle. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Strength and balance work together to help you relax and communicate with your horse so you can have the best ride possible whether you’re doing an equitation pattern, competing in horsemanship or even speeding around barrels. AQHA Professional Horsewoman Andy Moorman uses several exercises like different posting rhythms and riding without stirrups to help her riders become more secure in the saddle.

Hand on Hip

This exercise makes you ride down through your leg and find your balance and center of gravity over the horse’s center of gravity. At the same time, you learn to be independent of your hands for balance.

Pick up the trot and place one hand on your hip. Your other hand holds the reins, which should be loose to keep you from balancing on the horse’s mouth. As you trot, make an elongated figure-eight. Your outside hand should hold the reins as you go around the turn, so as you change directions, you will change hands. For example, on the left circle, left hand is on hip, and right hand on reins. Vice-versa for the other direction.

This forces you to turn your body toward the direction you are going. It makes you bring your outside shoulder forward, holding your inside shoulder up. Your balance is improved, and you relax and flow with the horse.

Now that you’re more balanced and relaxed in the saddle, you can focus more on becoming a team with your horse. Try out tips from Curt Pate in AQHA’s Training Your Horse for a Better Relationship report.

No Irons Required

When you ride without stirrups, you are forced to stay more centered on the horse. So your overall balance and “feel” improve.

Make sure your horse is quiet and relaxed. To get my beginners ready for this, we drop irons, ride for a little bit, then pick them back up. I try to make this exercise fun, and we try to get into a rhythm. For example: drop stirrups, do a sitting trot circle. Come out of the circle, pick up stirrups and post five strides. Then drop stirrups again, then post five strides and sit again.

If you do little bits and little bits of riding without stirrups, you don’t wear out or get in trouble, and pretty soon you can do this more often and for longer. Soon, you can post without stirrups without hating it. It’s a great idea to ride without stirrups or reins on the longeline. This way, you learn to create transitions and tell your horse where to go with your seat and leg aids – instead of your hands.

If you don’t push yourself to ride without stirrups, you’re never going to get better. Try to ride every day, as much as possible, without stirrups. After time, riders actually like it when judges ask for work with no irons.

Do you want to build great teamwork with your horse? Curt Pate offers tips to help you in AQHA’s Training Your Horse for a Better Relationship report.

Down, Up, Up

Improve balance and feel of your horse while developing a secure leg.

When you post, you typically post down, up, down, up, down, up, right? To do this exercise at the trot, which we call “Down, Up, Up,” you post down, then stay up in the air for two beats. So it’s right diagonal, up, up, left diagonal, up, up, right diagonal, up , up, etc. This exercise, which I learned from trainer Sarah Goode, sounds very simple, but you have to have a secure leg to hold yourself in the air for that second beat before you come down again. And usually, if people are not strong – or I should say, “educated” in their legs – they’ll end up doing down, down, up. So you have to concentrate to do the down, up, up. When you do this, you don’t sit all the way down and unfold your back on the seat part; you just touch the saddle with your seat. It’s touch, up, up, touch, up, up. When you think about it that way, you keep your back arched so you’ll stay in your leg and not fall behind your leg.

I suggest that you enter a big, rectangular area like a show ring. I have my students go down, up, up, on one long side, then do a posting trot around the end of the arena, then get into a two-point position on the other long side of the arena. Then do a posting trot around the end. That way, it’s not a lengthy amount of any one exercise, but there are a lot of transitions to work on at the same time.

Once you master these exercises, check back next week for the second half of this two-part series. Andy describes two more great strength- and balance-building exercises to help you with rhythm and transitions.

The Dos and Don’ts of Riding Attire

September 22, 2014

Before you mount, make sure what you are wearing is appropriate for horseback riding.

horse riding attire

It is important to know the appropriate attire for riding before you mount. Make sure you are safe the next time you ride. Journal photo.

From myhorseuniversity.com and America’s Horse Daily

It is important to think about what you are going to wear prior to working with or riding a horse, not only for comfort, but also for safety. This does not have to be expensive, and appropriate garments are not difficult to find.

Shirts

Unless you plan to go to a horse show, just about any type of shirt is acceptable, as long as it fits appropriately and is not so large or loose so that it might catch on a piece of equipment or tree branch.

Long-sleeved button-up shirts are traditional in the western world, and they offer protection from the sun, tree branches and other elements. English riders often school in polo shirts or other fitted shirts that can be tucked neatly into their breeches. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Vices: Cribbing

September 15, 2014

Cribbing has multiple causes, but management practices can help keep your horse from developing this bad habit.

cribbing collar horse

Many owners try to physically prevent horses from cribbing through the use of cribbing collars and muzzles, electric fencing, unappealing flavors or paint on wooden surfaces, nutritional supplements and even surgery. Jordan Lassonde photo.

