An essay of beginner questions - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 06-28-2017, 05:58 AM Thread Starter
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An essay of beginner questions

Hi everyone! I've been following this forum for a while and finally decided to make an account because I have so many questions, and hope to learn more about horses.

A little bit about me: I'm riding english, I'm virtually a beginner although I rode ponies for a while when I was little but was never taught anything (we just went around in circles in the ring). I've had five lessons now, and I'm having so much fun. I'm currently riding a school horse, he's a massive black gelding and truly the sweetest. But I was warned from the beginning that he's quite lazy and it takes a lot of work to get him to move forward and accelerate, so I've been having a lot of trouble with that, and to make things worse I'm still struggling with making sure that I'm coordinated, in the right position (knees not glued to his sides) and giving him clear signals.

My last lesson was definitely a low point for me, I've felt great all of my other lessons, but for this one I felt like I really did horribly. One of the biggest issues I was trying to get him to maintain his speed/ rhythm, especially in the trot!! I haven't done sitting trot with him because the instructor says he's too bouncy, but I was wondering if anyone has any advice on how to nudge a horse forward when he is slowing down in the posting trot, because I was flailing all over the place with my legs while posting and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to nudge his sides with my foot/ankle so that he would speed up. Any advice? Am I approaching things completely wrong?

The second question I have is about grooming. I gave the horse a brush down before the lesson in his stall, tacked him up and took him out, but as soon as I got outside I realized he was still so dusty and I could tell my instructor wasn't happy. I was wondering if anyone has any recommendations for how to groom. I've just been using a curry comb and then following up with a soft brush - is this enough? Should I also be brushing the sand off around his hooves? How do I clean his face/ eyes?

And finally, I was wondering if anyone knows the names/ types of direction changes? I know thats very vague but we we were working in the ring with the letters, and my instructor was trying to explain to me the different ways I could change lead but there is a bit of a language barrier so I didn't fully understand. She talked about changing diagonally, which I understood, but then she was talking about going in a loop and then in a straight line, ugh I'm sorry its so vague but I've been googling it and can't find anything.

Sorry for the essay!!! I'm just so excited to improve and do better next time
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post #2 of 12 Old 06-28-2017, 06:21 AM
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First of all, for only having 5 lessons, you are being extremely hard on yourself. I know that you are excited and a bit overly anxious but believe me, all of this will come in time and you'll look back on your early riding lessons and smile at yourself!

First of all, grooming. As an instructor myself, I would not expect a new student to know what I wanted until I spend a good deal of time actually instructing them on the process. It sounds like you were just handed the horse and tried the best you could with no real knowledge. This is not fair. I am wondering why this instructor has not spent at least a couple of partial sessions with you on detailed grooming? If she hasn't, she can't really be crabby about the job you did. I'd ask her for those grooming sessions and see what she says. I'd never just hand a horse to a new student and expect them to do a decent job!

Many, many lesson horses are dull to the leg from years of dozens and dozens of beginners riding them. Also bear in mind that at this early point, your legs are relatively weak compared to how strong they will be in the future. Keep working at it, it will get better. When posting and trying to maintain your speed, push when you sit, don't push when you are out of the saddle. You can get a pretty good rhythm going, sit push/rise release, sit push/rise release. This also will become easier and smoother with time-stop that inner voice that is criticizing you!

Ironically, the beginner lessons are the hardest and (frustrating!), then as lessons progress, not only do you become better but the horse behaves better too as a result of your riding him correctly.

As for the directional instructions. Any time you are not understanding what the instructor want, you must ask! Do not let asking a question make you feel stupid! You are there to learn and you are the $$$$ paying client. If your instructor doesn't know how or doesn't like explaining what she means, she's in the wrong business.

Relax and have fun. That's really what it's all about and you are beating yourself up unnecessarily. This is one of the more complex sports to learn, it's doesn't happen overnight. Good luck!!
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Last edited by Chasin Ponies; 06-28-2017 at 06:27 AM.
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post #3 of 12 Old 06-28-2017, 07:12 AM
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My trainer has had to draw pictures in the sand with a stick to get me to understand what she was talking about. I am visual. Always ask if you don't understand.

For grooming, different people like their horses groomed different ways. I would ask the trainer how she wants you to groom her horse's face. I use a soft brush and or a damp towel on my horse.
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post #4 of 12 Old 06-28-2017, 07:39 AM
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Chasin did a good job of answering your questions with clear, concise, facts.

I agree, your instructor has no right to be peeved at you in horse appearance if she has not firsthand taught or shown you what she expects.
You are a beginner with only a few is a lot that the instructor is throwing at you and not all is "easy" either to grasp and understand.
If you don't understand what she wants, tell her that.
Tell that instructor "I don't understand what that means, explain it to me so I know"....
I did find you 2 articles that go into some detail about common terms used with horses that might help you.

Please realize that your lessons will be hard work on you as you learn so much in a short period of time.
They should always be with constructive criticism given as you learn..
Riding should be fun, learning with the right instruction is fun and exciting to realize you are asking this large animal to do something and it understood and is doing it..
You build on those experiences good or bad too....
Do not be hard on yourself, you sound like you are doing great.

