Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kick To Go- Pull to Stop

Anyone here know how to ride a horse?

Ooooh! Oooh! I do! I do!......

You kick to get them to go.

And you pull back on the reins to stop.

If you want to go left, pull the left rein.

To go right, pull the right rein.

The object is to keep your ass in the saddle as much as possible and to not fall off.

If you can only walk you are a beginner rider.

If you can trot you are "intermediate".

If you can canter or gallop without freaking out or falling off- you are officially an "experienced rider".

Now, if you can stay on when the horse freaks out, bucks, rears, or bolts, you are either a professional or just really damn lucky.

Am I missing anything?

I am!!!!

Like what?

What more could their be?

Okay, okay. All joking aside....

I didn't grow up in a horse family or on a farm. Other than the riding my mother and Auntie did as teens, I am the only one in my family who is "horsey". As such, I didn't grow up with an inherent knowledge of all things equine and other than a few months of lessons at 13, I had to pretty much learn by hook or by crook and through trial and error as I went along. Which worked out fairly well. I could stick like glue and would ride anything with four feet and a heart beat up (over any kind of terrain....river, mountain or forests) I was bucked off, scraped off, slid off, taken off, kicked, bitten, run over and abused in every manner possible. And I lived to tell the story. All of which I managed to do with only the above listed skill set.

I was reading a blog today that talked about this issue- (how difficult it is to make the transition from recreational rider to an a more disciplined or educated one and how to define when or if you have become that rider). Someone commented and said that logging hours in the saddle is the only way to become a better rider. Which I would have to agree with... to an extent. Because from age 12-18 I rode about as much as any teenage girl could (which, btw, is a lot) but I didn't know how to ride at all! I stuck-like glue. (At least most of the time.)

I developed "feel" in the saddle and learned to read the mind of a horse... I could tell you exactly which boulder (out of 50 similar shaped lumps of rock) my old Arab gelding would determine to be some horse eating monster.... I learned to anticipate problems, to look at the world and pick out "horsey hazards"... (like that bolt sticking out of the wall - just waiting to snag a hip, that loose wire on the fence- waiting to trap a leg, that loose halter, just waiting to hook a hoof or to watch that nasty gelding in the paddock (as you take your horse out of the field) b/c he is sure to calmly graze and pretend to ignore you as you walk by.....right up until you are precariously pressed between your horse and the gate, at which time he'll bolt across the pasture, hell bent on murder and mayhem.... which will send your horse in to hysterics..... just as your hands are busy with the gate latch....which, in panic, you of course drop....and while trying to regain control of your (now) wild horse, the gate swings wide open..... at which time the bossy old lead mare catches sights off the lush grass on opposite side of said gate and makes a run for it.... taking the rest of the herd with her.... and other mundane stuff like that - all of which take a lifetime of handling horses to learn to anticipate!

It seems to me that "horse sense"- the ability to read and anticipate problems, to handle horses with care in a safe and practised manner- and knowing how to ride in a correct way are not mutually exclusive concepts. I am not a great rider. I spent the majority of my hours logged in the saddle without any care of concern for correct leads, dropped shoulders, being "on the bit", driving up a hind quarter, picking up the front end, body position, riding from the seat, moving off a leg, etc. etc. etc. but I sure the heck did develop a healthy amount of horse sense. Whereas I knew plenty of riders growing up that had been taking lessons all their life and could ride better than I'll ever- but who didn't have a freakin' clue how to care for or handle a horse safely.

I do not consider myself an experience horsewoman. I have some experience and some basic working knowledge of handling and riding horses. There are people on this planet that will forget more than I'll ever know about horses. I have often wondered if I will ever feel like a remotely competent rider. To be a horsewoman is to often be humbled by the greatness of horses and blessed by the limitless experiences and learning opportunities they afford us.

To all of you that are just getting started in horses or that aspire to become better riders, I encourage you to get lessons, take clinics, read books, watch videos, and ask for advice. Also spend as much time as possible with as many different horses as possible. Every horse is an individual and has something unique to teach us. But most of all, recognize that there is always going to be someone that knows more than you do (or at least claim to) and that we are all still learning, no matter what our experience level.

