As the sun melts the layers of snow from the hard winter, many people are searching for excuses to spend evenings and weekends outside. For those of us who know the joys of horseback riding, our excuse is saddled and ready to ride. Perhaps this summer will be the year that we truly appreciate the majestic relationship between horse and owner as we experience one of the many equestrian campgrounds that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources maintains. For those who do not yet know the joys of horseback riding, perhaps this will be the summer that we finally take the plunge and appreciate the beauty of riding atop such a powerful and graceful creature. While the idea of sitting on a horse nearly 5 ½ feet in the air may be intimidating, these horseback riding tips will take away any of your fears.Princeton
Preparing for the Ride…
The key to successful horseback riding is preparation. Before riding, mounting, or even selecting a horse, you should always make sure to find a certified riding instructor. These horseback riding lessons are a small investment that can pay off in dividends in your riding career. Horseback riding lessons from a qualified instructor can make riding faster, easier, and safer. And the knowledge that you gain in these classes will be the foundation for a lifetime of horseback riding. When selecting a horseback riding instructor, you want to make sure to select someone who is certified. The American Riding Instructors Association (ARIA) says that a certified riding instructor is not only proven his or her competency in horseback riding, but she or he is also committed to safety and learning. With a qualified instructor at hand, you can confident as you begin to prepare for horseback riding (and have a good source for additional horseback riding tips).
The next step of these horseback riding tips for preparation is to learn all aspects of horsemanship. Horsemanship, more commonly referred to as horse whispering, is a fancy word that describes the various learning techniques to prepare a rider to understand and care for a horse. The American Horsemanship Association argues that the key to learning the horsemanship necessary for horseback riding is finding opportunities to interact with certified instructors. Summer camps, weekend retreats, and equine conferences can be great opportunities to gain knowledge and experience with horses. And never underestimate the value of a good book. While reading will not provide you with the hands-on experience required of mastering horsemanship, these books can provide a strong foundation of knowledge that you can enhance through real-time interactions.
Caring for the Ride…
The next step to proper horseback riding preparation is making sure that your horse is well-maintained. You would not plan to drive a car without gas…and your car is not a living creature. Proper care for your horse is essential to successful horseback riding.
Taking care of your horse begins with food and water. (Shocking, I know.) We often underestimate the value of a well-fed (in both quantity and quality of food) and watered horse. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are several key considerations when preparing your horses meal: what to feed and when to feed. The bulk of a horse’s diet should be roughage with grains used sparingly (as needed) as a supplement. You should design (perhaps with consultation) a diet that is appropriate for your animal, considering the size and type of work of you animal. Any changes to the horse’s diet should be done slowly over time. The timing of your horse’s diet is also crucial for success. Horses naturally graze slowly over time. You will want to give your animal access (whether in a stable or a pasture) to food throughout the day so that you can replicate this timetable. And you also want to avoid feeding directly before or after exercise as this may irritate the animal’s stomach. Much like food, water should be available to the animal throughout the day. A horse will select when to consume liquid (as we are all aware, “you can lead a horse to water…”). The key to hydration for a horse is in proper water storage systems. The weather can make water storage difficult (e.g., heat leads to evaporation or cold leads to freezing) and contamination can be a costly dilemma. You will want to invest in an effective water storage unit.
In addition to being well-fed, a maintained horse is properly groomed. According to Equestrian Magazine grooming is not only important for the health of your horse (as it promotes a healthy coat and skin), but can be crucial for bonding an animal and garnering trust. After securing your horse, you will want to pick your horse’s hooves of all dirt, debris and foreign objects. (The proper and effective techniques to pick a horse’s hoof can be learned through Horsemanship courses.) You will also want to brush a horse’s coat repeatedly with multiple tools (e.g., curry comb, dandy brush, or a soft brush). Each of these treatments is important and serves an important function for the animal. Your well-groomed horse will be a better horseback riding partner.
These horseback riding tips have already mentioned multiple tools that you will need for proper horse care (e.g., multiple grooming tools, a water storage unit). Make sure that you are prepared for the tasks by having all the necessary equipment. You are probably excited at the prospect of buying bits, bridles, and saddles, but the list of required equipment is much longer. You should consult with an expert, perhaps your horseback riding trainer, for what items your horse needs or visit a website that has these items listed (for example, http://horses.about.com/od/buyingyourfirsthorse/f/basequip.htm). You want to make sure that you consider all of these items and the many costs of horse ownership, such as storage, veterinary costs, and training among others, before purchasing your own horse. A horse can be an expensive, but highly rewarding, investment if you are properly prepared.
Pairing for the ride…
With some base knowledge learned through riding lessons and your horse fully prepared for the ride, you are now ready to team up with your horse. You will want to spend some quality time with your horse. Just walk around together. You want to get a sense of how the horse moves while gaining each other’s trust. Horse trainer Ben Rubenstein claims that you should spend a fair amount of time just sitting on the horse so that you can get a sense of the horse’s body and can assess your horseback riding equipment. (You can make any changes that you sense necessary by doing this task fully.) You also want to spend some time understanding how to lead your horse.
There are a couple of tricks that can help you learn to lead the horse. (Although this is something that you also want to work with a certified instructor during horseback riding lessons.) Western Horseman Magazine claims that the key to understanding a lead can actually be a different four-legged friend: a dog. Take a dog out on a leash into an open area and observe the dog’s different gaits. Try to understand how and why the dog changes between these strides before taking the leash and leading the dog through them. If a dog isn’t around, then you can observe your own running patterns through your backyard. How does your body react to quick turns? Or uneven turf? You can start noticing patterns of movement that will quicken your understanding of how to lead a horse.
You can take this knowledge about the lead onto your horse in a safe and controlled environment. You will be focusing on the relationship between you and your horse so you will want to minimize all other distractions. The easiest horseback riding tip to improve your safety and your horse’s concentration is to ride in open areas as a beginner. You will not have the ability to watch out for obstacles with enough time to minimize their threats because you will be focused on the animal close to you. An open field or pasture will be perfect for these early riding sessions, particularly as you are mastering taking the lead of the horse. With a certified riding instructor at your side, these early experiences will give you the skills, knowledge, and confidence you need to be an expert rider in no time.