Day 8 Of The Confident Rider Challenge
The day has finally come where we are going to tack up our horses! Finally, right?!? Well, even though we are tacking up our horses, I am not planning on riding today, because I can’t. But I can use this time to plan for when I am able to ride and that is what today is all about.
If the temptation is just too great, and you can’t resist climbing up into the saddle, go ahead. And I’m jealous. Just don’t forget your helmet.
Good Grooming Matters
Spend some time grooming your horse before you throw that saddle onto his back. And while I am mentioning it, be sure that your tack is in good repair and serviceable. I haven’t really gone over grooming or keeping your tack clean for this challenge. But if you want more information on how to groom or clean your tack I have written previous blog posts about both topics. But let’s get back to grooming our horses now.
Pay attention to where your tack will be. And be sure these areas are spotless. You don’t want all your hard work side tracked because you missed a clump of mud under his front leg that is irritated when you tighten up the girth.
Tacking Up For The First Time
During the tacking up process, you want to be sure your horse is standing still. If he isn’t, he isn’t ready for the saddle just yet. If this happens to you and your horse is dancing around while you put the saddle on, maybe spend your time today practicing putting the saddle on and taking it off. When he stands still for getting tacked up is when you are ready to move forward to the next level. And it may not happen in one session. It might take 2 or 3 days for your horse to get it that he needs to stand still while you are working around him. And that’s fine. Give him the time he needs to get used to what you are doing.
Be sure to apply everything you will use for riding. If you use boots or polo wraps, put them on. A fly veil? Yep, that goes on too. Everything that you will be using when you ride, you should put on your horse now.
And if you have a bridle that has a Mecate rein, you can even put this on too. That is what I am using with Ethan. The Mecate rein is long. This one is 20 feet long. So I can use it as a rein, and also a lead. If you are going to be riding in an English saddle, it will be difficult to use a Mecate rein for riding. Because the excess rein is wrapped around a saddle horn. But for ground work, you can use one no matter what discipline you are riding. Do you notice how Ethan’s back leg is cocked in this photo? He is relaxed, even though I am putting the bridle on! I call that a win for the day!
And yes, I am using a western saddle for Ethan today. Even though my end goal is for him to be a jumper, I am starting him in western tack because I feel more confident and secure in this tack. So my jumper will be a western horse, for a while.
Walking Under Tack
Once your horse is all tacked up, it’s time to go for a walk in your riding area. I like to use the dressage letters I have set up to do pattern work. We can do circles, or serpentine’s, and changes of direction to keep this interesting for Ethan.
And every now and then I will go over to the mounting block, that lives in my arena, and we will just stand there. The mounting block is the only place Ethan gets to rest in the arena, for now. This will be very helpful in the future when I am actually using the mounting block for its intended purpose.
We all want our horses to stand still for mounting, right? By establishing standing by the block now, before you climb aboard to ride will make mounting much easier when we go to do it. And I have an entire day dedicated to getting your horse to stand still for mounting coming up. So practice a little bit now, before that day comes.
Spend at least 15 minutes walking and working in your arena. And work on using the cues you will use when you are riding. Walk next to your horse, not in front of him. Use the reins like you would while you are riding.
Ask him to walk forward. And if he seems confused, or doesn’t move forward with you by his side, use the end of a crop where your heel would be, just behind the stirrup to encourage forward movement. If you don’t have a crop or don’t use one, use your stirrup to bump him. He should take a step forward, because he is moving from the pressure you have created. And if he isn’t responsive, ask for a step or two back first and then try it again. Work on this on both sides of your horse in both directions of your arena.
Work On Your Halts
After he has the walk down, now we want to work on our halts. Using your reins, apply pressure, like you would if you were in the saddle and say “whoa.” If he doesn’t get it the first time, that’s ok. Take a few steps forward and ask for “Whoa” again. You can also apply pressure to his chest or the front of his leg to reinforce the whoa.
Look For Scary Places
While you are walking around your arena, watch your horse for sings of anxiety. If there are places that he is a little more reactive, spend time in those areas. To make it a little more enticing for him to go into these scary places, bring some cookies for him. You could place a cookie on something scary, like a jump standard, or a wheel barrow, whatever it is that is causing him concern. Lay a cookie on it and allow your horse to retrieve the cookie. You might just find your horse starts seeking out scary things because there has got to be a treat there, if it’s scary, right?!?!
After a bit of walking in the arena your horse should start to settle in and be relaxed. This is when you find a good place to end your work session. If you have worked on all these tasks, and your horse looks bored, this is a perfect ending point for your training today. But if he is still dancing around and nervous and you have been working for a long time, take a deep breath yourself and think about something your horse is really good at in the arena. Have him do it, reward him with a pat and praise, and then stop. You can always pick up again tomorrow.
However, if you have been diligently working with your horse every single day over these last 7 days on the ground, he should be quiet with everything you are asking of him. Sure, when you get started he might be a little more reactive. But by the end of your work sessions, he should be quiet and responsive. Today should just be another day of groundwork in his mind.
Today’s challenge is to get your horse tacked up, and work him from the ground in the arena. Spend some time working with your reins, similarly to how it will be when you are in the saddle. So get out there and work with your horse today. Even if it is only for 10 minutes, those 10 minutes will get you closer to being more confident in the saddle.
And be sure to come back tomorrow when we work on getting our horses to stand still for mounting! And if you want to know ahead of time what we will be working on, be sure to download the 30 day calendar. You can find it on the first day of our challenge by clicking here.That way you will know what each day will hold for you and your horse.