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June 30, 2020 4 Comments
Most people who have horses in their life learn a tip or two from a close friend or family member who also has horses. They learn about steering, and pulling to stop. They learn about saddling and getting on, but few people learn about cinching up the saddle in stages. There is a term for a horse that holds their breath when the saddle goes on. It's called "cinch/girth bound." A cinch bound horse can rear, buck, or even flip over onto his side when the rider steps up into the stirrup. Most horses won't do this, but enough horses do get tight to warrant this issue as a rookie mistake.
The best practices for saddling, cinching, and mounting is to cinch in three stages. Stage one is just tight enough the saddle will stay on when the horse moves. After moving the horse around in a walking circle or two, even backing a step or two, it's time for stage two. Stage two is tightening the cinch a little more, not as much as you need for riding, but the horse should be breathing now and have some room for a tighter belt buckle. After moving a second circle at the walk or preferably the trot, it's time for stage three. Stage three is tightening the cinch for the ride. Just another notch or two. Once your weight is in the saddle the cinch sags, just a bit. That last cinching is to prevent the saddle rolling as you mount. And after all the moving, your horse is less likely to buck, rear or flip out when you step up in the stirrup.
Some people ride to enjoy nature, the scenery, the mountains, the fresh air, to take pictures, and socialize with their friends. Others ride for the horse, to exercise and prepare for performance. Preferably, one should have a bit of both personalities. On the extreme left, the rider is ignorant to the horses nature, to potential hazards. This rookie mistake could get you hurt. If a duck quacks in the pond as you near it and you didn't see that as a potential hazard, you could be spooked right out of the saddle. There are dozens of hazards to be aware of. Noises, sights, smells, pokes, pinches, bumps, you name it. Your horse, even good old horses, can be like a ticking time bomb. If you aren't aware of how your environment stimulates the horse you will be subject to whatever happens without the ability to check in with the horse before and during unstable situations.
Riders on the extreme right, or performance oriented riders often make the mistake of putting too much pressure on the horse in an effort to get the most out of the horse. Although these riders aren't at risk of injury like the others, they are at risk of ruining the relationship with the horse. It's good to take a balanced look at riding. Is it just for you, or just for your horse? Or is it for both of you? Can you open your eyes to your horses expression, experience the relationship with you and the environment you're riding through?
Rookie mistake number three is cantering or galloping on a horse that is unprepared. Cantering triggers extra emotions in the horse. If the horse is trained, it's not so bad, it's all okay to canter. But related to cantering is the concept of cantering up behind another horse. Once a rider gets the confidence to canter, they often make the mistake of cantering whenever they want, regardless of the horses and riders in the group. This type of rookie mistake wont injure you, it will injure the rider on the slow horse. Horses buy into each others emotions and when another horse comes galloping up from behind it can cause the other horses to bubble up in anticipation of the flight energy required to evade a predator. If you're a rookie, reading this, you can avoid this mistake simply by communicating what you want to do before you do it. The other group members will let you know if what you think is fun, will also be safe. And if no-one is sure, then you probably shouldn't do it. Take things slow and keep things safe until you're no longer riding with rookies, then the world is your oyster.
Among many things that bother horses, there are two that really stand out. One is being approached too quickly by others. The second is being left behind. Horses are herd animals and when one rider trots or canters out ahead of the other without communication and practice, this leaves the lagging rider in a very vulnerable position with a horse that can rapidly lose it's mind. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say they won't ever ride with a certain person or that group again because they just don't communicate and they don't seem to care about the others in the group. If you're a rookie, reading this, just ask the other riders to ask before they make any sudden speed changes on your ride, even in the arena you can get in trouble when a rider speeds off ahead and leaves the other. If you're an advanced rider. Don't make this rookie mistake anymore. You are now smarter than this.
Rookie mistake number five is riding all the way home and getting off at the barn or trailer. It's tempting to have the horse carry you all the way back, but it's just lazy horsemanship. You should get off your horse about a hundred yards from the destination and walk back in calmly. You don't want to cause a pattern where the horse gets in a hurry to get home and dump you off and your gear. You want the post-ride to be as pleasant for both of you as everything else. Maybe you've heard the term "barn sour," or "barn sweet." It depicts a horse that prances or runs back to the barn because they knows the ride is almost over and he's excited to get back to normal life and be left alone. You can ensure you never end up with this type of horse by not making this last rookie mistake.
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