So, lesson horses as chasin mentioned are dependable beasts who teach but with all of that they have learned to also do as little as possible when must make them.
From constant thumping legs to their sides, pulling on the mouth they are not as responsive as other horses...they can do it but you must ask correctly and continue to ask correctly or they quit...that is the self-preservation mode they have.

So, you go back and if asked for something not understood... ASK, tell that instructor you don't know what they want or mean.
Don't get discouraged.
It is very hard work to learn to ride. Muscles not doing what you want on your body now add the horse not helping you...frustrating.
Fun though it should always be.
If it isn't fun, hard work but fun, then you need to find a different instructor, barn, horses to learn to ride from...
Communication is extremely important so you can learn, can understand and progress safely in all things "horse"...
If the communication is lacking so is the instruction.....

Go, enjoy those lessons.
Personally, for 5 lessons and you are already doing what you describe I think you are doing great!!

egrogan, JCnGrace and fizzy100 like this.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #5 of 12 Old 06-28-2017, 07:47 AM
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1)Lazy geldings can make for great leg muscles. I have two suggestions, but no guarantees.

Some will respond well to increased pressure (calves, knees and thighs) as you rise to the trot when posting. Some don't.

I ride one that responds to a tap or two with a crop at the beginning of a work session, then all it takes is moving my hand so the crop is perpendicular to his body and he can see it. He will increase and hold tempo well then, but I may have to repeat again that same ride.

My own horse was pedaled along by his last owner. The fellow taps with a heel rhythmically at the walk and trot. Every horse. Every time. I have no idea why. He otherwise makes really good ranch horses, but they come to depend on this. It was difficult to change this habit for the horse I bought. The guy's brothers do it, too.

2) I use cloth diapers to wipe faces. And to finish the grooming. I use a hoofpick to scrape the hardest dirt off hooves or a stiff brush.

3) I would need drawing in the dirt, too, until I learned the instructor's vocabulary.
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post #6 of 12 Old 06-28-2017, 08:10 AM
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Lots of great advice here. A couple of things I'd add:

1. Totally agree that when in doubt, ask. If the instructor makes you feel stupid, they are not the right instructor, especially for a beginner.

2. For cleaning the face, some people may use a baby wipe to gently wipe away the grime. But I would definitely ask the instructor about their preferences.

3. As far as the various "school figures" it sounds like you're being asked to do, my guess is that maybe you were introduced to:
a. Figure 8s- like it sounds, making a big number 8 with two 20 meter circles stacked "on top of each other," with one circle ridden in each direction, changing direction in the middle. Looks like this:

More here.

b. Serpentines- moving across the arena in a 2, 3, or 4 loop pattern that looks like this:

More info here.

c. Changing direction "across x" or "across the diagonal"
If you dropped a pin down in the exact center of the arena, you'd be at "x," even though that letter isn't posted in the arena. If you change across X, you pass through that dead center marker, often using the "diagonal" that has been explained to you (K to M or F to H).

4. Changing direction down the center line- you use a straight line through the middle of the arena (e.g., C to X to A) to change direction

Here's another visual representation of the school figures above (which I would think of as the most common for new beginners) plus more- this figure shows how things get more interesting as a rider starts to gain more control of their own body, as well as the horse's, to execute more complex turns and changes.

I also really like this little book. Even though it's written for instructors of kids, I liked it for ideas for adult beginners too- it's not babyish and it basically covers all of the figures in the image above with an explanation of why you're doing them. I'd suggest grabbing a copy if you want it handy to reference- you can literally get a used copy on Amazon for $2. This one is good too, with lots of pictures and clearly written explanations.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy that horse time
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post #7 of 12 Old 06-28-2017, 09:30 AM
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I have an instructor like yours, she tends to criticize rather than support and I find it quite discouraging as a beginner. I stay because I can still learn a lot from her, but it's difficult!
Don't feel discouraged about your riding though, your muscles will get stronger, it just takes time. That's one of the things I like about riding, you have to work hard and persist, but it feels great when you actually make progress.
And yes, this forum is a great place for asking questions, as the above posts show.
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post #8 of 12 Old 06-28-2017, 11:07 AM
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We all learn by asking questions, but OP, you might find it easier for members to answer yours if you have a thread per each different type of question

Just winging it is not a plan
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post #9 of 12 Old 06-29-2017, 07:16 AM
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Most have answered your questions so I will give you a tip about grooming.

After you have curry combed the horse you need to have a metal curry comb and a soft brush, this is tomscrape the bristles of the brush over to clean it. Another very good tip is to slightly dampen the brush, put your hand in the water bucket and sprinkle a few drops on the brush.
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post #10 of 12 Old 06-29-2017, 10:03 AM
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I use a rubber curry to bring dirt to the surface then a hard brush front to back in a flicking motion to fling the dirt off the body. I will flow that with a cloth to remove any remaining dust. For the face I use a soft brush and damp cloth.
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