Leading the Horse
Sprite stands in her stall with saddle pad, saddle, girth and bridle on. Your
first task is to lead her from the stall to the ring for her lesson. Make sure
your riding helmet is on and fastened securely.
Now here you go, into the stall. Sprite sees you. She's smiling, with a faint
twinkle in her eyes. Her ears are up. She seems really friendly.
Does she know you're a beginner? You bet. Horses can read body
language. After all, that's their main method of communicating with other
horses. You're acting a bit timid, and that's how she knows you're a novice.
The next five minutes will largely determine how your horse is going to
behave during the riding lesson. If you know what to do and act with self-
assurance, the horse will be more likely to cooperate. Stand up there and
Always work form the horse's left side, which is what she's been trained to
expect. Stand facing Sprite's left shoulder and gently but confidently lift the
reins off her neck and bring them over her head. It's a good idea to talk to
her in a calm, friendly voice. Continue to stand at her left shoulder, but now
face forward - the same way Sprite is facing.
With your right hand, hold both the reins about four or five inches below the
bit, under Sprite's chin. Gather the surplus reins in your left hand, being
sure not to let the ends drag or droop. You certainly don't want to trip on
them, and if Sprite steps on them, she could panic and rear back. Don't
loop the reins around your arm or hand.
Horses are led with the reins off their necks and under their chin so that if
something untoward happens, heaven forbid, you can quickly move away
from the horse. You can't do this if the reins are still on the horse's neck
and you're holding them under the chin.
Despite what you've seen in movies, you should never tie the horse's reins
to anything. John Wayne may have ridden up to the saloon, tied his horse
to the hitching rail, sauntered into the saloon for a drink, but if a tied horse
panics and pulls hard, she could seriously injure her lower jaw.
Open the stall door all the way. Otherwise, the horse could bang her hips
as you lead her through. Make sure you close or push aside the latches,
locks, or anything else that might jab her in the side. You don't want to start
your first lesson on a horse that holds a grudge. You also don't want the
saddle to get torn (saddles are very expensive).
Now step ahead of Sprite to lead her out, since the two of you can't get
through most stall doors at the same time, and then resume your position at
her left shoulder as you walk with her.
Look where you are going, not at the horse's feet. You'd be surprised how
easy it is to walk into something.
Even with the best planning, a few things can go wrong. Don't worry, you
can fix them.
What to do if...the horse won't move.
Don't try to drag her by the reins. Most horses weigh nearly half a ton or
more. You're not going to drag her anywhere.
Try a little cluck with your tongue or a gentle tap on the shoulder to get her
going. If that doesn't work, ask for help. Barns generally are full of friendly
people who will gladly help you out. Don't be afraid to ask.
Once out of the barn, your horse stops again. If she refuses to move.
Simply use the reins to turn her to the left or right a bit until she has to take
a step, and then walk forward. You control horse not by overpowering them
but by changing their thought process. That's why turning them to the left
or right will get them going. Turn your horseback the direction you want to
go. Remember, never try to drag a horse anywhere.
What to do if...the horse seems to be chasing you.
She isn't really. Beginners are usually unsure of themselves and tend to
stand too far from the horse. As a result, she follows you, moving closer
and closer, until you are convinced she is chasing you. But try to remember
you're leading her, she's not chasing you. Walk where you want to go, next
to your horse's left shoulder.
What to do if...the horse puts down her head, eats grass, and won't
Prevent the horse from getting to the grass in the first place. But if she's
already there, try to turn her away with the reins. Step away to get her head
This time when you lead her, keep her head up a little higher than she
wants it - at about your shoulder height - so she doesn't have a chance to
get to the grass. If you let her carry her head well below her shoulder, she
can grab grass before you can respond.
What to do if...the horse is pulling you.
Give a little check with the reins. Just make a sharp upward, snapping
motion. That's a check. Steady pulls don't work with a horse. (Note: Before
you give a check, there should be a little slack in the reins). The check
should tell her to slow down. if that doesn't do it, try again, more firmly. Let
the horse know that you are in control and that she must walk at the pace
- Make sure your riding helmet is on.
- Lift the reins off the horse's neck and forward over her head, and
carry the under her chin so they don't drag.
- Stand on the horse's left side.
- Keep the horse's head a little above shoulder height.
- Open the stall door all the way; make sure latches are pushed back
- Walk in front of your horse to get her out the door.
- Resume your position close to the horse's left shoulder.
- Give a little tug up with the reins to remind her she's not going to eat
the grass ahead.
Sprite is a small, stocky, sturdy, cute horse. If she were any shorter, she'd
be a pony. In the winter, her coat gets very long and she looks like a woolly
mammoth. She's sassy in the field, and you can tell she was hot stuff in her
younger years. Now that she's getting a little older, she has to watch what
Sprite's also the motherly type. She babysits horses that don't like to stay
alone in the barn or pasture. She stands nice and still when a new student
mounts, although she might move if you jab her with a knee or toe. A terrific
trail horse, Sprite proudly leads where other horses fear to venture. Being
calm and trustworthy makes her a good confidence builder for the beginning
Boost your confidence
Build your skills
Enhance your lessons
Put Mike Smith's
40 years of
experience work for
You'll love it!
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049