Building On The Basics
Article 1- ongoing series- SAFETY AND GOOD HANDLING PRACTICES
Focused on beginner-intermediate level riders
Hello and welcome!
This is Jamie with you today. I am excited to have you with me as I discuss this new series we have planned for the second Tuesday of every month!
We are beginning another ongoing series, this week’s series will be called “building on the basics” and it will start from practically no horse knowledge and continue upwards as we move through the months and advance in knowledge and skill!
In this series, we are going to start from the ground up and work our way through the levels of horsemanship.
I will include many tips, and tricks to help you solve common issues you may face along the way, and give you some insight as to why these issues are happening.
This series is going to go from never absolute beginner who has never worked with a horse before up to riding and showing. We have a lot in store for you guys!
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We also are introducing our new Virtual Horse Training Program. We offer lessons, consultations, and so much more.
A quick note before starting:
Today we are going to start by addressing safety and good handling practices along with some terminology that I commonly use when training horses or giving lessons.
The number one thing you will constantly hear me hound is that YOU NEED TO HAVE A PROPER FOUNDATION IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH. A proper foundation leads to control and respect which open up the door for absolutely everything else you aim to do with your horse.
Understanding the process of training and terminology I personally use in my lessons:
One of the best things you can do as a beginner is to put intention behind the things you do when riding or training your horse. Without intention and understanding, everything you do with your horse is going to be ok… at best.
You can begin this process why breaking down different aspects of horse training, understanding the terminology used, and understanding the difference between different exercises and maneuvers you can do with your horse to accomplish a larger goal.
For example, if you are trying to teach your horse how to change leads or accomplish smooth transitions there are many different pieces of the puzzle, if you will, to even begin performing one of these movements.
This is where knowing terminology and strategies to accomplish your goal becomes essential and helpful.
“The less prepared you are, the more pressure you are going to end up applying. You may not even be fully aware of this pressure. This can take a lot of time, practice, and understanding to be able to pick out and develop feel for. You can end up causing your horse to become resistant to certain exercises or even work entirely due to undue pressure and lack of release.” -Jamie Ridge
Keep in mind that the less prepared you are, the more pressure you will apply to your horse (knowingly or unknowingly.)
This will teach your horse, in essence, to then RESIST what you are asking them to do. They may even become reactive
toward the specific maneuver you are trying to get them to perform.
Here is a list of common terminology I will use and WHY:
(Please note- different trainers use different language, so you may not understand some of the things I am referring to. Lingo or slang training terms can change based on the trainer, type of horses you are working with, or even the industry or discipline you are in.)
A maneuver is essentially the end goal or product. Ie. a reiners spin, a flying lead change, tempi’s, transitions, loading into the trailer, anything you want your horse to be competent and finished in.
An exercise is the activity and training methods or activities you use to TEACH the maneuver to your horse and build the foundational building blocks that create the ability for the horse to perform the maneuver well. Funny enough, the exercises are usually more challenging than the maneuver itself. This works in our favor because when the maneuver becomes the easier task, the horse looks forward to performing that task correctly and getting a reward (release of pressure.)
It is really important to understand the difference between a maneuver and an exercise as they are two different things that need to go hand in hand to create the finished product. The horse needs to be able to be competent in both maneuvers and exercises to be finished in any one thing. You also need to keep in mind that you will approach these things differently. Even once a horse is technically “finished’ in a maneuver, there is still going to be maintenance work that will need to be done to ensure correctness and “crispness” as I like to call it.
Crispness is describing an entirely finished, show pen ready maneuver. Many times you will hear me telling my clients to add crispness to what they are doing. This means tightening everything up and making it cleaner looking, fresh, and perfected.
Get them back, or stop and back
When I ask you to do this, this means immediately stopping and backing your horse up until you are told to stop. I will generally ask you to do this when a horse is speeding up and not listening to the aids of the rider, falling on the forehand and not using their body, or when I am helping riders work on transitions, lightness, or responsiveness with their horses.
A sidepass is when you move your horse moves laterally, crossing over with both front and rear feet while maintaining complete straightness through their body.
Pivot/ haunch turn
A pivot or haunch turn is when your horse turns a circle while standing still. The horse will cross over with their front legs and have one hind foot that “sticks” its spot or doesn’t move while the opposing hind foot rotates around the foot that does not move. The foot that the horse sticks is usually always the right hind.
