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
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 arms down.
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
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 mounting.
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
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