~ by Stryder

I’m sure at one point or another a horse owner or equestrian has seen another rider perched atop a glowing, magnificent steed and become facinated by the way both horse and rider work together in utmost harmony. And of course, we would ask ourselves: “How do I get to be that good?” But, my Equestrian allies, it comes down to one thing. Basic Horsemanship.

This article is designed to show you how to achieve that bond with your horse; a simple thing that with time, will make you an effective horseman/horsewoman. Below is a table of contents:

Page 2: Grooming Basics – Strengthen that Bond
Page 3: Groundwork – The Basics of Leading
Page 4: Riding Aids – The Key To Mounted Success

Ready to go? Well, saddle up, and gallop on!

Grooming Basics

Believe it or not, grooming is one of the most important aspects of keeping a healthy, happy horse. Combined with proper feeding and excersise, horses will thrive and keep that way for many years to come. But one must first know why grooming is important before discovering some quick tips.

Grooming is a way to bond with your horse. Horses are herd animals. And in those herds, horses that are very close to each other will use their teeth to groom eachothers coats. Grooming is a way to say to a horse “You are my friend, and I want to be yours.” Grooming also removes hairs from a horses coat, should the season be that it is shedding, and it also helps stimulate circulation and keeps the coat looking healthy.

Here are some quick grooming tips that I have picked up over the years that will help you become better bonded with your equine:

1) Use a rubber curry comb a few times a day over your horses coat to make a shiny sheen. This is much more natural than using a Show Sheen product, and also stimulates circulation beneath the skin. It is also relaxing for a horse, much like a massage to you would feel.

2) Reward a horse for being good during grooming. Whether it is just a recognising pat, or a quick sugar cube or carrot, your horse will realise that standing still for you and doing as you ask whilst grooming is a rewarding pastime.

3) Oil your horses hooves regularly. Applying hoof oil to hooves at least once per day keeps them strong and healthy, therefore keeping your horse sound.

4) It’s always nice to use firm but gentle strokes with brushes.

5) Be especially careful when cleaning around your horse’s eyes; dust in the eye isn’t very pleasant, and it’s also very annoying.

6) Clean everywhere; under your horse’s chin, between the cheek bones, under his elbows, his chest, the area where the girth/cinch sits, on the inside of his legs, his belly, and under the tail. All these areas shouldn’t be missed!

7) A bath every once and a while is great for your horses. Just make sure that during colder days, you use a blanket after bathing. Never bathe your horse in the winter! Instead, you could use a product that is sprayed onto your horses coat and rubbed off with a cloth.

Now that you’re touched up on the grooming aspect, lets move on.

Groundwork

If you do not know what groundwork is, it is the basis for a horses training. How the horse is led around while in a halter, how he is lunged, and how he is moved from place to place is the key to understanding a succesful partnership.

For now, I will cover Lunging … When a horse is on a lungeline, he is either wearing a halter or a special bridle called a Lunging Cavesson, which has a long lungeline clipped onto it. Always make sure you wear a helmet and appropriate clothing when lunging! When taking your horse to be lunged, make sure it is either in a roundpen, pasture, or arena where if your horse gets loose, he won’t run off. Also, be careful with the lunge whip. This very long whip can scare horses, so make sure you are patient and calm when using one. Act confident when lunging your horse, and if he is starting to take control, discontinue what you are doing.

To lunge a horse, attach the lungeline to either his halter or the Cavesson, insuring that it is on the appropriate side. Hold the lungeline in your hand, but DO NOT put your hand through the loop on the end. The lunge whip goes in the hand that will be behind the horse, ensuring that he is kept moving until you ask him to stop.

Begin the lunge session at a walk, allowing your horse to warm up. Switch directions halfway through, making sure the muscles on both sides of your horse’s body. Always make sure you are facing the horses shoulder, and following through with his movements. If your horse speeds up without you asking, or is generally balking, a quick tug on the lungeline works to get his attention, much like the half halt.

After a warmup in both directions, faster work can begin. Do not begin trotting and cantering the horse on the lunge until you are confident in your abilities, and until you have control over the horse. Going at a faster speed can make you dizzy, so make sure you take a break now and then!

When trotting, the handler clucks to the horse or uses a verbal cue. The lunge whip should follow the horse, but never touch him. If your horse is reluctant to move, make a cracking noise with the whip to encourage him. Most horses will respond to the noise. Watch the horse, and stay with his shoulder. When you are ready to bring him back to the walk, use a drawn out or low-pitched verbal command such as ‘woah’ or ‘ho’. Make sure you change direction once and a while too.

When you are ready to have the horse canter around you, follow the same procedure as with trotting. Except, this time, you will be making a kissing noise to the horse or a verbal queue. Make sure the horse is on the correct lead as well, and change directions after a few minutues.

After lunging, your horse will most likely feel energised and good. Make sure to cool him out after his hard work out, and reward him with a treat. Never lunge a horse for longer than 30 minutes! Lunge work can be tiring on a horses muscles.

Lunging, if done properly, is a fun way to excersise a horse.

Now, we will move onto the riding aspect of things.

Riding Aids

If you have ever taken a riding lesson, or read a few good horse books, you will probably know what an aid is. An aid is a way of communication to instruct the horse on what to do whilst on his back. Clear aids will earn you good results, while bad or miss-made aids will generate undesireable ones. There are two different types of aids:

Natural Aids … Your seat, hands, legs, thighs, weight, and position are all natural aids. These aids guide the horse through many things including direction changes, pace changes, etc.

Artificial Aids … Crops, whips, sticks, and spurs are all artificial aids. This type of aid is used in conjunction with the Natural aids to communicate clearer to the horse.

When you use aids correctly, the horse will most likely respond immediately. For example, if you were to ask a horse to halt by deepening your seat, keeping a firm contact to your horse’s sides with your legs, and squeezing on the reins gently, your horse will most likely stop.

However, if you were to use aids incorrectly in the same situation, something different would happen. If you squeezed with your legs, pulled on the reins, deepened your seat and gripped with your knees, your horse would most likely throw up his head, go faster, or balk, and in general, say ‘No way.’

To use an effective aid, you must first understand how they work. Ask your coach next time you take a lesson, and I’m sure he/she will explain how things work and what you can do to improve them.

Here are a few tips:

1) Keep contact with the reins all the time.

2) Make sure your legs are always in contact with the horse’s side.

3) If something goes wrong, consider what you did that could have made that happen. Also note in your head what you will do next time that happens.

4) Don’t use any artificial aids unless you know how to use them correctly.

5) Keep proper position. Don’t be bouncing around on your horse!

6) Take lessons from a good trainer. You never know how much you could improve with a qualified, experienced horseperson.

7) Read read read! Research is your best friend! Learn how the pros do things, and don’t forget to ask questions!

8) Practice makes perfect! Next time you have an opportunity to ride, make sure you practice what you’ve learned.

9) Don’t be upset if things don’t go your way. There is always room for improvement.

10) Reward your horse for good things. Whether it be with a pat, or a treat, it’s always appreciated.

Well, now that you’ve read these things to help you become a better horseperson, I hope that you’ve learned something that you can apply to your equestrian life. Happy trails!

Remember, if you are having serious problems with your horse, talk to a professional! This is only meant as a rough guide to achieving a good bond with your horse.