HOW LONG does it take to become a good rider is a commonly asked question. You can sit on a horse and go for a
ride with little effort. It is different for everyone. No two people come at this activity in the same way.
There is great variety in horses and all the things one can do with them. We are pairing two living beings, each with
their own agendas, every time they come together.
The followings list are thoughts I have of the variables that ride with us every time we are with a horse. With this in
mind, I think it explains why it takes a long time to be really good at this and, on the flip side; it is so amazing what
can be accomplished.
When you look at the lists, you see that many of the variables are the same for the horse or the rider. It helps us
understand why each ride is such a challenge.
RIDER PROGRESS We work slowly and spend a lot of time at the walk and trot. As you ride, you will find that there is
a lot involved to make this experience all that it can be. I like to take things slowly because the more good
experiences we can get under your belt, the more comfortable you will become and the better your safety.
I continually ask you to do new things but leave it up to you as to your comfort level. That is the key to success with
the horse. You need to be comfortable with what you are doing. All I ask is that you try. If you don't get it this ride,
there is always the next one. If, for any reason, you find yourself scared or fearful, let's talk. I find that talking
through the fears can be very helpful.
I do not use labels like beginner, intermediate or advanced. I may have a student who is able to do some of the more
advanced maneuvers but they may also be learning new things at the same time. I have also found that labels can cause
the individual to put up a barrier to continued learning. If we think we know it, we are not open to new information.
Have patience. This sport has so many variables progress can be slow. The fact that you ride different horses can
cause you to second guess yourself. You may do well on one and on the next one nothing you have learned works. This
is normal even for very experienced riders.
Just keep on trying and things will come together for you. We are in no hurry. You will learn something every time you
ride and all that you learn will benefit you in whatever you do. I look for ‘rider try’ more than outcome. With the
mistakes come learning.
I hope to teach people to learn the 'feel' of the horse and hook them to the pleasures of a lifelong pursuit of this
sport. It has no end. There seems to be something to interest all kinds of people.
You may or may not ride all of the horses in the school.
--Your size and weight will be considered for the horse.
--Your skills and comfort level will also be considered.
--If there is a horse you want to ride and haven't, talk to me about it.
As you begin your riding experience, I will assign you a horse to ride. I know them and, after I evaluate you, I have an
idea of whom you will get along with. Safety is my first concern. I will change the horses you ride since each one will
give you a different experience and that will be your greatest teacher.
There will come a time that I let you choose the horse you want to ride. I expect you to continue rotating them to
keep your skills progressing. There may be times I cannot honor your choice.
Load limit refers to the amount of weight a horse can comfortably carry. Remember to include the weight of the
saddle in this computation. You also need to take into consideration the horse's physical condition. A horse that
experiences lameness, for instance, should probably not carry his full load limit.
An example in our barn is Teefa, the Arabian mare living behind the barn. She is 33 years old and has a condition
called a sway back. When she came she could carry someone of my weight with the saddle. Now, due to age and
condition, I only use her for riders (plus saddle weight) at or under 100#. Each time she works, I keep my eye on her
to assess her present condition.
The horse industry figures that a horse can comfortably carry 20% of its body weight. This means a 1000# horse can
comfortably carry 200#, person and saddle. The load limits for the Abrazos Horses are on the abbreviation sheet at
the ride board.
When you begin riding, your weight may be such that you can ride most of the horses. If you should gain weight that
puts you over the load limits, let me know. The same holds for weight loss that may mean you can ride more horses. I
have a scale in the barn if there is any question. Remember, this has to do with the horse. The horses must stay
comfortable if they are going to continue working.
I have high expectations of both the horses and riders. I do not ask anything that either one cannot do.
Horses are expected to:
Pay attention and do what we ask of them.
Demonstrate calm, safe behavior around humans.
Humans are expected to
- Bring ‘horse energy’ to the ride.
- Clearly communicate with the horse by listening and giving clear commands.
- Communicate in a timely and appropriate manner.
- Always pay attention to the horse and what it is doing.
- Try your best to ride in balance.
- Learn why certain things do and don't work with horses on the behavior end, not just the mechanics
of handling them.
- Understand that horses are either communicating or receiving information most of the time. Be sure
the communication you send their way is such that it will produce the desired result.
- Communicate properly for each of the things you want from the horse.
- Keep working at something the horse may not be willing to do. It is important that you and the horse
part company with the desired result in place (the horse doing something you have asked). When we
quit and the horse is winning that can cause future problems for us with the horse and its cooperation
and willingness to perform with anyone.
- Demonstrate leadership energy so the horse is willing to listen to you and follow your directions. My
horses can and do sort out the riders and size up their ability and commitment to the ride.
- Develop the ability to react appropriately and promptly in various situations with the horse.
