Becoming A Better Rider – Day 7
Today is our 7th day of our becoming a better rider challenge. How is everything going so far? Are you still in? Are you developing good habits? Remember, every step you take toward this is a victory, so even if you have been with your horse for more than feeding, I would call that a win!
So far we have done a lot of prep and ground work. And the reason for this is to be safe on the ground, and establish a strong foundation. We are now going to transition that foundation to the saddle. So now we get some real riding time in to focus on. (YAY!)
It’s Time To Ride
Go ahead and saddle up your horse. I would encourage you to lead him to your riding area. This helps to get the both of you in the mode of getting ready for work. You don’t have to do this, however I have had good results with it. In fact, I don’t lunge my horses before I ride, I walk around the arena with them.
We walk 2 complete circles around the arena, both directions. And then we do some bending work, stopping and backing, all from the ground.
Then before I mount up, I check my girth one last time to make sure it is snug (but not too snug!).
Now we have spent maybe 10 to 15 minutes warming up on the ground, now it is time to get in the saddle.
Mounting, The Right Way
If you use a mounting block, or can just mount on your own, it is important to have your horse learn to stand still while mounting. Not only is this a safety issue, but also a respect issue. Your horse needs to respect your wishes, and do what you are asking him to do. If he is dancing around, or walks off the moment you are suspended in the air, he doesn’t respect you. If your horse does this, you need to work on getting him to stand quietly while you are getting on.
Just like everything else when it comes to horses, you want to make the right thing easy. If he dances around and won’t stand still when you try to get on him, make him walk. Make him move his feet. Make him back up. Make him move around you in circles. After a few minutes of work, try the standing still thing again. If his feet move at all, start the process again.
My guess is it will take 3 or 4 times at most of having to work that he understands if he just stands still, he gets to rest for a moment.
If he finally gets it, reward him by letting him stand and relax after you are in the saddle and give him a rub for a job well done.
If you haven’t been doing a lot of ground work with your horse until now, you might have been working on the mounting for 20 or 30 minutes. And that’s ok, but you still need to get on and ride for a little bit.
Focus on the Walk, Just the Walk
We are concentrating on walking today. The idea is learning how to feel what is happening beneath you at the walk.
You want to be able to feel the motion of your horse. While walking, try and see if you can tell which back leg is off the ground. Can you feel it? We learn best with repetition, so make a few laps around your arena and see if you can tell which foot is off the ground, both front and hind.
Also think about your seat, legs and hands.
Work at getting your heels down and keeping them there.
Practice your halts, and half halts.
Think about your your seat.
And don’t forget your hands. How are your hands? Are they low? Are they high and do you have a death grip on your reins? If you do, try and relax. You are riding for fun, remember?
You can ride as long as you like, but if you can, I would suggest riding at the walk for at least 15 to 20 minutes, if you can.
In The End
Once you are done riding, cool out your horse, and then untack and groom him. And don’t forget to clean your tack, and put everything back where it belongs. I am not trying to sound like your mother, but by establishing these habits now, they will become ingrained in your routine. In a few weeks, you will see an improvement in your speed as well as your efficiency.
Don’t forget to do your plank exercises, and write down your total time on your calendar, and draw your big red “x” over the day because you are done for the day!
This was a big day. There were a lot of different things that we did. We combined the groundwork and grooming, along with taking our horse for a walk, and riding and our plank exercises! That was a lot! Be sure to tell yourself how great you did!