Horse Training For Beginners- Building On The Basics Part 2
After discussing some of the most basic principles of just being around horses in our first article on horse training for beginners, what comes next in learning horse training for beginners and beginning horsemanship? Find out in this article!
Some of the topics we are going to cover today are going to be:
- Parts of the horse
- Saddling a horse (If you haven’t checked out our article about saddle fitting find it here.)
- Bridling a horse
- Mounting a horse
- The emergency stop
- Tips for finding a horse trainer
- Exercises to practice as a beginner
Parts of the horse and how it applies to horse training for beginners
Knowing the different parts of your horse is essential to learn the way a horse moves and how they use their body.
In and out of motion.
This is one of the most important things that you can learn when you are learning beginning horse training.
Without an understanding of the horse’s body and how it operates, there will be no ability to comprehend how or why your horse works, and in return, you will never be able to problem-solve training difficulties or issues with your horse.
Some of the basics of the horse’s body:
Picture credit is used/ given entirely to the University Of Minnesota’s Extension program, found in a 2022 “Conformation Of The Horse” article.
Saddling is a task that can be tricky or even daunting for younger individuals or those who are just learning how to saddle up.
English saddles are much easier to place on your horse’s back than a western saddle generally is, but knowing how to properly place both on your horse’s back is essential to not only learning to ride but also helpful in preventing your horse from getting sore-backed.
The first thing you want to keep in mind is that just as you don’t want someone plopping something heavy on your back, neither does your horse.
Make sure your horse is groomed, prepared, and ready prior to placing the pad on its back. Double-check that no dirt or debris is trapped underneath your horse’s belly where the girth will go.
Placing your pad and saddle correctly
Once all these things have been completed place the pad on your horse’s back.
Place it far enough up their neck that the edge of your pad lines up directly with the middle of your horse’s shoulder.
(Or make sure it is around 1-2 inches in front of the withers.)
This helps to avoid any rubbing that may occur from your saddle pad along with helping with the placement of your saddle.
You want to also double-check that the pad is in line with your horse’s spine.
Where the crease of the saddle pad in the center is, should be located directly along your horse’s spine.
This helps the pad to distribute weight evenly and avoid pressure spots.
Next, gently place the saddle on the horse’s back.
Make sure to double-check the area between your horse’s wither and the pad.
I like to gently pull up on the pad and create a big bag between my horse and the pad.
Then, as long as the saddle is fairly straight I will cinch my horse up very loosely and then check to make sure the saddle is straight by assessing the stirrup length on either side of the saddle. (They should be fairly even.)
Before you go to get on your horse!
Now, I know you just saddled up, but before you put your bridle on and hop on your horse there are a few very important things you need to know about and check.
Horses have a tendency to bloat, essentially, as you are saddling them up.
After moving around for a few moments, they will relax and soften their belly, letting go of the bloat.
Always make sure to walk your horse around before double-checking the tightness of your cinch/ girth.
This could help you avoid a potentially catastrophic accident.
Bridling a horse
Bridling can be either very easy or fairly complicated depending on the horse you are working with and if you have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve to get your horse to willingly accept their bit.
The first thing you want to do is make sure that the bit isn’t ice cold.
Most horses do not like cold bits going in their mouth, especially during wintertime.
Second, drop your horse’s halter down and around its neck and re-secure it.
Place your right hand gently over the poll over your horse’s head while holding your bridle.
This pressure will clue your horse to drop its head down.
Next, place your thumb into your horse’s mouth while simultaneously holding the bit.
This will get your horse to open their mouth, and when they do, gently slide the bit inside its mouth and finish placing and securing your bridle on your horse’s head.
Problem-solving bit problem for beginning horse riders
Occasionally, you may get a horse who opens up and grabs the bit, but other times you will end up with a horse that will flip and toss its head up in the air.
The first horse spoken of obviously will be very easy to bridle. (I had one like that!) The second can be fairly challenging. (I have also had MANY like this.)
I highly suggest getting your horse’s teeth looked at if they are tossing their head.
If their teeth are fine after a vet check and potential dental work and you are still having an issue it could be a TMJ joint problem, an ill-fitting bit (both pressure-wise and fit-wise.)
OR it could be a behavioral issue.
As a beginner, I would suggest getting some additional help if your horse is dangerous or potentially flipping over when approached with bridling.
If your horse is not dangerous you can try doing groundwork and getting them used to their face being touched.
Saddlebox.net suggests trying the following:
“Once you’ve checked your horse for sources of pain and have properly fitted your bridle and bit, you can start to improve your horse’s acceptance of the bit and solve the problem at hand.
— Make the bit delicious! Try dipping your bit in apple sauce or molasses before presenting it to your horse.
