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Hi Hannah. I started riding two and a half years ago, and I'm riding this super awesome pony. But because I'm not that good at riding, I feel like I'm ruining him. My trainer asked me to ride an other pony, but he's the only one I trust. I'm just so... scared. Can you help me? :(

Anonymous

I’m sorry you’re scared! Though I can pretty much guarantee that there’s no reason to be :) riding new horses can be intimidating and scary at first, but ultimately it’s a good thing. The best way to become a better rider is to increase your saddle time and gain experience on different types of horses. Look at getting asked to ride this other pony as an opportunity, not as a problem. Your trainer probably asked you to ride him because she thinks he’ll be able to teach you something new, not because she feels you’re ruining the pony you’re on now (don’t sell yourself short!). I’d try one lesson on this new pony, and see how it goes before you let yourself spiral into more anxiety- go in with an open mind, and focus on the basics (heels down, leg on, hands together, body back, eyes up). Concentrate on falling into a rhythm with him, and just get to know him a little so you can start to build trust. It’s natural to have trust with the pony you’ve been on for years, but you have to let yourself learn to get comfortable with other horses as well.

If you’re really not comfortable riding this other pony, that’s fine. Talk to your trainer about it and see what you two can work out so that you’re happy and confident in the saddle. It’ll give you a chance to understand her reasoning behind putting you on this other pony as well, which could help clear some things up :)

12 hours ago on April 17th, 2014 |J

Submissions, anyone?? ⇢

13 hours ago on April 17th, 2014 |J
I bet you get this question a lot, I'm sorry! But what are ways to create a really strong bond and trust with my horse? Obviously it needs some time, but what things can I do?

Anonymous

Spending time with a horse is the best way to build a bond, as your horse will get comfortable around your presence. Groom him, hand graze him, give him “spa days”, etc. Playing with him in the turnout is a fun way to get closer as well- chase him around, or play “games” like follow the leader or hide and seek (with treats for extra incentive haha). Working with him on the ground is a good way to connect too. You’re right that ultimately trust will build with time, so be patient :)

23 hours ago on April 17th, 2014 |J
To the person who uses their heels instead of calves to urge the horse, I used to have the exact same problem and one thing that helped me massively was riding with no stirrups. It's obviously good for strengthening, but seriously improves your eq with the purpose of making your leg more efficient! It made me put my leg in the slightly more forward and correct position that made goosing with my heels more difficult and having the correct parts of my leg in contact. Try a lap or two every ride :)


^^^

23 hours ago on April 17th, 2014 |J
I've been riding for three years and was jumping 3' until recently when for no apparent reason, my riding started going down hill fast and now I can't seem to do anything right. I can't even do the simplest things and my trainer has started putting me in beginner lessons and talking to me in a condescending tone and it's really shaken my confidence. The barn used to be my happy place but now I find myself dreading going there and I always come home feeling terrible about myself. How can I get

Anonymous

my confidence back up? Also, my newly formed bad habits are dropping my outside shoulder when circling (circles are the hardest thing EVER right now), moving my outside hand up on his neck when circling instead of supporting him (??? I think…. I’m always super confused about this when my trainer talks to me about it), my leg is swinging a lot (I’ve always rode with short stirrups but my trainer is making me lengthen them now), I can’t sit the t/c for the life of me anymore, and he hangs on his front instead of using his hind end.

I’m sorry you’ve lost some confidence, but I can guarantee you that all of your riding ability hasn’t just vanished. Don’t let your mind spiral into more and more negativity. I know it’s hard to do, but you really have to try to have a short memory and switch gears so that you’re not constantly dwelling on a bad lesson. Make yourself smile and breathe, and keep reminding yourself that a few bad lessons don’t define you as a rider. Learn what you can from those lessons (ask your trainer for input on what you can do to fix them as well) and then move on. Sometimes it’s easy to just focus on the bad parts of the lesson- what you did wrong, what you could’ve done better, etc. But try to balance those thoughts out with being fair to yourself and remembering some positives as well- what you learned to apply for your next ride, what you got better at, etc. Focus on the horse, not the past. Put your energy into feeling that connection, sitting centered in the saddle and moving fluidly with your horse. Focus on the basics, not “what if” scenarios or dwelling on thoughts like “oh man I really messed up that circle I did 10 minutes ago”. Now, I don’t know your barn or your trainer, but try thinking about if this barn is truly the best place for you- it might be helpful to look at some other barns, just to know your options, and considering switching someplace where you click more with the trainer and you feel happier at (the barn should be a place to work, but it should also be a happy place).

