Becoming Good Horse Riders

Horse riders enjoying the equestrian sport of horse riding seems to be as popular as ever for young and old, due to what could be the result of more leisure hours and much improved, general riding facilities.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who ride never get beyond a very elementary standard and therefore never capture the very real thrill of riding boldly across country, galloping round a point-to-point course, or taking part in the many equestrian activities and competitions that are available today.

I think this is due to three reasons. Firstly, the majority of would-be horsemen do not make much genuine effort to study the characteristics and the mental processes of the horse.

Naturally the novice rider is usually nervous and indecisive in his actions: the horse responds to this by being suspicious and unpredictable.

Therefore a basis of mutual confidence must be established before riding ever starts. The novice must spare some time at this essential introductory phase.

Secondly, comparatively few people will take the time and trouble to develop a well balanced and effective seat. The trouble is that most people want to learn quickly, and this can not be done.

Most sports demand the co-ordination and development of mind and muscle, so that certain actions become automatic reflexes. Never is this more the case than in horse riding.

The horse has a natural centre of gravity which changes according to the pace at which he is moving, or whether he is going up or down hill.

It is the learners first task to position himself in the saddle so that his centre of gravity is as closely aligned with the horse as possible. The persons weight must never be dead weight; it must assist the horses movements, not oppose it.

When the horse moves, the horseman's seat must be associated with this movement. It must be firm, yet supple. A rider who is stiff and rigid will set up stiffness and resistance in the horse.

The seat must be independent of the reins. It must be athletic enough to stay in balance with the horse, yet allow complete freedom of the head and neck.

A horseman without this firm and independent seat cannot clearly indicate his wishes to the horse; confusion and the use of force are the result. And when a rider resorts to force, he will inevetiably be defeated, although he may have appeared to gain a temporary victory.

Basic faults in the seat stem from incorrect teaching in the first few lessons. Sometimes, of course, there are no lessons at all! And once muscles are incorrectly placed and used, it takes a great deal of hard work and concentration to readicate the fault.

The great French School at Saumur teaches riding in stages. The first is elementary equitation, the purpose being to develop the riders seat on a trained horse, so that he may acquire sufficient ability to control his horse under normal circumstances, in the manege and across easy country; also that he may apply elementary aids smoothly, effectively and in harmony, producing a calm and generous response from his horse.

Notice the phase 'develop the riders seat on a trained horse'. Riding an untrained horse is the third reason why so many novice's never progress beyond an elementary standard.

The novice should learn to ride on a quiet, well mannered horse that is obedient to the elementary aids, under the guidence of an experienced instructor.

This is common sense even to the least knowledgeable, but how often do we see fond parents buying 'green' three year olds for their learner children with disastrous results, both to horse and would-be horsemen.