Here is my confession as example....

I had a really difficult time learning how to feel what lead a horse is on. I was told a hundred times how simple it was and how to do it but never quite got it and eventually I became insecure about not knowing and so stopped asking for help. Just this last year I was in a lesson and my trainer had to keep getting after me for being on the wrong lead. I finally snapped and said, "I am sorry... but I JUST cant feel it!!!" She looked at me totally puzzled and said, "What? That's easy!" to which I sarcastically replied, "So I'm told!!" What did she do? She put me on a lunge line, tied my reins off, had me close my eyes, and spent the next half hour doing lead departures until I finally... finally ... got it. And guess what.... It is easy. I was just over thinking it because I was insecure about getting "found out" as the girl that didn't know her leads.

Horse people are a pretentious bunch. We are arrogant little shits sometimes! Sorry... but it is true. But DO NOT let that stop you from learning. We all have some kind of financial, physical or time limitation that limits our ability or our opportunity to progress. Be all you can be. (In the Arrrrrrrmy!)

Me! I have finally found the perfect horse.....

I actually feel like I can control this one....

THIS is my next pony!!!......


  1. *clapping*! Well said! Very well said!

  2. I got more horse sense working for years as a stable hand than I ever got from riding lessons or riding in general. Like you, I'm pretty sticky but not a great rider. But I can read horses pretty well.

    And yes, horse folks can be total asses. I guess that's true of folks in general, but it always surprises me amongst the animal lovers. I am so happy with my horses at home just doin' my own thing -- I aspire to never show again!

  3. lmao oh my goodness I LOVE it! You totally had me phsyced up for that one! DEFINATELY my kind of horse.

  4. hehehehe Great post! As an ex professional trainer.. oops there goes that arrogance... lol Anyway.. rigth on!

    Great pony!


  5. I couldn't see the picture- it was blank on my blogsite! Ratz!
    BUT- you said a mouthful and you said it eloquently! There are riders and there are horsemen. You can be one without being the other! And Horsemen never stop learning-
    and maybe the arrogance is actually fear- like you I am sure evryone else has their achilles heels- and no one likes to be 'found out'.
    I've learned over the years to just smile sweetly and say- "whatever do you mean? Can you show me?" Usually works to bring the levels of snobbery down.
    I'll bet you are a lot better than you are letting on- brava!

  6. You said a mouthful there sista!!

    I had someone tell me once that "You never learn anything by doing everything RIGHT. You have to experience both the wrong way and the right way to know the difference". If I remember correctly, they were referring to both people and horses when they said it.

    I tell ya-growing up, being able to "stick" was my saving grace a lot of the time. My dad used to joke that you could throw me at a herd of horses racing by and I would come up horseback. After I grew up, it seemed relatively easy to learn the "finesse" part of it.
    But reverse that-people who learn to ride pretty and try to teach them how to "stick" and you will likely get them killed. Doesn't mean they shouldn't still try to get as good as they can...just sayin...;)

    And BTW-My daughter was POed when she saw those little ponies come out last Christmas. She said she wished they would have had something like that when she was a "kid". I laughed my butt off. I guess the real pony just didn't measure up-LOL.

  7. Great post. As I have said many times, if it weren't for necessity, I wouldn't be as far along as I am. I am lucky to have Heather and Nita, but most of the time, I'm on my own.

    Just for the record, I couldn't tell you to save my life what lead my horse is on. I don't even know why I would need to know. I know it's important when you're showing, but I don't know why I need to know in "real life." I welcome anyone to tell me ... in a way I can understand.

  8. Great post! I am alot like that as well - except for the sticking part. I did that ok as kid (for the most part) but now I've lost that a bit - maybe it is just confidence???

    I'm 50/50 with leads - depends on if I'm paying attention or not...

