First a little bit of a back-story:
I have never ridden a horse -- not even those carousel pony rides at the fair -- in my life up until about April 2010 (last year). As a matter of fact I'd barely been around horses, except for a brief episode of petting and maybe some feeding. I wasn't afraid of the horse, I was afraid of the height! When I needed 8 hours of community service in order to graduate high school I said I might as well do something I love (with animals) that was also new and exciting -- so I contacted the local livery stable and they were more than happy to take me in, despite my lack of experience.
Today I was helping to train a young gelding (5 years) to ride. We used the Appaloosa as a "tutor." The Appy was like a father to the black horse and the two are almost glued together. The Appy is also an arena horse and to help settle the youngster down we wanted a calm, collected horse to work with him. At first the girl in front of me had a lead rope; I would give the youngster cues (light taps with my heals, turning, verbal commands) in unison with what she was doing. Eventually, we ex'd the lead rope and he did fairly well!
So after less than a full year of riding, how am I doing? I noticed that my toes tend to push outward a little bit (a little more than I would like), but as far as I can see there isn't much else going on, but thought I would ask various riders.
We don't ride Parelli or anything else like that; just "basic" Western. I have been given just pointers and sparse lessons from my boss; everything else was learned by observation or outside sources (such as talking with the girl in front of me, who is an ex-barrel racer and senior rider).
In this picture, you can see I'm reaching down with my right hand to try and bring Thunder more to the right. He would get beside the Appy and nip at his (the Appy's) tack, or try to get him to play. No-no, Thunder!
Allowing myself to daydream a little bit, cooing over how well he is doing. This was the first time he's ever been ridden without someone leading him from the ground! No bucking, no rearing. He only kept playing with my pant leg (he'd turn around and grab it) and playing with the bit by grabbing it between his teeth. We're going to purchase bit guards to help detour this habit.
I will write more later, but at first I went WTF?! That rider has no head!
She's one of those witchdoctors, accidentally shrunk her own head. :P
It looks to me like you are a bit too far back in the saddle. You look to be almost up on the cantle in the second one. But your body posture is pretty good. You could pull your shoulders back a bit to straighten your back. And close your fingers around those reins. Keeping them open like you have them in the second picture is a good way to get a finger jammed or even broken if he decided to throw his head down suddenly. And it looks to me like your stirrups could be a bit longer.
I realized my stirrups looking back at the pictures, and I agree. However, my boss/instructor thinks they're fine and I find that they're rather comfortable, given my moderate knee pains (gotten when my stirrups are too long/short). Should I keep them the way they are, or try a little something new with them?
If you have knee pain, and they are comfy that way, I'd leave them. I ride English and Western both, and I like my Western stirrups a little shorter than normal because of knee pain as well. It's not putting your leg at a bad angle or anything, you just have more bend in the knee than is standard. But for pleasure riding, that isn't a big deal.
Ok, Creampuff. I am done laughing and got MY head back on my shoulders. I know why you did that, "once bitten twice shy".
Anyway, your position is darn good! For so little time in the saddle, you ride very naturally and well. You are sitting a bit too far back on the cantle but I kind of think it might be due to the saddle being positioned a bit too far forward, raising the front which puts you back more. Wanna check on that and make sure the young fella has room for his shoulder to move in front of and under the front edge of the skirt. Just looks a tad bit too far forward.
I know about openning fingers and when trying to be super soft it just happens, to everyone. I see you lowering your right hand to encourage him to move into the openning you are creating there and I think that is perfect for a young horse just learning.
You get an A from me. (Oh, consider wearing a helmet. Young horses are unpredictable and it sets a good example for the younger kids out there. My Tipperary is REALLY comfortable. I never ride without it) (welll, that once, a couple of months ago, and ended up being bucked off my friend's horse)
I think you look pretty good posture-wise. You look a little stiff, but that's to be expected riding a youngster and all. :) I really like how you're not leaning forward and you aren't leaning back. You could work on bringing your lower leg back a tiny bit (you want there to be a straight line from your shoulder, through your hip and through your heel). It's so slight that it really could be the saddle forcing your leg to be like that though, since some saddles put your leg more forward than others.
I know you didn't ask for this so don't pay attention if you don't want to, but I noticed you have a shanked bit on the youngster? Unless he neckreins, which your OP makes it sound like he doesn't, he really should be in a snaffle (snaffles never have shanks) until he learns to neckrein. Direct reining in a shanked bit is very counter-productive, imo. I find that it causes horses to start avoiding the bit at all costs which is exactly what you don't want a young horse to learn so soon. there are tons of threads around on that topic though, so I won't bore you with the details here. :)
You probably don't have control over that since he's not your horse(?), but I figure I'd mention it.
Precisely, Tiny. (:
Wallaby, he isn't my horse but I'll definitely bring it up to the owner. :D The bridle combination was chosen by the girl on the Appy, so I just assumed she knew what she was doing and went with it. Do you have a suggestion about what kind of bit we should use? (We have Western bits like this one, shanks, and one French Link.) We also have a training bosel (no bit) and hackamore.
As for my stiffness, I was a little bit nervous. As my foot entered the stirrup my boss says to me, "If he starts bucking, just grab the saddle horn and hold on." I know this horse really well (he's a little overly-playful; he kept grabbing the bit, the reins, and my pant leg throughout the whole session), but he does get energetic sometimes and bucks up a little. My expression went from " 8D " to " B| " after my boss said that.
I tell you guys what, too. "Seeing myself" in the saddle and getting critique from senior riders (helmet, ACK) really helps. Most of the riders I work with are either cowboying it up (and exhausting our horses) or just too rude to give critique.
I used to have the "Fetus problem." I would hunch forward and my heels would go back. I realized this was from me over-analyzing my posture and went back to just having a little bit more fun.
Fortunately we're going to the local auction this weekend with high hopes for new tack (if it's in decent shape for us); I've also contacted a seller here about a saddle similar to the Appy's, if not the same one, to direct to my bosses.
As for this little guy, I think his biggest problem will be overcoming his playfulness. And for us both, our confidence in one another. (:
You look pretty dang good to me. Your shoulders are square, your back is nice and straight. I also think that the saddle is the reason why you are sitting so far back. For some reason, some saddles just sit people like that. I actually like where your stirrups are at. For me, the stirrups that are just a touch short make it more comfortable like they do for you. AND, makes it easier to grip with your legs without the risk of losing your stirrups if one goes to acting silly.
Agree with Wallaby on the bit thing though. I know it isn't your call but I think he would benefit much more from just a nice simple snaffle until he gets neck reining pretty much figured out. I prefer a loose ring myself but I'm sure the french link would work, regardless of what kind of rings are on it.
One thing that I usually do on young horses that are at risk of throwing a fit is I will usually ride with the inside rein just a bit shorter than the outside rein. That way, if they go to bucking or acting silly, it's much easier to get their head to the side and take all their power away.
I will offer my advice on what to do with a youngster who sometimes bucks. Maybe having a plan will help you to feel more comfortable so that you can relax some. If they start to buck, I will take their nose to one side and turn them in little tiny circles. After that initial jump when you start to get things back under control, I will start bumping with my inside leg to get them to disengage and start listening to me again. After they stop bucking, I will continue to work them in the tiny circle for a minute before letting them straighten back out. They quickly figure out that bucking = work and they stop wanting to. Of course, this only works if they are supple to lateral bit cues and will easily give their head.
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