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 to go.
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
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
Boost your confidence
Build your skills
Enhance your lessons
Put Mike Smith's
40 years of
experience work for
You'll love it!