Can horses tell if their rider is inexperienced? How to reach/behave in such situatio - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 09-27-2015, 06:11 PM Thread Starter
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Can horses tell if their rider is inexperienced? How to reach/behave in such situatio

How do they know? What they do?
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post #2 of 19 Old 09-27-2015, 06:42 PM
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Horses, especially new horses, desire to understand their position in a herd. When it's just you and the horse the horse wants to know who is the boss etc. they often do this by testing the owner a little. It might be walking into their space, ignoring their commands, refusing to be caught etc. this behaviour can quickly turn dangerous with a less passive horse.

How to react in these situations differs a bit but the general rule is get the horse to move away from you. It's a bit hard to explain because a lot of it comes down to being able to predict what the horse is going to do and then acting immediately when it happens. This is one of the issues with an inexperienced rider. They don't see the behaviour coming and don't react quick enough. This stuff is best taught hands on by a trainer.

The inexperienced rider has similar issues riding too. The horse might ignore an aid, cut corners, drop shoulders and the rider doesn't know how to correct this. Therefore the horse keeps doing it. Again a trainer is the best course of action. Without correction issues can compound and turn from minor to serious quite quickly.

Before you own a horse you want to have enough knowledge to identify and manage at least some basic issues. That's probably a minimum of 1-2 years of weekly lessons with some ground work, depending on the quality and frequency of instruction and the sort of horses you work with. When buying a first horse a rider like this should work closely with their trainer to identify the type they're looking for, then ideally get the trainer out for a ride and then plan on continuing lessons for a while until they establish what they need to know.

It's also important to get the right horse with the right temperament - some horses are more forgiving than others.
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post #3 of 19 Old 09-27-2015, 08:04 PM
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Horses, particularly old well experienced ones (schoolies, for example) almost always figure out within the first 30 seconds or so if their rider is experienced, or not.

Some will just continue on their merry way and help their rider learn knowing that, others will immediately test the rider and see if they're up to the task of riding them.

I know one black gelding at our lesson barn who's gears start turning the second you walk to the rail. If he figures out he has someone he feels he may be able to "test", he'll immediately try to cut back to the middle as soon as he passes the first outside fence. If the rider immediately gets after him and doesn't let it happen he's a perfect gentleman for the rest of the lesson - if he gets away with it and the rider doesn't immediately correct it, he'll often test them for the rest of the lesson. Accordingly he's a good "second step" horse for someone who's no longer a beginner, but needs to learn the importance of control and dominance (for lack of a better word) while riding.

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post #4 of 19 Old 09-27-2015, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by PrivatePilot View Post
Horses, particularly old well experienced ones (schoolies, for example) almost always figure out within the first 30 seconds or so if their rider is experienced, or not.

Some will just continue on their merry way and help their rider learn knowing that, others will immediately test the rider and see if they're up to the task of riding them.

I know one black gelding at our lesson barn who's gears start turning the second you walk to the rail. If he figures out he has someone he feels he may be able to "test", he'll immediately try to cut back to the middle as soon as he passes the first outside fence. If the rider immediately gets after him and doesn't let it happen he's a perfect gentleman for the rest of the lesson - if he gets away with it and the rider doesn't immediately correct it, he'll often test them for the rest of the lesson. Accordingly he's a good "second step" horse for someone who's no longer a beginner, but needs to learn the importance of control and dominance (for lack of a better word) while riding.
Well said.

I have a horse that has the rider's number in 30 seconds or less. An intermediate level rider wearing a No-Fear t-shirt can easily ride him. I have seen timid people with many years of riding experience not go near him with a 20' pole, lol
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post #5 of 19 Old 09-27-2015, 08:55 PM
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They know. Almost instantly. They see the way you walk and move, they see the way you react to them, if you act confident or afraid or if you know how to ask the right 'questions' of them and give the expected responses to their behaviors. They're far more difficult to fool than any person would be, and that's even before you get in the saddle and they can feel your balance (or lack thereof) and how you try to communicate with them.

What they do with that knowledge varies. Some will happily cart you around and try to teach you. They'll take care of you, help save you from your own poor balance and refuse commands (like a request to canter) if they think your balance is off or you don't really mean it.