- Continually reinforce all the expectations for the horse by interacting appropriately.
Please, ask questions. I do have a certain way that things are done; however, it will not be exactly the same every time
because we are dealing with another living being that has its own agenda. Ask questions as we go because there are so
many variables each time we interact with a horse. The answer to a question may be different depending on the horse
PARENTS - YOUR PART IN ALL THIS
I need a parent to plan to be a part of the lesson. This means you will be in the barn with your child and at the arena.
You learn as the child does and you become my assistant and your child's coach. This way I can oversee all of the
riders but they can receive personal instruction and/or assistance from coach mom or dad if needed.
Another ‘perk’ for the parent is to learn about horses and owning them if you have a child that thinks a horse is
necessary. You will also learn about safety and you too can become comfortable around them.
Be kind to your feet and wear a sturdy closed toe shoe with socks.
Here are examples of some things that, as their coach, if needed you will:
Remind your child of what to do such as:
take stool around horse
what comes next
Assist physically if needed with such things as:
keeping the horse still
measuring and tightening the cinch on the western saddle
measuring and tightening girth on the English saddle
help determine position of saddle on horse's back
putting on the bridle and/or saddle
You will help get your child into the arena and close the gate if your child is the last one in or mounts before all riders
You will advise/help him/her finish checking and tightening the cinch and adjusting stirrup length before mounting.
You will hold the horse as the rider mounts as needed.
As your child rides, share with me any information you feel is pertinent about your child. This helps me key in to areas
that will help them build skills or deal with things that might block their ability to make progress.
If siblings are riding, DO NOT compare them. Do not compare to another rider. Everyone comes at this differently
and progress is different for all riders. No two look alike.
Be patient. Visible progress to your eyes can be slow. It doesn't mean that the rider is not progressing but it takes a
long time to look like John Wayne (I’m making an assumption that you know who John Wayne is).
RIDER EVALUATE YOUR PROGRESS The things listed here are what I am looking at every time you ride. I know it is
a lot but the neat thing is your body is memorizing what it needs to do just as your brain is taking in information. It
takes time and certain riding behaviors will come more easily than others. This recap may help you identify what it is
you need to work on as well as what you are accomplishing. Remember, all I can do is point the way; the horse you ride
is your ultimate teacher. (Thanks Patches – she made sure I know this.)
I think you can make easy copies of this self-evaluation for use if you like. I hope you will use this to think through
every ride you have here to find out what you are learning and how it is going. I will be happy to discuss your findings
I realize this may be a bit complex for the smaller children but parents; it will give you a reference to talk to them
about the ride. The more people think through it the more they learn.
I talk to the horse without thinking about it. This means that I:
have a conversation with the horse to keep me safe and connect with the horse while on the ground
continue the conversation when I ride
use verbal commands appropriately
alert the horse to anything different and important
I communicate with MW and:
ask questions if instructions are not clear
talk through a problem with the ride
make sure I understand what is being asked of me
describe in detail my ride, I don't just use 'good' or 'bad'
I tell something I learned or something that became clear during the ride
I stayed focused during my ride. This means I:
kept my attention on my horse the entire ride
listened to the horse and know how it is feeling about the ride
know if the horse is a willing or unwilling partner
know what the horse is paying attention to
get the horse's attention back when it goes elsewhere
prepare my instructions for the horse before sending them
send accurate and timely instructions to the horse
have a plan for my ride
change my ride plan if the horse indicates the need
As well as staying focused on my horse I:
Knew where all the other riders were
Made sure I kept out of the way of other riders – maintained correct riding space
Was conscious of and left correct space when I passed other riders
Kept good fence spacing when riding on the ‘rail’
I know my horse:
is relaxed – because I can feel he is relaxed
works willingly – because I can feel he is willing to work
is happy – because he appears happy
understands my communication – because he is doing what I want him to do
is under control all the time – because he is working at the speed I want, doing what I want and going
the way I want
is paying attention to me – because I can feel his body respond quickly and I can see by the ears he is
Being pro-active means that I:
am in tune with my horse and 'hear' when he wants to do his thing then I
give appropriate and timely direction before the horse takes over the ride then I
don’t have to say ‘but the horse did or didn’t ….’
Steering - As I ride I:
maintain reins at a proper length for every maneuver
feel that the horse responds quickly and correctly to my rein and leg pressures
help the horse use its entire body in the maneuver with proper balance and pressures
make correct decisions when riding with others
Assuming a problem occurs I:
give appropriate and timely information to the horse to correct the problem
do not get frustrated or angry and stick to correcting the problem until it is solved
SENSITIVITY to external stimulus
ABILITY to pay attention
SENSITIVITY to external stimulus
ABILITY to pay attention