Seven horse riding tips for beginners
During my hack at the Albufeira Riding Centre in the Algarve, Portugal (read the review of the stables here) I learned several handy tips from the instructor. The points have helped my riding and hopefully they will help others, too. Here's a list of the things she said.
Firstly, I learned to keep my hands still. Previously I had got into the habit of moving my hands backwards and forwards with the motion of the horse’s head. But this was causing tightness then slack is the reigns.
By keeping my hands still it’s possible to maintain a constant and even reign contact which gives more control over the horse and can also help to strengthen the animal's neck and back muscles.
Car Hester: Notice how still Carl keeps his hands when riding
Secondly, I learned that it’s possible to ease the horse onto the bit by alternately opening and closing the fingers that are holding the reins. Again, the idea here is to keep the hands as still as possible so that they remain in the same position. I started by alternately pulling back on the left rein hen right rein but Georgie, the riding school owner and my hack escort, said that it could be done by opening and closing the fingers and that this way the hands remain still.
Thirdly, I learned that the same principle of opening and closing the fingers that hold the reins can be used to steer the horse. For example, closing the right fingers will tighten the right reign which will bend the horse’s neck to the right. Given what I have learned about the reign being used together with the opposite leg then squeezing the right reign and using the left leg will cause the horse to move to the right. The point of using the left leg is so that the horse’s rear end does not swing out causing him to over-turn. The outside leg also pushes the horse away from the leg in the general direction that it is turning.
Fourthly, I learned that keeping the elbows bent and slightly back so that a vertical line can be drawn from the ear through the shoulder, elbow, hip, knee and ankle, is a good way to maintain a comfortable body position. I’m not sure about this one as my elbows feel too far back than I have been using them. It does feel like there’s more power and leverage in my arms that way though.
Fifth, I learned not to shout when a horse takes off or spooks. I had already been told not to shout make too much noise by Emma Massingdale but for some reason I thought that this did not apply to shouting ”woooaahh” like a cowboy. This is what I did when Joe, my ride, bucked a couple of times with excitement when we cantered. Georgie said that making any kind of verbal noise gives him more energy and thinks there’s more reason to run.
Sixth, the body is used to move in time with the horse’s body and give it the energy and impulsion and rhythm to move forward. I’d thought about this for a while but I’ve never really hit the nail on the head with it. There’s also the idea that the body can be used to slow a horse and for downward transitions but again I’ve never got my head round this. I’ve been told several times that slowing the pace of rises can slow the trot but I’ve never really had the physical control to master this.
Seventh, Georgie recommended that I watch dressage riders and the motion of their hands. The riders wear white gloves so that the movements stand out the judges can mark them.
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