Horse Care And Riding: Our Top Tips
Horses can be an amazing thing to get involved with. They’re strong, beautiful animals that are so versatile! But whether you’ve ridden your whole life or just months, it’s important to know the ins and outs of horse care and riding.
Grooming Your Horse
So your horse is dirty, huh? Not a problem… This is one of the main challenges of horse care and riding. After these simple grooming tips, your horse will look great!!
First, securely attach your horse to its crossties. To start, grab your curry comb!! A curry comb is used to get off dried-on dirt, mud, or dust. In circular motions, firmly sweep the curry comb over your horse’s body and legs. After currying, use the body brush to shine up the coat and knock the remainder of the dust off your horse’s coat. When using the body brush, do short quick strokes starting from the top of your horse, working your way down. Make sure to do under the belly, too! For a nice shine, take a warm, damp towel and wipe the body of your horse, including their face.
Now onto their hoofs. Lift each foot and use the pick to get out the dirt and stones from inside the hoofs. Then, while the foot is on the ground, use the brush side of your hoof picks to get off any dirt or mud on the hoof. Hoof dressing should be applied twice a week to keep them healthy, depending on the dryness of the area the horse lives in.
Now for the big finish, the mane and tail. Using your mane and tail brush, brush the mane. You can brush it starting at the withers and pulling your brush up towards the ears, or you can brush it going towards the ground. The mane should lay on the right side of the horse. With the tail, many people get nervous standing behind a horse. My advice, DON’T. There are many ways to brush a tail without standing behind them. You can stand to the side of the tail and pull it up to you, being sure to walk up to the horse and touch them lightly to let them know that your there so you don’t startle them. Hold the tail to the side of the horse as you brush. Another way (for the adventurous type) is to sit on the rear of the horse and pull the tail up to you to brush it. If you use this method, be sure the horse is securely in the crossties and there is nothing around that might spook it, such as other loose horses or animals.
Tacking Up Your Horse
One of the most basic skills to learn in horse care and riding is learning how to properly tack up your horse. First and foremost, you want to make sure that your horse is secured in the crossties with its halter. Then, put a saddle pad or blanket on the horse’s back, making sure that it’s even on both sides of the horse. Next, gently place the saddle on top of the pad or blanket so that it’s positioned on the hollow space right behind the withers. Make sure the pad or blanket is completely under the saddle so that the saddle isn’t touching the horse, to prevent rubbing.
Once your saddle is in place, attach the leather side of the girth to the saddle on the right side of your horse. Then walk around the front of the horse to the left side, reach under the horse and bring the girth up to attach the stretchable side of the girth to the left side of the saddle. Be sure that your girth is nice and tight and be sure it’s not twisted. To ensure that your horse’s skin is not “pinched”, left one of the front legs, grab the knee of the leg and pull towards the front of the horse, stretching the skin out from the girth. Repeat with the other front leg.
Now that the saddle’s all set, let’s move onto the bridle! First, unbuckle the noseband and throat latch of the bridle. Remove your horse’s halter and place the reigns over the head of your horse and onto its neck. Then stand to the left of your horse’s head, facing the same direction. Hold the bit with your left hand and the headstall with your right. Slide the bridle over your horse’s head and slip the bit into its mouth. If your horse is resisting opening its mouth, you can use your fingers of your left hand, place them behind the horse’s teeth and gently try to pry it open while pushing the bit into the mouth. Be careful not to bang the bit against your horse’s teeth.
Once the bit is in place, slide the headstall over your horse’s ears. Secure the browband so that the headstall isn’t pushing down on the horse’s ears. Then buckle your throatlatch, leaving a least 3 fingers between the leather and your horse’s next. Then buckle the nose strap, this can be tight to ensure control.
Got A Show Coming Up?
Here are some tips on getting yourself and your horse ready for the big show! The horse’s coat needs to be clean and neat. It’s best to bathe your horse the day before the show so that the coat is nice and shiny the day of. Using size 30 or 40 clippers on the little whiskers around the muzzle, and the eyes help keep your horse looking smooth and put together.
On the day of the show, rub your horse down with a wet rag and make sure there is no dirt or mud. You can also take down the tail and brush it out, before braiding if you wish. Another trick is putting a white powder (such as baby powder, or chalk powder) on white socks to make them stand out.
Now, what about you? The typical English rider outfit consists of black riding boots, tan or beige breaches, any color ratcatcher, gloves, a hunt coat, and a helmet! Give your boots a good scrub with saddle soap and warm water the night before so they can dry overnight… On the morning of, shine them up with some black leather shoe polish! Make sure your breaches, hunt coat, and ratcatcher are clean and spot-free.
When you get there, it’s a good idea to walk your horse around and get him used to the scenery so that they don’t get startled in the show ring.
Riding requires strength from every part of your body. I found that there are good exercises to keep those muscles strong. First, keeping your heels down below the stirrup irons can be very challenging. A good exercise to help with that is to stand on the balls of your feet on the edge of a step and let all your weight drop into your heel, stretching your Achilles tendon for about 5 seconds. Then go back to having your foot straight for about 5 seconds, then back to stretching down. This will help to stretch your Achilles and make the position more natural. It may be slightly uncomfortable at first, but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel.
Although you will gain most of your riding muscles riding, an exercise I found that helps with leg muscle is the wall sit. Position your back against the wall with your feet about 6-12 inches from it. Slide your back down the wall until you are in a sitting position. Hold this position in increments of 10 or 20 seconds, depending on how difficult it is for you.
Cardio work such as jogging and running is also good for riding. Core muscles such as the back and abs are also main riding muscles as they help you to pull yourself into the saddle, making it easy to sit the trot and canter. Basic crunches help to strengthen those core muscles. Also, yoga is a great way to tone and learn balance, as staying in the center of your horse is key to staying up!
The basic English riding posture is key to proper riding. First off, your stirrups should be the proper length. Mostly, you just want to feel comfortable and in control, but a good way to get the right length is to hold the buckle of the stirrup and bring the iron back to your body, the stirrup should be the length of your arm.
When sitting in the English saddle, you should sit on the pockets of your pants, keeping your back nice and tall. Your shoulders, hips, and heels should always be in alignment. The irons of the stirrups should be positioned on the balls of your feet for maximum control. Let your weight drop into your heel so that your heel is below the irons. Your knees should be bent at about a 45-degree angle and you should not be able to see your toes if you look down at your knees. Your elbows should be kept at the sides of your body and always bent. Keep your fingers closed around the reins to ensure control of your horse. Now you’re ready to ride…
Thanks for reading our top tips for horse care and riding. For more things equestrian, click here.
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