  9. Thanks for that. It's so nice to hear other people have problems with that. I'm attempting to focus on the "feel" thing with my mare right now, and my husband is irritating the crap out of me because I simply cannot tell which foot is where or which lead I'm on UNLESS I look or focus completely on only that. Then he makes fun of me for looking. I think I can sit pretty well, but the feel thing gets me. I'm a little hesitant riding my girl with my eyes closed though. I'm sure that would definitely tell me how my seat is the first time she spooks though!! lol Maybe I'll practice on our other older girl, she doesn't spook at anything. It's so different from when I took lessons before I got my own horse. Those horses ALWAYS picked up the right lead and ALWAYS knew what you were asking them to do, so you everything was ALWAYS right and you didn't have to try. With a just broke mare, there's a world of difference. Makes life interesting.

  10. My husband can't tell what lead he is on, infact, he didn't even know what a lead was until we met 5 years ago!! To me it was just common sense, to him, it was stupid. It took me a while to get it all figured out.

    And I love what you said at the beginning, with the beginner rider walks, the intermediate rider trots!! That is so how a lot of peole think around here!

    And that pony, oh dear, LOL!! That is too cute!! I love the tail switching!! And that the kids are wearing helmets!! LOL!!! Oh dear!!

  11. That was very good - I want see it in a magazine like H&R or Western Horsemen so you could aim it at the people who really need to hear that. You know the ones I am talking about.

    You should copy and paste it into word - put your name all over it and mail it off to them. Who knows they might buy it off you and print it up.

    I struggled with that too as a kid and was given similar lessons to remedy it. Still as an adult some horses I come across lope in such a way that it is actual very difficult to tell. Once on different gelding I had several years ago - I BLEW a futurity because I just couldn't tell if he was on the right lead or not (this horse had a history of blowing his leads on purpose - because he was an ass).

    So I assumed he blew the lead again, broke him down, shoved his hip over so far that he would've fallen over had he picked up the wrong lead, and picked the lope back up. I did it very quickly as I was used to this happening. But as it turned out he was on the right lead after all and had I just looked down to check (I was afraid that doing so would earn me a fault) I would've won the dang thing! Gah!

  12. Mrs Mom- Thank you taking a bow LOL

    Dp- Just to clear something up, I said “was sticky” , as in past tense. J No, seriously, sticking saved me from quite a few wrecks but I took a long while off riding and lost my
    ”sticky seat” in the process. I try to defend horse people when DB has a little rant about them. I say to him, “okay, yes, we’re nuts! But who isn’t? The same could be said of just about every profession, realtors, lawyers, mail men, clerks, bankers, etc. etc. Any group of people (as a whole) tend to get a little nutty!”

    Natarojo- I want to have one made “grown up” size!!! Lol… Now THAT is an easy keeper!

    Susan Catt- Glad you like it! Never fear to speak your mind around here… if you’re a pro, you’re a pro! No worries. This is no fugly blog!

    Vaquero Girl- Oh no! The pic is a video of the “giddy up n go” horse toy that moves if you bounce up and down on it! I think that you are right about the fear thing in most cases… now one wants to be the village idiotJ Other people are just genuine know-it-alls and believe that their way is the only way. I love that, “whatever do you mean? Can you show me?”….. yes, I totally know what you mean.

    I think with horses, you never really know your place. It is like the big fish/little pond, big pond/little fish syndrome…. You’re experience level is a direct reflection of the crowd you find yourself standing in. I am a middle of the road rider. Not good, not horrible (or at least only horrible once and a while.)

    BECG- LOL- Yes, it seems that applies to both horses and people (having to do the wrong thing before you figure out the right thing). I lol when I read what your Dad said about the herd of horses and you comin’ out on horse back! It is funny because looking back I realized that I did stick (read my dp reply to see that no longer applies) but I also fell off, (a LOT). It is not like riding a bike, you actually can forget (or loose it).

    I was also mad when I saw those Giddy up N go ponies come out (though I didn’t have a real one (you little bratJ !!