As for your bad habits: Try working on strengthening your core and back muscles, so that your balance improves along with it and you can have control over your body placement. I have some exercises that I like that you can message me for, or you can just google some (yoga/pilates is great as well). When you ride, try only dropping one stirrup. Drop each stirrup separately in both directions, and then you can hone in on where you need improvement. Also, focus on keeping your shoulders even and open, rather than curling up or slanting to one side, and sitting centered in the saddle. You support and balance a horse via 3 points of contact: leg, seat, and hand. Apply inside leg heading into the turn, and add a steady outside leg as you start to bend out so your horse is supported on both sides of his body and can neither do a “motorcycle” turn where he totally falls in nor get stuck in the corner and make you overshoot your distance. At the same time, sit deep in the saddle so he’s rocked back and supported, and shift your weight slightly onto your outside seat bone to keep him from leaning in. Keep consistent contact with the bit on both sides of his mouth so you have a feel of his mouth and can keep him on his hind end rather than running unbalanced on the forehand (this also comes from keeping a steady leg and pushing him up into the bridle). Your leg will stop swinging when you strengthen your leg muscles as much as possible through exercises off the saddle as well as no-stirrup work so that you gain more muscle control. Also, when you ride, think about lengthening your legs and stretching through your calf so the weight is in your heel- use your heels to anchor your leg in place. Don’t pinch with your knees, but rather grip the saddle with your thighs and calves, as if there was a $100 bill between your leg and the saddle that you couldn’t afford to lose. Whew, sorry I wrote so much, hope this helps!

1 day ago on April 16th, 2014 |J
I recently had a riding evaluation at I different barn. I was riding a really lazy hunter (any tips on riding lazy horses?!) but when the trainer told me to use my crop for something, she had me use it behind my leg which came as a total shock to me. My trainer always has her students use the crop on the horses shoulder, and I had already been second guessing where to use it since eq tumblr had been debating this (and the majority agreed with the behind the leg method), but I don't know

Anonymous

where I should use it since my trainer has us use it on the shoulder but the summer camp I’m going to at that barn says behind the leg and apparently (according to eq tumblr) using it on the shoulder will get you disqualified in a show and now I’m so confused about where to use it, when, why, and HOW! As well as how to go about it with my trainer now, weeks after my eval. I’m sorry that was so confusing but I need help! Please. :)

No worries, it’s a confusing topic haha. First of all, the most effective use of the crop is behind your leg. It’s used as a reinforcement to your leg (which should be your primary aid), so if the horse doesn’t respond, you should tap him behind your leg to get him moving away from the pressure and respecting your cues. In schooling, a tap on the shoulder is fine every once in a while when you need to “block” the horse’s motion a certain way (like with a bulging horse) or give a quick “wake-up” tap, but all in all it’s not very effective as it doesn’t really make much sense when you consider what the crop is supposed to do. When it doubt, use it behind your leg so you get your point across faster, better, and make it so the response lasts longer. If you feel like you and your trainer aren’t on the same page, bring the topic up with your her, explain your thoughts and listen to her response- communication can go a long way. 

