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Buying a horse property might be one of the most expensive purchases you ever make -
Understanding why horses behave they way they do is the key to having a better relationship with your horse. For their sake and yours, don’t make assumptions about horse behaviour, get the facts.
I wish this book had been out when I bought my first horse property, it would have saved me a lot of anguish. I love the check list and I am using it as we look for our next property. Vicky, Texas, USA
This book has brought up so many points that I just would not have thought about if I had not read it. Thanks a million! Bob, Nottingham, UK
So many great pictures and such a straightforward way of explaining how to work out what is important, and what is not. Kirsty, Geelong, Australia
This book covers all of the important things about horse behaviour and the information comes from correct scientific sources. Mel, Brisbane, Australia
I now have a far better understanding of my horse whereas before I used to think my horse was behaving a certain way on purpose. Sarah, Devon, UK
Fun to read, great pictures, thanks Jane for making this subject so easy to understand. Pip, NZ
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Oct 2017 to Dec 2017
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Learn how to improve your balance so that you feel more secure when riding. This book is the second in this series and it shows you how to increase your balance. It contains 18 lessons for you to follow in your own time.
Learn how to improve your own position so that you ride to the best of your ability. This book is a step by step guide to correcting your own position so that you ride as straight as possible. Your horse will thank you for it!
What a simple way to improve balance, I now teach this method to all of my students, from beginners to advanced. Fiona, Toronto, Canada
I am now much closer to achieving a truly ‘independent seat’. Feeling secure and confident. Bring on the next book! Megan, Cambridge, UK
This book is very easy to follow and has saved me money. My own instructor is great but she does not cover these fundamental basics. Thank you Jane for making it so easy to improve my riding, Jan. Kent, UK
The best book I have ever come across on this so important subject. Easy to read and easy to implement. Jan, South Australia
This book sorted out my problem with ‘wonky’ ankles and I can now ride pain free. Megan, Cambridge, UK
Where have you been all my life Jane? This book should have been written years ago! I would say this book is essential reading for riders and riding coaches alike. Linda, Melbourne, Australia
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Approximately 1,552 words article
This article is about your horse, in terms of what you need to improve as a rider, so that in turn you can become a better ‘passenger’ for your horse. I am not suggesting that you should be merely a ‘passenger’ when riding, I mean in terms of your horse having to carry your weight (whatever you weigh). The better you ride, the easier you are to carry.
So, what sort of a horse do you need to improve you as a rider? Unless you have confidence issues with the horse that you are riding at present (see the article Your confidence) then almost any horse will improve you as a rider. This is because a sound, healthy, horse that is not in pain (i.e. the gear fits properly) and is trained to be ridden, is capable of teaching a rider to improve (as a rider) if they are willing to learn.
If you are having position and balance problems in particular it helps if you have access to a quiet, well trained horse that will walk, trot and canter with a good rhythm, in ‘self-
If you haven’t, don’t worry, you will still get there in the end, it might just take a little longer. As long as you are generally going in the right direction you will be improving your position and balance which in turn will improve your horse’s way of going which again, in turn, will allow you to further improve your position and balance -
So, you do not need a highly trained dressage horse, a super comfortable quarter horse or indeed any other particular type of horse to improve your riding skills. Riding any and all (if you are fortunate enough) of the above and many more will all improve your riding. In fact, even if you are determined to follow only one style of riding, riding horses from different disciplines is a good way to broaden your experience as a rider. In particular, if you are able to adjust to the super smooth but ‘spin on a sixpence’ (‘turn on a dime’) movement of a working Quarter Horse after the super springy movement of a dressage bred Warmblood (or vice versa) then you are on your way to being a very good rider indeed.
Occasionally I come across riders who are having particular problems with riding a particular horse in terms of position and balance. This is often a rider who is riding a very extravagant moving dressage horse and the problem usually involves sitting trot.
In this case I usually recommend that they ride a more modestly moving horse to practice the method I give for improving the sitting trot (see the Horse Rider's Mechanic Workbook 2: Your Balance) until they have it and then return to riding their more expressive moving (and greatly relieved!) horse with this new found skill. Riding a super smooth Quarter horse would not teach them the intricate movement of the pelvis required for sitting trot because these horses have been bred (and usually trained to some extent) to have virtually no upwards bounce in the trot. Other than that, any horse that has less upwards bounce than a big moving dressage bred Warmblood should fit the bill.
