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.
The World Is Not Flat
Unlike the ring, the field has uneven terrain. Try posting to the trot up a slight hill. Pretty
comfortable, isn't it? That's because a horse normally carries two-thirds of his weight in the front
end. When a horse goes uphill, he's more balanced because of the way gravity affects him on a
hill: his weight gets distributed over all four feet.
Now try posting to the trot down a very slight hill. Not so easy or comfortable, right? That's
because your horse can't shift his weight for balance on the downhill. This also makes it much
harder to keep your proper riding position.
Eventually, you'll learn how to help the horse balance himself, which will make riding over uneven
terrain easier for both of you. For now, I want this experience to teach you that the horse's posture
really does make a difference. Are you getting the hang of this? It's fun, isn't it?
What to do if...your horse won't follow the path you want.
This is probably the pull of outside influences again, most likely the barn or the other horses.
When a horse does something, it's for a reason. Figure out the reason and you can correct the
problem. There could be another simple explanation: You may not be looking where you're
going. Riding in a field, it's easy to become distracted. But you're on a horse! Pay attention,
focus on where you are going and on communicating with your horse. If you don't, he'll decide for
you what you're going to do, and you might not like his choices.
What to do if...your horse suddenly feels to energetic and you're feeling unsure of
There's a good chance that when riding in the field, your horse feels friskier than he does in the
ring. Another possibility is that something really is bothering him. Maybe those crickets make him
nervous. Maybe he spotted one of those killer rabbits in the bushes. If you are riding in a field
and you feel at any time that your horse is about to get out of control, immediately turn your horse
away from where you were going and away from what's making him disobedient. If possible, turn
the horse toward your instructor: Let the instructor know immediately that you feel something's
about to go wrong so she can help you. Next, you have to do something that, believe it or not, is
difficult. You have to listen very carefully to your instructor. When you get nervous, it's hard to
focus, but focus you must. If you don't things could get out of control. Force yourself to focus on
what your instructor says, and do what she tells you.
Dressing for Riding
For the beginning rider, jeans will do just fine. Wear a pair without prominent seams down the
inside of the legs; they can rub. Don't select jeans that are so tight that you have to lie
down on the bed to squeeze into them.
In case you haven't heard, polyester pants are out. In fact, they've
always been out for riding; the material is so slick that you might
slide right out of the saddle.
Wear boots that will protect your feet. No sandals!
Believe it or not, I've had quite a number of people over the years
show up for a riding lesson with their toes exposed. Not smart.
Wear a pair of hiking boots, construction boots, or some other
heeled boots that will protect your feet and keep your foot from
slipping through the stirrup. For beginning English riding, however,
leave your cowboy boots home; they have an arch that raises
your heel, incorrectly positioning it higher than your toes.
You're on track if you can:
outside of the ring.
- Keep your horse in line while riding around the
while riding around the outside of the ring.
- Keep your horse properly spaced from other horses
outside of the ring.
- Keep your horse moving at a steady pace while riding around the
- Trot up and down slight hills in a field.
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049