Now, as far as showing goes…I’ve never heard of a rule stating you’ll get disqualified for using a crop on the shoulder, but then again I confess that I haven’t looked at the rules recently. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that it’s a rule. Generally it’s up to the judge’s discretion. I’d imagine it depends a bit on your level- a short stirrup rider probably won’t get DQ’d, but a higher level rider very well might as they should “know better”. In all honesty though, using a crop at all (whether you use it correctly behind the leg or the judge allows a tap on the shoulder) will typically knock you down in points anyway, as it disrupts from the smoothness of the course and kind of draws the judge’s attention to the fact that something went wrong (the horse was naughty/lazy/etc). It’s fine to carry one, but be judicious and thoughtful in your actual use of it. Hope this helped clear some things up! :)

1 day ago on April 16th, 2014 |J
okay so i know one of the common rules to good eq is "toes in, heels down" and my heels ARE down most of the time but my feet generally point outwards. it's kind of a habit now but the thing is that my trainer has never corrected me before. the lesson horses at our barn are dead lazy and it's hard to get them forward-moving so everytime i rise and sit in the trot i have to always squeeze them with my heels, or keep the spur on them, making it hard to have my heels out instead of my toes.

Anonymous

Mm yeah, I know what you mean. It really comes from your hip. Focus on keeping your hips open, knees on the knee roll and pointed straight, and your thighs rolled in slightly and flat against the saddle, that way your leg can hang down more naturally. Don’t force your heels down, but rather stretch through your calf and sink into them (if they’re forced down it can contribute to your toes being forced too far out as well). And don’t necessarily think about twisting your toes in as that can be uncomfortable and artificial, but instead think about keeping your knees straight and your calves on the horse. I understand wanting to keep the horse going, but remember to use your leg first (don’t focus on squeezing with your heel…use your calves, and then you can nudge with the inside of your heel if needed), and then if you don’t get any response you can turn your toes out a little and spur him forward, and then once you get a reaction go back to your correct leg position. Remember that spurs are an artificial aid, so they should be used as a reinforcer, not as the primary aid. When your toes are turned out too much, your leg comes off the saddle, which is counterproductive to what you want and actually makes it harder to keep the horse going. If the horses are that unresponsive, maybe try carrying a crop to give them a tap behind your leg when they don’t listen to your leg so you don’t have to work that hard to keep them moving. If you’re having trouble finding the correct leg position, have your trainer place your leg where it should be so that you can start to form muscle memory. Make sure your stirrups are the right length as well, if they’re too short or too long it will make the task more difficult. 

That said, if it’s at all a matter of how you’re built you won’t be able to change much, and it’s a minor equitation flaw in the grand scheme of things (also, I get the sense that your toes are pointing way out, but they shouldn’t be totally straight either…you want about a 30-45 degree angle). But if you’re concerned you can try some basic physical therapy/stretching exercises, and just be very conscious of how you sit and stand normally. Good luck! :)

3 days ago on April 14th, 2014 |J
How important do you think equitation is when it comes to good riding? I've been seeing a lot of posts that talk about differences in how American riders vs. European/Australian riders are brought up, why are American riders usually taught with an emphasis on having perfect eq?

Anonymous

Right, good question! I’ll start off by saying that while I know sometimes the tumblr community likes to take this topic a little too seriously, equitation is not the end all be all. It doesn’t always perfectly align with being a good rider- you can be a good rider without textbook equitation, and you can have good position without being an effective rider. However, I believe most people should strive for having good equitation when beginning, because it provides for a solid foundation in your balance (it also looks better aesthetically in my opinion, but that’s just personal preference). After you have this foundation (heels down, centered over the saddle, proper release, independent upper body, etc), you can then deviate a little to fit your position to your horse’s riding style because you have the balance and muscle in order to do so effectively.

As far as the second part of your question goes, I’ve never been to Europe or Australia, but I think the American show world differs in a few aspects. For one, we have a very large presence of hunter and eq riders. In these disciplines, you’re judged subjectively, and part of what helps make a good impression in the ring is looking pretty and effortless…which usually comes from having a more classic position. In eq classes you’re judged primarily on your position and technical skill, so naturally you have to have that solid, traditional equitation. In hunter class, your horse is the one who is really being judged, so perfect position isn’t required, but you have to help show him off by making the course look easy, something that having the balance and lightness that you get from practicing traditional equitation helps with. In show jumping, obviously position doesn’t matter in the sense that you’re not judged, but again it helps with the balance needed to ask for power and speed effectively and to guide your horse over the fence. I wouldn’t say that all American trainers emphasize having textbook eq, but I suppose it’s true that the majority do…. however, there is some reasoning behind that. Like I said earlier, if you focus on having “good” position while you’re beginning, it will make it easier for you to have the skills to adjust your position later on to suit your horse. It’s a matter of striving for what is ideal— being an effective rider while keeping solid equitation. Eq isn’t the most important thing in the world by any means, but there is a method to the madness of the people who care about it. So, just as someone who doesn’t necessarily care about having textbook position shouldn’t be criticized, neither should someone who does care about and strive for having good equitation. Different perspectives, different results!