If your horse, in your opinion, (and possibly also that of your coach, trainer or instructor), is ‘holding you back’, make sure you are first and foremost the best rider you can be in terms of position and balance before you ‘upgrade’.
The reason I say this is because I have seen riders pass on a perfectly good horse believing it to be ‘not good enough’, when in fact the horse still had much to teach the rider (albeit unintentionally on the part of the horse).
Another way of thinking about this is that you may learn far more by working with a horse that is not yet fully trained, or is not a ‘popular’ or fashionable breed or type, or is just a plain inexpensive horse, than you may with an expensive highly trained ‘push button’ horse (if you are fortunate enough to be able to afford such a horse).
Keep in mind that the most successful riders have usually worked with, and ridden, a large variety of horses, not all of them superstars, and are usually successful because they have learned something from each of them.
There is an ironic meme that keeps doing the rounds on Facebook which goes:
You do not need a $35,000 horse, you need a $1,000 horse and $34,000 worth of instruction!
What I like about this saying is that it is implying that a rider should invest in improving themselves as a rider rather than simply aiming to buy a ‘made’ horse. Indeed, an expensive highly trained ‘made’ horse will eventually ‘unravel’ anyway unless a rider has the skills to keep that level of training up. A horse is after all a living being, not a computer that once programmed will always respond in the same way.
A few things to keep in mind that will affect your riding, apart from the above mentioned movement (either too smooth or too bouncy) are your horse’s conformation, size, temperament and fitness:
If a horse is ‘built downhill’ (lower in the wither than the highest point of the croup) you may feel as if you are being tipped forward as you ride. Some Quarter Horses in particular are ‘built downhill’. If you have lower back problems in particular, this feeling of being ‘tipped forward’ will hurt your lower back. In this case speak with a professional saddle fitter about improving the fit of your current saddle or even changing your saddle to one that counteracts this problem while at the same time still fits your horse of course.
The width of your horse may make a difference to your riding and unfortunately some horse/rider combinations just do not work if a rider has particularly serious problems with their hips. Even if you have wide hips it may be that due to injury and/or ‘wear and tear’ you are no longer able to ride comfortably in a certain saddle, or on a very wide horse or a horse that does not have smooth movement. Again if you suspect that it could be your saddle then get professional help.
Your horse should be the correct size for you. Every rider has a range of horse heights that will suit, because horses have very different builds. So a 15hh cob may be stronger than a 15.2hh Thoroughbred for example. The cob will also tend to be a little broader and will therefore take the riders legs a little further out. Very generally speaking your shoulder should be level with your horse’s withers when you stand at the side of him or her unmounted. Some people have a preference for larger horses because their strides tend to be longer and some for smaller horses/ponies because they prefer to be closer to the ground. It does not really matter as long as you are not too heavy for the horse/pony in the later scenario and you can control the larger horse if necessary.
Temperament is important, especially if you are a less than confident rider. See the article Your confidence. It may be that you need to improve your skills on a ‘school master’ before returning to riding your own horse for example. Always examine yourself and whether you could make improvements before blaming your horse. At the same time, your horse may just be too much for you. If this is the case you may need to look at ways that you can sell/rehome your horse ethically (we have an ebook coming out on this subject soon, join our mailing list and you will be kept in the loop).
Make sure you are ‘fit for purpose’ i.e. as fit as necessary to be able to ride well, without unduly taxing your horse. The subject of fitness, and in particular the related subject of body weight, is highly contentious and is one that I will be (bravely) addressing in a future article. For now keep in mind that yes the skill of a rider helps to make them easier to carry than an unskilled rider, but you must still make sure that you do not weigh more than your horse is capable of carrying. A skilled, heavy rider is not lighter than an unskilled, heavy rider but rather an unskilled, heavy rider is harder for a horse to carry than they could be.
If you have balance and/or straightness issues in particular that are either temporary or permanent you need to make sure that your horse is fit enough and strong enough to be able to cope (see the article Your body).
Horse Rider's Mechanic Workbook 1: Your Position and Horse Rider's Mechanic Workbook 2: Your Balance cover these interrelated subjects in detail. Start reading these books now (for free) by clicking the titles above.
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You can read a substantial amount of each of the Horse Rider’s Mechanic Workbooks for free right here on this website…
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