    Leah Fry- I know what you mean. I think it is interesting because your “correct” lead is only “correct” if your horse is “bent” (meaning in a slight arch so that its head and hip are slighting inside the rib cage). If you are traveling straight and your horse is straight, there is technically no “correct” lead. With that being said, if you were going to be running around corners on the trail, that lead thing would become handy (for a horse that does not change on his own) because if a horse is going to quickly and rightly turn a corner (like turning a barrel) to the left he will be much more balanced if he is on his left lead (and visa versa for the right). Also, it is helpful on long distance rides where you will lope a lot…..the lead is actually the “driving foot” if you will… so if you are loping a lot on a straight trail, being able to pick one lead or another can actually help your horse work both sides of his body evenly and reduce the fatigue he feels on one side. Think about like if you were walking up a set of stairs and you kept putting just your right foot forward to step up with… your right leg would get tired much faster than if you alternated between your right and your left when stepping up (as you naturally do). Same with horses. That is my explanation anyways….

    Laura- I think the glue wears off as you get older LOL

    Ezra- I do the same thing. I used to have much better feel but I tend to get attuned to only one horse and then have trouble with other horses with a different “feel”. My trainer had me on a lunge line and my eyes closed for a long time. Let me tell you, that was freaky!! I HIGHLY recommend that everyone try it! Get a friend and a quiet horse and get on the lunge line. (you have to give up your reins too!) I swore that I was careening to the side and going to fall of a bunch of times but she said that I was straight in the saddle… it was very disorienting until I figured it out. We also worked on feel a lot that day. I found it VERY helpful because I get really stuck in my own head and over think things so when you take away everything but that, it really helped. I love riding a well broke horse!

    Andrea- is the tail swishing not adorable! Leads used to be a thorn in my side. I used to hate getting those little forms that ask you if you are beginner, intermediate or experienced. It is funny how as you get more experienced, the less you know which category you fall into! Lol

    Stephanie- Thank you! I don’t have the nuts to send my stuff off. I never think it is any good. I had better get over that b/c I am spending a heck of a lot of my time writing a book! LoL Some horses are hard to tell… I think that was part of my problem. My old gelding only had one lead J (his right) and refused to pick up his left (trust me, I had many a trainer try to fix him). Some of the big strided horses are easier because each stride is so long but the little reiners have such short and quick strides it is hard. Oh man! Your lead story would be one of those that stuck with me for a while. That is soooo annoying!

  13. I agree with Stephanie on this one...send it in!!!! People would love to read about this, because what you wrote about definitely isn't mutually exclusive. I know people who can do miracles with horses from the ground, people who can do miracles with horses from the saddle, and people who can do both. Are any of them more or less of a horseman/woman than the other?

    LOL about the lead thingy. Some horses can be tough to differentiate, and some feel like they are on the right lead when they are not. NO horse person gets it right 100% of the time...no one!!!

    When I was about 11, I had a hard time telling if I was posting on the correct/right diagonal. I could usually feel it, but I was never sure. My lesson lady had me do it with my eyes closed, and whammo!!! I got it!!

    Great post and great advice for anyone who wants to call themselves a "horse person!" :)

  14. ahhahaaha seriously! What a great work out for your butt! and legs! I want one!

  15. lol! And it doesn't poop, so poop to muck! I want one, too...in adult size. But what do I do if I want to ride it on more rugged terrain? lol!

    Thanks for this post. I enjoyed every bit of it, especially as I'm still a beginner. Yup, I prefer to only walk. lol!

    I've tried to trot seeveral times for a few minutes out on the trail and in the round pen and arena, but my mare rides like a jackhammer! It feels like she's driving her front legs into the ground and it so uncomfortable and I feel like I'm going to fly off my saddle.
    I'm embrassed about not knowing leads, too. I wondered like Leah Fry, why it was even important. Thanks for explaining why, especially for your analogy of walking up the stairs. I totally get that.
    I suppose as a beginner (who i still recovering from a riding accident after surgery) I won't worry much about that, as I don't see me cantering anytime soon. lol!

    Thanks again...and the toy pony really cheered me up :)


  16. That is a great idea to send this in for publication!! Come onnn...take a chance-what's the worst they can say? NO?? Oh well, nothing tried, nothing gained!!

    You write wonderfully!! Very eloquent and have just the right nack of saying in words what so many of us feel.

  17. Horse people CAN be asses, but as you said, so can any other group. There is a rich couple at my barn who own 5 or 6 saddlebreds and they are so judgemental, of other people, their horses, their riding skills, etc. All the horses act up whenever the saddlebreds are out, its kinda funny!