Controlling the Horse
Now you're mounted and ready to walk out the gate and line up for a ride in
the field, around the outside of the ring. Begin walking Tiki in an orderly
fashion; all horses should be safely spaced one horse length apart.
Tiki's definitely different from other horses you've ridden. You just barely
gave the aids to the walk and he moved forward. Compared to the others,
Tiki feels downright energetic. You know already that you won't need to use
your aids as aggressively as you did with Toby in lesson 2. But be alert.
This guy could move out fast if he wants to.
After walking around the outside of the ring, you're ready to pick up a
posting trot. Pretty soon, you'll be riding and open range. But oops! A few
things go wrong, and on such a perfect day.
What to do if...your horse slows down.
You're probably trotting away from the barn. Gently give the aids to
move on. Keep him focused on you.
What to do if...your horse trots faster.
Now you're probably riding toward the barn, the greatest of outside
influences. Or maybe your horse is feeling a bit competitive and wants to
catch the horse in front of you. Don't let his mind wander, and don't let
him take one step you didn't tell him to take. Issue half halts -- half of a
halt -- as necessary. (See more on this below). If you don't, you could
end up sitting on him in his stall.
The second a horse changes his pace when you didn't ask him to,
correct him. If you don't, he'll keep speeding up. A horse that gets out of
control is like a snowball rolling down a hill; it starts slow but picks up
momentum as it rolls. I use this snowball analogy throughout the book
because it brings home the point that you must anticipate the problem
and fix it before it becomes dangerous.
Also check to see if the horse behind you is getting too close. Your
horse won't want to let another pass him. You assume your companions
know etiquette and the rules of riding. This situation requires you to put
twice as much effort into controlling your own horse; you still shouldn't let
him trot faster than you want.
What to do if...the horse is playing catch-up with the horse in front.
If you let your horse drift too far behind the others -- more than three or
four horse lengths -- he may periodically try to catch up to them.
Reduce the pull of this outside influence by keeping him properly
spaced. Ride about one horse length behind the horse in front of you
unless your instructor tells you otherwise.
Etiquette requires you to keep proper spacing; if you change
speeds, your classmates behind you will have to do likewise. You
don't want to create an accordion effect.
What to do if...your horse tries to get out of line.
In the ring during a class, school horses tend to cut corners and drift
into the middle. They know that's where they usually get a rest while
the instructor talks, so that's where they want to go. But now that you're
outside the ring, your horse probably is trying to drift toward the barn.
Turn him back into line. Don't let him get away with this behavior. It
could be dangerous.
Although strikingly beautiful, with a shiny coat and sleek build, Tiki has an
ugly disposition. He just isn't friendly. He sulks in the back of his stall much
of the time and glares at anyone who comes near. If you give him a treat, he
acts like he's doing you a favor by taking it. He's a sophisticated, grumpy old
man, but all bluff and no bite.
Other horses regard him as a bit of a misfit. In the field, he gets picked on by
pint-sized ponies. He's basically considered a wimp.
Despite his less-than-charming nature, Tiki has never harmed a human
being. He's just come to associate people with something he doesn't want to
do, namely, work. With his posture, he's telling you to go away. But under
saddle, he's spirited and knowledgeable. Compared to other school horses,
he's advanced. In addition to being responsive, he moves forward willingly,
but not dangerously so. He has impulsion. You won't need a crop.
Approaching and handling a horse like Tiki requires thought and skill. When
you enter his stall, he may be standing in the back, sulking as usual.
Approach him from the side, the least threatening direction, and keep your
Calmly, slowly, and confidently, touch his neck or shoulder first. Do not try to
pet him on the head first, which many people do. Many of us are naturally
drawn to the horse's beautiful eyes, but many horses don't like their faces
touched. They've gotten one too many fingers in their eyes.
When you encounter a less-than-cooperative horse like Tiki, never let him
get between you and the door, and never close and lock the stall door
behind you. You want to be able to exit quickly, if necessary. And
remember, if Tiki or any other horse turns his butt toward you, lays back his
ears, bares his teeth, or swishes his tail at you, don't enter the stall. If you're
already in the stall, leave. Self-protection comes first. Then ask your
instructor what to do. Good instructors really don't mind your asking for help;
they welcome the opportunity to teach, and this is the kind of situation that
can provide an important learning opportunity.
You'll find that with horses, especially those like Tiki, your body posture says
a lot. Tiki can intimidate people, but if he hasn't issued any aggressive
warning signs, you can handle Tiki yourself.
In you go. Confident, calm. You approach him from the side and pat him on
the shoulder. He gives you a dirty look, but that's all. You take the reins off
his neck and over his head, and lead him out. You walk him to the ring for
Beware If Your Horse Changes Pace
At this stage of riding, one of the most important points to remember is that
a change of pace, whether it's slower or faster, means something. If the
horse changes pace and you didn't ask him to, correct him. Remember, the
horse is thinking all the time. Keep him thinking with you, not against you.
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