Others will decide that since you don't know what you're doing, they'll just do as they please and ignore you or not really give you much effort.

Still others, like my gelding, will get nervous. Because if YOU, the human, who is supposed to be in charge and know what's going on is not up to the task, then that means that he, the horse, must be in charge. Which scares him. As in, "Oh god we're all gonna die!" And then he starts acting spooky and stupid and jumping at his own shadow and wanting to snort and bolt off.

The best is to work with an instructor and learn your basics and only work with the first group of horses until you're up to the task of telling off the second group or re-assuring the last that you've got everything in hand.
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post #6 of 19 Old 09-27-2015, 10:44 PM
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I don't think horses think about "testing" a new rider at first. but, if the new rider does things like back away from them if they take a step in their direction, or lean forward in a fetal position in the saddle, or flinch if the horse touches their hand with his mouth, or just move tentatively . . . things like that broadcast the anxiety of the human. once the horse see that, if he's the testing type, then he'll start pushing back a bit.

some horse do this real soon, others will tolerate a lot of the confusing signals that humans that are new to horses give. I think it's these confusing signals that make a hrose uncomfortable, and eventually want HIM to make things clear , and he does that by taking control of the situation.
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post #7 of 19 Old 09-28-2015, 12:30 AM
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A horse's survival depends on being able to discern this information immediately. They cannot hesitate if they need to kick in fight or flight.

They smell, and react to, adrenalin in predators. That's why people who are afraid of horses usually also say horses don't like them. When you are afraid, your body releases adrenalin, and that makes the horse afraid.
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post #8 of 19 Old 09-28-2015, 10:40 AM
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To the OP,

There are very good, and insightful posts here. But, let's look at an example.

At the farm there is a very well trained blind horse, whose owner can do anything with. She's putting her feet up on his neck, kneeling in the saddle, etc., etc. This horse takes it all and doesn't flinch.
Yesterday, she put a newbie on his back. O.k., this horse is blind, he did not see her approach, he was not able to read her body language. But, he KNEW immediately that this person did not know what she was doing. How?
His owner is a very experienced rider and is very relaxed and loose in the saddle. This rider was very tense, nervous, tight in her whole body. That was his first and immediate clue. That tension was evident in everything she did with her hands and her legs.
How did this horse react? He became tense as well. His head was high, his pace was quick, his ears were focused directly behind him (not pinned). Thankfully, by nature, this horse is laid back.
Now, when I put a green rider on the back of a horse for the first time, the first thing I have them do is take a few deep breaths and relax. This is before we take one step. I usually use a horse I know, like my Honey, because I know that she will stand perfectly quiet until she is given the cue to walk on. This is what I did with this same rider immediately after she got off the other horse. She needed to learn a proper dismount and I knew that Honey is patient enough for this lesson.

Oh, and one more caution I should put out there. NEVER, ABSOLUTELY NEVER get on a horse you do not know without another EXPERIENCED person there. We recently had someone end up in the hospital because they did not follow this protocol.
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post #9 of 19 Old 09-29-2015, 07:04 AM
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Horses vary in their reactions greatly.

One big heavyweight hunter I had at livery was very problematic.
He tested all the way, nappy (barn sour) barged and pushed and given half a chance would dash out of his stable.

I had many a 'discussio' with him and we had come to an understanding. One thing I never attempted with him was to ride him from the top yard to the bottom (only about 50 yards) because it always led to an argument and was not suitable for a 'discussion'

I asked a young girl to bring him down to the bottom yard for me. She actually rode him down with no problem at all!

Another thing he would not do wasn't jump coloured poles yet when a young girl was on him he popped around a full set of show jumps without battling an eyelid - when I tried he was acting like a coloured pole was going to bite his legs off and wasn't going to go within ten feet of it!

When I rode him he would jump any natural fence but nothing resembling a show jump.

Many times I have seen horses that were 'sharp' act like saints with small children.
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post #10 of 19 Old 09-29-2015, 11:16 AM
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I love watching horses personalities change when different people come around.

We have a Morgan that has become my horse. The other day I watched my oldest dd ride him. He went from calm to goofy with dd back to calm with me. Just crazy.
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