Toby is a Draft Cross -- a cross between a Draft (a large horse bred to pull heavy loads) and
another, smaller breed. Although of average height, he's big boned and bulky, and his feet are
twice the usual size. He has a long, full black mane and tail, giving him a playful appearance, and
playful he is. In the field, he's silly. He likes to take the halters off other horses with his teeth.
You'll also find him rubbing his neck on trees a lot.
Especially sweet and docile with people, Toby provides a calm and steady mount. He proves that
you can't judge a horse's temperament by his size. He's patient with beginners and won't do
anything crazy, even if you make mistakes. But like many Draft Crosses, he has a well-deserved
reputation for laziness, which can present a challenge for riders. Toby can be stubborn and refuse
Horses Are Not Statues
Some beginning riders needlessly worry if their horses don't stand completely still at the halt.
Don't. This is normal behavior.
If asked to stand still for more than a few minutes, a horse will shift his weight from leg to leg. He's
just getting comfortable. If he hasn't been adequately sprayed with insect repellent and the flies
and gnats are bad, he'll twitch his muscles, swish his tail, shake his head occasionally, or even
stomp his feet.
If your horse fidgets and you aren't sure if the behavior is normal and non-threatening, don't
hesitate to ask your instructor.
Coordinating Hand and Leg Aids
When learning to trot, coordinating hand and leg aids becomes imperative. This is referred to as
having the horse "between your legs and hands." If you let up the pressure on the reins, the horse
should immediately speed up a bit. If you reduce the pressure from your legs, the horse should
immediately slow down a bit.
Here's my point: You cannot use a hand aid without a corresponding leg aid, and you can never
use a leg without using your back. For every step the horse takes, you tell him when and how fast.
You do this through subtle shifts in position and the intensity of the pressure from your hands, legs,
When a horse doesn't obey, we usually call it an evasion, which you'll learn more about in lesson
6. But keep in mind that a horse's apparent disobedience may not be his fault. If the instructor can
mount the horse and get him to do what you were unable to, that tells you the problem lies in how
you're riding. That's okay, because you're learning. But don't mistakenly blame the horse.
Learning aids is like learning a new, complex language. It requires you to communicate using body
movements, which can frustrate both you and the horse.
Look at it this way. Say your phone rings and you answer; but the person on the other end is
speaking a foreign language you can't understand. Eventually, you hang up. That's exactly what
your horse will do to you if he can't understand. To communicate, you have to speak the same
language. The horse certainly can't learn yours, so you've got to learn his.
There's one more intangible in controlling a horse: a combination of determination, confidence,
respect, and compassion. We see it from time to time in our everyday lives. When people with
these characteristics walk into a room, everybody notices them because they have a certain
posture, an aura -- what we call presence. The best riders have the same qualities.
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049