From myhorseuniversity.com

A recently published analysis of nearly 20 years of research on cribbing will provide horse owners with valuable information about the behavior and ideas for management practices that could reduce the frequency of this undesirable equine habit.

“Owners of cribbers seem genuinely interested in the behavior and are eager to learn about how they may better manage their horses,” says Carissa Wickens, assistant professor and equine extension specialist at the University of Delaware.

Cribbing is a behavior in which horses anchor their top teeth onto some fixed object, like a fence or stall wall, pull backward, contract their neck muscles and take air into their esophagus, resulting in an audible grunt. Read the rest of this entry »

Horseback Riding Basics: Using Your Aids, Part 2

September 8, 2014

Clear, consistent communication is the key to smooth transitions with your horse.

using your aids for smoothness

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Julie Goodnight explains that your horse comes to understand how you’re moving with how he’s moving and that you can use this concept to have seamless transitions. Journal photo.

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Julie Goodnight in America’s Horse

In Part 1 of this series, AQHA Professional Horsewoman Julie Goodnight explained the importance of natural aids and focused on the seat as the most vital of the natural aids. In this final part, she moves on to cover transitions and keeping the attention of your horse.

Transitions

One of the age-old tenants of classical horsemanship is that all training occurs in transitions. For instance, if you went out to the arena and loped circles for 20 or 30 minutes, almost no training would be occurring. Conditioning, yes, but not training. Training is when you ask something of the horse, and he complies. It’s doing lots and lots of transitions with the horse to refine that communication. Read the rest of this entry »

Horseback Riding Basics: Using Your Aids, Part 1

September 3, 2014

Learn about the gears of your seat to refine your horseback riding skills.

riding position basics

When you’re called upon to ride your horse without stirrups, the basics still apply: seat, legs, hand and voice. And don’t forget that your eyes can be used as an aid, too, as this rider is doing as she goes around a circle. Journal photo.

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Julie Goodnight in America’s Horse

Riding is all about communication, and anything that helps you communicate with your horse is an aid. There are two types of aids, natural and artificial, but in this article, we’ll focus on natural aids in the hope that if you’re good at using your natural aids, you won’t need artificial aids.

Traditionally speaking, the natural aids are the seat, legs, hands and voice. The seat is by far the most important aid, but unfortunately, it is the least likely to be used. That’s because we were all taught the same way. The first time you got on a horse, you were probably told to pull back on the reins to make him stop and kick to make him go. The seat had nothing to do with it. And many riders actually get into fairly high level riding with little to no understanding of how to use the seat aid, but it’s something that can really help refine your riding. Read the rest of this entry »

Horseback-Riding Challenges: The Nervous Horse

August 25, 2014

In this excerpt from his new book, author Tom Moates describes his horse’s tendency for a major meltdown and how he coaxes the gelding back to sanity.

Ashley Durbin on “Jubal” during her first post-surgery ride, with clinician Harry Whitney helping out. Olivia Wilkes photo

Ashley Durbin on “Jubal” during her first post-surgery ride, with clinician Harry Whitney helping out. Olivia Wilkes photo

By Tom Moates

“Jubal” (Tigers TJ), bless his heart, along with his good qualities has some very deeply engrained worries. But in a setting where the big sorrel Quarter Horse gelding can readily keep his mind and body in the same place at the same time – centered right there with me – he is the horse everybody wants. At those moments, he is incredibly handsome, brave, compassionate, a conformational dream, noble, slow to spook, fairly happy to go with the flow of what a person presents, simply saddled, easily ridden and a big ol’ teddy bear of a horse. You really can’t help but fall completely in love with Jubal the Wonder Horse!

The strong magnetic attraction people experience for Jubal is just one of the many wonders that indeed make him the Wonder Horse. Another of his wonders is how that list of great attributes goes right out the window in the blink of an eye when his mind leaves his body and he becomes a worried wreck. I’ve covered quite a few of his challenging characteristics over the course of my past few books. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Shopping, Part 2

August 18, 2014

Learn how to make the best matches for the most successful horseback-riding teams.

Cutting horse trainer Morgan Cromer says the most important thing when playing matchmaker is making sure you find the right level horse for the right level rider. Jean Abernethy illustration

Cutting horse trainer Morgan Cromer says the most important thing when playing matchmaker is making sure you find the right level horse for the right level rider. Jean Abernethy illustration

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Thinking about buying a horse? In Part 1 of this series, a couple of equine professionals discussed purchasing cow horse and roping horses. The series finishes with a look at purchasing cutting and reining horses.