3 days ago on April 14th, 2014 |J
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4 days ago on April 13th, 2014 |J
First of all, I really like the way you're giving advise. You always imply that there is more than one way, more than one solution and more often then not more than one factor provoking a certain behaviour. You're awesome :) So... I had the same "pawing problem" with my horse when I got her. Funny enough she stopped after I teached her the Spanish Walk from the ground. I teached her the extended version of pawing so to speak and simultaneously introduced a signal how to make her stop.

Anonymous

Thank you! I try to allow for new ideas and different perspectives- in my experience there’s very rarely only “one way” to do things haha.

Oh that’s an interesting idea, I never would have thought of it. I suppose you’d have to be careful not to reward simply pawing and your horse would have to be pretty well-trained/responsive in order for that to work though, or else you might risk encouraging the pawing action if he doesn’t respect the signal/gets too comfortable with the movement. Regardless, I’m glad it worked for your horse! :)

4 days ago on April 13th, 2014 |J
My horse is constantly pawing at the ground every time I leave him. No matter what I do, he won't stop. any suggestions?

Anonymous

Hm…pawing is a hard habit to break, and there are some different ways to go about it. One option would be to totally ignore him when he’s tied, so that he realizes pawing will get him no attention. It’ll probably take a few sessions to really cement this idea, but in my experience with some horses even directly reprimanding them satisfies the attention they want. When he stops and stands still, praise him and let him know he’s a good boy. If you gradually increase the time he stands tied as well he’ll get used to it and will feel more secure, even when he’s alone. Keep him on a regular exercise schedule, and I’d also work on his ground manners as a whole by consistently handling him, as a way to increase his overall respect for you and calm some of that insecure, anxious energy that may be manifesting in the form of pawing. If you fix his insecurities and train him to be a more patient horse, the pawing will usually stop as well. There are more ways to try to fix this behavior, but however you choose to go about it just remember to be consistent. Good luck! :)

4 days ago on April 13th, 2014 |J
I wouldn't call myself an advanced rider but I'm no beginner. I've been leasing an OTTB gelding for a few months now and I don't think I trust him as much as I'm supposed to. I've been working on re-training him (he took a break after the track, he's only been in training for five months or so) but it doesn't feel like we're making giant strides. I love him, of course, but it doesn't feel like he trusts me or even cares who I am and he doesn't seem to want to please me. I don't know what to do.

Anonymous

Trust will develop with time, some horses give it more quickly than others (it takes at least six months to really get to know a horse, and sometimes even longer than that depending on the horse). Especially as an OTTB relatively new to work, he’s probably still adjusting and transitioning. If you feel like developing more of a bond/respect on the ground would help, I’d suggest spending lots of time just taking care of him and being around him, and a bond will form as he gets used to your presence. Groom him, bathe him, braid him, etc. You can also play with him in the turn out- chase him around, or play games like follow the leader or hide ‘n’ seek (with treats for extra incentive haha). Lunging or hand walking him over mini “obstacle courses” can be fun as well, depending on his temperament. 

As far as the actual riding goes, like I said before, the transition is probably fairly sudden to him so he’s still figuring out what to do. Give him time for his muscles to develop, so that he’s physically able to support himself and want to please you. When you’re training a horse, progress will come in small bits- it probably won’t be until after a few more months that you look back and really notice how far you’ve brought him. Don’t give up, go in each day with a plan for what you want to work on (focus on small achievements, and then as his balance and coordination improves you can start asking for more engagement) and ride actively and encouragingly. 

Good luck, hope this helps a little! :)

6 days ago on April 11th, 2014 |J