It was my birthday in a few days ago, I turned 26! And as I started riding when I was 10, I realised that I’ve been around horses for a while now, and so I’ve picked up a few things on the way, especially with my course and the numerous work experience I had to do! And some things you might find usefull 🙂 So here we go, 16 things I’ve learned in 16 years around horses.
1. Horses react in the instant, they don’t plan and they don’t think about the past. They have memories, of course, and learned behaviours from previous experience, but they don’t think and go through life like we do, because they don’t have the ability to reflect on their own self. This makes a big difference in how we need to interact with our horse.
2. Horses are constantly learning from us. Every second that we spend around our horses is important, because they interpret every little thing that we do. Remember that horses are herd animals, and therefore they are extremely good when it comes to body language! Your horse is naughty only with you? Rethink how you act around them, because it’s never random!
3. Horses always have a reason for acting the way they do. We might not always understand it, but they never do anything for the sake of doing it. So if your horse bites when you do the girth, refuses jumps or suddenly takes off, there’s a reason for it. Looking for that reason might be really hard, but worth it!
4. You should always hold your lead rope with 2 hands. You never know when your horse is going to try and run for its life, and you will always have a lot more controle if you’re holding on with both hands. A little something I picked up from being around foals and yearlings!
5. Adding on to the subject, you should always leave a fair bit of space between where you hold the lead and where the snap hook is: if your horse starts jumping around and you’re holding on too close to the head, you’re going to struggle a lot more to keep controle because your horse will be throwing you around with it’s head! (another golden nugget from being around foals, yearlings and stalions!) Plus, if you hold the lead too close to the head, you’re not leaving a clear space for your personal space, and like I said before, body language is extremely important with horses.
6. If your horse bites when you do the girth up, you can grab hold of the right rein to hold the head towards the right so that your horse can’t turn to you. It’s a cheap trick but it works everytime and I’ve avoided many bruises this way. Also, if your horse bites when you do the girth, there’s discomfort so call your “back person” 😉
7. Horses react to pressure. When you ride, remember to allow your horse to be pressure free when they respond well to your command. Did he move forward when you asked? Release the pressure of your legs straight away, this is the only way horses learn! Trust me, you don’t want to become just white noise for your horse when you’re riding.
8. A horse that has a bend is less likely to take off. If you lose control of your horse, try putting them on a bend, it’s a lot harder to accelerate when you’re going round. Although I’ve met a few super flexible ponies, the majority of horses will slow down their rythm this way.
9. The more equipement you have on your horse, the less communication you actually have with your horse. Good riders don’t need draw reins, martigale or spurrs to move their horses about. 17 year old me was genuinly surprised when a top dressage rider told me to get on a horse with a simple snaffle and no other equipement. Even more when, with his instructions, I got a lot more than I ever did from a horse before! It’s not about what you use to ride, it’s how you ride that matters!
10. If you’re approaching a scared/worried horse, go towards the shoulder. It’s the safest place for you to stand, but it’s also the place that feels the saffest for the horse, so less chances for him/her to kick! (once again, I seem to be around dangerous horses a lot!)
11. Horses have 2 blind spots, one right in front of them and one right behind. That is because their eyes are on the side of the head, unlike ours. This gives them a really big field of vision, but still leaves those 2 blind spots… So make sure your horse hears you coming.
12. Horses love a good scratch. I know it’s obvious, but if you know where to scratch your horse, you build a real bond with them, and they’re a lot more likely to show affection and relax when you’re around! But be careful not to let them push you around after! Scratches don’t mean they can bully you 🙂
13. This one is a recent one from a few months ago, but I have to say it made a lot of sense: every horse owner should know how to take a shoe off their horse, as a basic safety thing. So ask your farrier to show you, and get some tools! It’s quite easy, and it might avoid a lot of problems next time your horse comes back from the field with a shoe dangling off the feet.
14. Similarly, always take a hoofpick with you when you go on a long hack. Nothing more frustrating than having a lame horse because of a stone that got stuck between the foot and the shoe. It’s something I was told when I was 11, and having been a fair few long hacks (long as in almost 2 weeks), I can assure you, it can feel like a life saver.
15. Look for an instructor that doesn’t tell you to do things, but explains to you HOW to do them. This one took me about 6 years, but I can’t even begin to tell you how much my ridding improved once I started riding with someone who would yell “keep your back straight, ask for a bend, hold your hands up” instead of “slow down”!
16. Never stop learning and always question why you do what you do with your horse.I’ve been around many people that had 30+ years experience with horses, and they all always said that they never stopped learning from the horses they met. And I really think it’s the best way to serve our beloved horses 🙂