Forehand turn/ turn them around on the front
The forehand turn is just as it sounds, the horse spinning on the front end. They will rotate around a front foot that “sticks” or does not move. (Usually, this is the right front.) When the forehand turn is perfected, the horse will maintain complete straightness through their body during the turn or only a very slight bend. These styles may vary depending on breed.
Shoulders in/ Take the shoulder away
This is referring to when your horse is dropping their shoulder out or you are aiming to gain control over the front end and isolate their shoulders. To do this, you need to take their shoulder away, which is bending the horse’s head in the opposite direction of the turn. This then creates the ability to have control over their shoulder, so, if you are turning your horse right, their head and neck are bent left. This repositions your horse and reinstates standing their shoulder up. This can be done on the ground, in the saddle, walking, trotting, or loping/cantering. It is an essential aspect of bending and flexing your horse.
Bring the shoulder around or give the shoulder back
Opposite of taking the shoulder away, the horse’s head and neck are bending in the same direction as the turn. Can be performed at all gaits or on the ground.
Now that we have some of the terminology and what it means out of the way we can focus on learning some of the primary basics.
I totally understand that most of you guys are beyond the basics, but we want to include everyone and start from the ground up. This is aimed towards any of our absolute beginner horse riding audience or even those who do not currently own horses, but would like to one day.
Horse care and training information that is as educational as a lesson with a trainer in person, should be available for everyone, everywhere!
Curious about your horses feet? Check out our Guide To Hooves For The Horse Owner .
Beginning working with horses safety and precautions:
Before you work with horses you need to have a general idea of some of the places you should and should not be around your horse, where to stand, how to react, and the general do’s and don’t along with how to prepare to go to the barn.
Preparing yourself to go ride or work with horses:
Prior to ever stepping foot in the barn, you want to think about the attire you are going to wear.
You want to make sure that you are wearing close-toed shoes, long pants, generally a long but fitted top, and have a helmet, gloves, half-chaps, or other aids at your side ready when you need them.
Never ride in shorts, flip-flops, or tennis shoes.
They all present their own dangers regarding what could happen, but some of the things I have witnessed with people riding in shorts and inappropriate shoes have been cuts, burns, feet getting caught leading to getting drug, and even broken bones and joints.
Make sure you are careful and wearing the appropriate gear.
Safety around horses the basics:
There are many things to consider around horses and your safety needs to be the primary number one.
Horses are large animals that can weigh over 1500-2000 pounds depending on how large your horse is.
Horses, inherently, have a tendency to become spooky, flighty, and turn off the thinking area of their brains quite quickly.
This means that as an owner, handler, or rider we need to be constantly reminding our horses to think, listen to us, and we ourselves need to be diligent of our own safety.
Horse mentality and their blind spots
It is important to keep in mind that horses are fight-or-flight animals.
They live in herds and rely on the most dominant horse to make decisions regarding the well-being and safety of the other horses within the herd.
Horses have the ability to use both monocular and binocular vision, but they have multiple “blind spots” or places with limited to no vision.
They include directly in front of the horse’s nose, underneath the horse’s head near the chest, underneath the belly, and directly behind the tail.
If you are standing in any of these areas it is important to make sure that you are cautious and that your horse is well aware that you are there.
Walking around your horse
You also want to make sure that you walk safely around your horse.
This means that you walk either close enough to them that if they kick they are not going to be capable of getting you hard or in a way that could hurt you, or far enough away from them that if they kicked out they are not going to get you.
Even the kindest horses can kick at times, and they may get you even if they were not intending to kick you.
I have seen many people get kicked by horses that never intended to kick them but were striking out or kicking at flies, a dog, something that made them nervous or caught them off guard, etc.
Leading your horse
When you are leading your horse, no matter if you are practicing groundwork or just taking them for a walk, it is important that you always lead them on the correct side and from the correct position.
You will want to face straight forward with your chest lined up with your horse’s jaw.
Have your right hand on the lead rope and your left hand holding the excess rope.
Aim for around 4-6 inches of slack in the lead rope from where you are holding to the clip of the rope.
This will give you the ability to control your horse if something happens.
One other thing regarding leading that is really important is that you should never, under ANY circumstance wrap a rope attached to a horse around your hand, arm, or any part of your body.
If they take off, get scared, or anything happens, the chances of you getting injured or drug through the arena/ wherever you are is exponential.
Thank you for tuning in today. We look forward to seeing you next time to continue building upon our foundations in horsemanship!
God bless each and every one of you. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.
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