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
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 yourself.
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
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 yourself.
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 seems down the inside of the legs; they can rub. Don't select
jeans that are so right 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
- Keep your horse moving at a steady pace while riding
around the outside of the ring.
- Trot up and down slight hills in a field.
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