— Remove unnecessary components of your bridle. If you simplify the equipment you’re working with, you might be able to bridle your horse more efficiently. For a horse that is face-shy, try ditching the noseband and browband and working with just the headstall component. For a horse that is ear shy, try unbuckling your headstall and fastening it behind their ears instead of pushing their ears down and pulling the headstall over.
— Use a mounting block. This is especially useful if you have a horse that likes to throw its head up to avoid the bridle. If you stand above your horse, they will have a harder time evading it.
— Use a rubber bit. If you know your horse has had its teeth clanked by metal bits in the past, try switching to a rubber bit until they accept the bridle well. Rubber bits will not hurt a horse’s teeth if they happen to bump them on the way in.
— Go slow! Never shove the bit in your horse’s mouth or pry their mouth open aggressively. You want to encourage relaxation while bridling, not fear.
— Use poll pressure. If your horse tends to throw their head up to avoid the bridle, try applying pressure at the poll, and release when your horse lowers their head in response. This is something that can be worked on during a typical groundwork session, even when a bridle is not involved!”-Saddlebox.net
Before I get too far into mounting a horse I want to express to beginners, intermediate, and advanced horse handlers everywhere.
Never put up with your horse leaving you while you are trying to mount or get on the mounting block.
If you are a beginner you may not have much control over the situation, so make sure you have someone there to help you who is familiar with horses.
The best option is to actually have someone hold the horse for you while you are mounting.
If you have a horse that tends to leave you at the mounting block or takes off the second you go to sit in the saddle you will want to make sure that you start working with your horse on the ground and while on the mounting block.
To me, the way a horse stands at a mounting block can be a major sign of horse respectful your horse is (or isn’t!)
A great tactic that always worked well for me with any impatient horses I dealt with in my training program was to walk them up to the mounting block and just make them stand there.
If they moved, they got to walk in a circle and be “schooled around” and go back to immediately standing by the block again.
Repeat this process until they decide to stand still. You can also do the same thing on their back as well.
The emergency stop
Knowing how to perform an emergency or “one-handed” stop is important for safety while riding.
This is both for your AND your horse’s safety. Imagine, your horse takes off with you and they are running right towards the road, a cliff, a large ditch, whatever it may be.
Being able to control them in this situation could mean the difference between life or death for you or your horse.
I have seen enough wrecks in the horse industry in my career that I can guarantee that if more people would be capable of properly and constantly maintaining control over their horses in difficult or dangerous situations, many of the accidents I have seen could have been avoided or the impact and damage greatly reduced.
So what IS an emergency stop?
An emergency stop or partial half halt is when the rider pulls the horse’s head around to one side and turns in a very tight circle while still maintaining their forward momentum.
This will help you to gain control over your horse because you are controlling its hind end (power source) along with the direction of its head and front end.
Tips for finding a horse trainer
Finding a reliable and reputable horse trainer is a great step to take as a beginner.
It is the number one most important thing you can do for your growth as a horsewoman or horseman.
A professional can watch you working with your horse and pick out issues you may not even be aware of and help you problem solve and improve your skills.
Here are a few ways you can narrow down your trainer search:
- Ask them a lot of questions.
- Ask for referrals.
- Go to local breed shows and walk through the barns and talk with various trainers, you will also get an opportunity to watch them with their clients.
- Take lessons from multiple trainers for a “trial period.”
Exercises to practice as a beginner
There are so many wonderful exercises I could recommend for beginners, but I will keep it brief and select my favorites for my absolute beginning students.
Working on the lunge line under saddle
This is great for absolute beginners who are just getting a feel for riding a horse and getting in tune with the horse’s rhythm.
You will need another experienced individual to control your horse in a calm and consistent manner on the lunge line as you ride in the saddle.
Alternate between dropping stirrups, or just one. Point your toes up and down and work on your balance. You can also do this by holding your arms straight up, to the side, or in other various positions.
Once you have gotten the hang of everything up to this point, even advanced riders can still benefit from additional lunge line exercises like posting without stirrups and holding their arms up, alternating posting strides, and so many other things!
Riding your lines, doing circles, and squares
As a rider, it is important, especially for beginners to start to learn feel, and timing and further get in tune with being on horseback. Riding straight lines, doing figure eights, riding around cones, practicing turning circles and using rein and leg pressure/ aids, and practicing squaring corners (riding squares.)
Make sure you pick a focal point when practicing lines as this will help guide you in a straight line. Where you look you end up going, keep that in mind!
Final thought points
Well, this concludes the second article in our series for beginners starting from the ground up. Thank you for tuning in today and looking forward to discussing more exciting beginner horsemanship tips and information with you next time,
God bless and take care,
Today’s bible verse:
His Steadfast Love Endures Forever
136 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
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