Custom Cutting

Templeton, California, cutting horse trainer Morgan Cromer doesn’t get in a hurry when shopping for a cutter suitable for one of her amateur customers. Morgan recently won her second Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Open Futurity and qualified two catch rides for the semifinal round at the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Shopping, Part 1

August 11, 2014

Learn how to match up horses and humans for the most successful horseback-riding combination.

Pairing horses and riders for the best match is tricky business. Hear what these professionals have to say about shopping for a horse. Jean Abernethy illustration

Pairing horses and riders for the best match is tricky business. Hear what these professionals have to say about shopping for a horse. Jean Abernethy illustration

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Two feet plus four hooves does not always equal six winning legs. Finding a horse that suits a particular amateur rider can present a challenge for trainers. It takes experience, perseverance and a little luck to make sure any horse-and-rider combination will click successfully in the show pen.

There are different ideals that must be correlated, including physical size, personality types and suitability for use intended. Those considerations can also vary depending on the discipline.

Choosing a new horse ain’t easy. Read the rest of this entry »

Horseback Riding Basics: Position

August 4, 2014

Become a more effective rider by perfecting a proper horseback-riding position.

A correct riding position will sit you just above and behind the horse’s center of gravity. The position allows your horse balanced movement and helps you stay on. Journal photo

A correct riding position will sit you just above and behind the horse’s center of gravity. The position allows your horse balanced movement and helps you stay on. Journal photo

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Julie Goodnight in America’s Horse

Correct body position is as basic as it gets. Without it, you and your horse can’t balance properly, and you can’t deliver your aids correctly. It’s one of those things you need to master before you can really advance with your riding.

We’re talking about the alignment of a rider’s ear, shoulder, hip and heel. When you’re sitting on the horse, someone looking at you from the side should be able to draw a vertical line through the middle of your ear, shoulder and hip, going down behind the back of your heel. It’s pretty much the same position for all sports that require balance. Read the rest of this entry »

Did You Know? Part 2

July 28, 2014

In the second half of this series, learn more surprising facts about some common horse-industry products.

Capt. Grant Gillig wanted to find his own niche after retiring from the Air Force as an engineer. Intrigued by ultrasounds, he set to work on adapting them for equine use. Journal photo

Capt. Grant Gillig wanted to find his own niche after retiring from the Air Force as an engineer. Intrigued by ultrasounds, he set to work on adapting them for equine use. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

In the first part of this series, we asked if you knew some interesting stories from the history of the horse industry. Take a look at Part 1 for the stories behind quick-change stirrups, saddle horns and chaps.

Now, we’ll explore the stories behind more influential products in the horse industry.

Safe Fencing

Do you think the search for safe fencing has only been a goal of horse and cattlemen in more recent, enlightened years? Think again! Read the rest of this entry »

Did You Know? Part 1

July 21, 2014

In Part 1 of this series, learn the stories behind some of the common products you use every time you go horseback riding.

Earl Blevins fashioned a unique, flat metal buckle with blunt pins and a sliding cover that made adjusting those stirrups easier. Journal photo

Earl Blevins fashioned a unique, flat metal buckle with blunt pins and a sliding cover that made adjusting those stirrups easier. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Who figured out how to use an ultrasound in mares? How long have ranchers looked for safer fencing? The Journal staff dug up some unique stories and facts behind some of the everyday items in our American Quarter Horse world, and we thought you’d like to hear them.

Quick-Change Stirrups

The next time you step into your western stirrup, take a peek under the fender and see how it adjusts. Chances are there’s a Blevins’ Quick-Change Buckle there (or a copy of it). Have you ever wondered where it came from? Read the rest of this entry »

The Benefits of a Sacrifice Paddock

July 14, 2014

Discover the purpose of a “sacrifice paddock” for your horse farm and how to maintain one.

Sacrifice paddocks are typically devoid of grass but they still have many purposes on your horse farm Journal photo

“Sacrifice paddocks” are typically devoid of grass, but they still have many purposes on your horse farm. Journal photo

From myhorseuniversity.com

A “sacrifice paddock” is a small, fenced-in part of the farm that is heavily used, causing it to become bare, thus allowing the rest of the farm to maintain good grass. Although it is not often discussed, a sacrifice paddock can be beneficial to the horse, the farm and the environment.

Horses are often confined in sacrifice areas due to situations like: allowing limited grazing for the health of the animal, saving pasture grass, or perhaps because the horse is recovering from an injury, where rest and limited turnout is required. Read the rest of this entry »