I thought I was a rider - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 08:44 AM
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How refreshing it is to read this. I'm 47. I had horses when I was a kid, but then for the next 25 years or so, I only did occasional trail rides on really safe horses. My daughter asked for riding lessons 7 years ago, and well, now I have a barn and two horses with a third one arriving tomorrow, lol!

I've fallen 5 times on a mare I just bought a little over two years ago. I'm tired of falling off, so the new horse is (hopefully) a little less spooky than her. At my age, I figure I deserve some quiet rides. The last two years have been a crash course in horsemanship. No pun intended.

I'm also in regular riding lessons on lesson horses. I still consider myself a beginner, though I'm slowly making my way towards something I'd call pre-intermediate :) Riding is HARD! Really riding, I mean. Not just sitting there passively.

I watch my daughter canter bareback on her high-spirited Arabian, and win ribbons at hunter/jumper shows, and I am in awe. Because now that I ride more seriously, I KNOW what it takes! And I know I'll never be that good. But that's ok, she has had 7 years of lessons now, and is only 13, so she will be able to do all the things I won't. As a parent, that's almost better than me doing those things. So I will continue to strive to become an intermediate rider someday... I think you've already overcome the hardest part. Hitting the ground and realizing just how much you don't know. Your journey has already begun, and it will be glorious! Also, yoga helps :)
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post #12 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 11:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acadianartist View Post
...Riding is HARD! Really riding, I mean. Not just sitting there passively...
Is it?
Quote:
Of course it is foolish to try to teach them to ride the way men who devote their lives to riding do. For most of my pupils riding is merely a relaxation and I just have to make them ride efficiently and without abusing their horses on the trails, in the hunting field, in the horse shows etc. What was said in JUMPING THE HORSE was perhaps too simple for Polo, but was too complicated for hundreds of my pupils, young and old, fat and lean, brave and frightened. This is how my work lost its abstract aspects and acquired the tendency to adjust sound riding ideas to contemporary life. - VS Littauer, Common Sense Horsemanship, 1963
What is "really riding"? If it is playing polo or jumping a 5' oxer or...well, competing at a high level in any equine sport, then "really riding" is obviously very hard and only a few will ever be good riders. But if "really riding" just means "not just sitting there passively", then really riding shouldn't be very hard. Indeed, most people IF TAUGHT WELL ought to be able to do that in a dozen rides or less. I've had totally new riders go out on a trail ride for their first ride and tell me spontaneously within 15 minutes that 'you can't just sit on a horse, can you?'

Riding instruction can make riding seem much harder than it needs to be. Bad riding instruction can make it nearly impossible. This quote is from the USFD on "basic exercises" and how to turn a horse:
Quote:
In a correctly executed turn or circle the horse’s inside hind leg carries more weight than the outside one. Before every turn or circle the rider should prepare the horse with a half halt and transfer his weight a little to the inside seat bone, in the direction of the movement.

The horse should then be flexed in the same direction. The inside rein should guide the horse into the turn, the rider’s inside leg, close to the girth, causing the horse’s inside hind leg to reach further forward. The outside rein should yield just enough to allow the horse to flex to the inside, while at the same time it restrains the horse from falling out over the outside shoulder. The outside leg should control the quarters.

When the horse’s forehand is guided from the straight line into the direction of the turn, the influence of the inside rein is decreased again. The rider should ‘straighten’ the horse with the outside rein, keep the horse exactly on the line of the circle. (‘Straight’ on the circle means making sure that the hind feet follow in the tracks of the forefeet, and that the horse is bent from head to tail according to the curvature of the line.)

The correct distribution of the rider’s weight is most important. In transferring his weight to the inside seat bone he should push the inside hip forward with a deep knee. This will also prevent him from collapsing his inside hip and slipping the seat to the outside. At the same time he should make sure not to leave the outside shoulder behind.

http://www.usdf.org/edudocs/training/basicexercises.pdf
I've never turned a horse that way and never will. I've read a lot of books, including multiple discussions of "rein effects". My horse, however, has not, and he turns with ease, dodging cactus, with neither understanding nor concern for the Five Rein Effects taught by George Morris or the US Cavalry. As a rule, the more freedom I give him in a turn, the more fluid and agile his turn becomes! In fact, it is hard to stay on when he uses his agility to the full!

Caprilli had to deal with this as an Italian Cavalry officer in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Recruits had often never been on a horse before. They spent 2-3 years in the military, so long years of refined training were not an option. Yet they also needed to be able to ride (and stay on - the first requirement of riding!) young horses while crossing very rough terrain. They needed to be able to ride like this:


The following quote explains how he solved the puzzle:
Quote:
The military horse must be essentially accustomed to the field, since it is here that the cavalry must perform in war uneven and varying terrain should be as familiar to the rider as it is to the horse. . . .

I call a field horse a horse that is of good disposition, calm and confident in the rider, fast and strong, accustomed to galloping for long periods over any kind of terrain, calm and alert in difficulty. . . .

Long years of practice and of continual observation have convinced me that the horse acquires these qualities without effort provided that the rider subjects him to rational and uninterrupted training, throughout which he tries to make his own actions the least disturbing that he can to the horse, and tries not to impede him in the natural development of his aptitudes and energies. ... By this I do not mean to say that one should let the horse do as he pleases; one should, instead, if necessary persuade him with firmness and energy to do the rider's will, while leaving him full liberty to avail himself of and to use as best it suits him his balance and his strength. From this fundamental and unchanging principle stem all the practical rules of equitation with which I shall deal. . . .

. . . the first rule of good riding is that of reducing, simplifying and sometimes, if possible, even eliminating the action of the rider.If the hands are used to turn and check a horse, and the legs to make him move forward and to give him resolution and decisiveness this is enough . . .

If natural work is required of a horse [field work] and not artificial [manege work] he will be better able to make use of his impulses, instincts and his natural balance . . .

. . . the horse who has rational exercise, during which he is allowed to balance himself as he pleases, not being punished with needless suffering, develops in the most efficient fashion, with great advantage to his way of carrying himself, and becomes docile and submissive to the wishes of the rider.

... in order to accustom horses to the field without ruining them and making them bad-tempered, one must always profit by the natural instincts of the animal substantiating his movements and way of going, and one must give him the least possible discomfort in the mouth, loins and ribs. One must abolish the forced position of balance, and any action of the horse's legs beyond that which is essential to move him forward.

"In consequence, we shall have no more riders who ruin horses by trying to undertake work that they are not fit to ask of a horse, and that, even if well done and properly asked, not only is of no advantage but is actually harmful to the true work the horse should perform."
Riding actively doesn't require riding complexly. Staying on a horse, IMHO, ought to be taught to all new riders. After all, falling off means one has ceased riding at all, so all good riding includes staying on! Unfortunately, too much emphasis is given to riding a predictable horse and too little to staying on an unpredictable one. Riding lesson horses in circles on flat ground doesn't train one to stay on when the horse scoots 50 feet sideways, or slams on the brakes without first asking permission! How to ride a spooky or reactive horse is a specialized subset of riding. One many don't need to learn. But any good riding - or riding training - should include how to stay on and KEEP RIDING when a horse spooks. Or canters and doesn't want to slow. Or how to respond in a minor bolt. It shouldn't require a lot of falls. If lessons include a lot of falling, then the lessons are not good ones.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"

Last edited by bsms; 11-02-2018 at 11:32 AM.
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post #13 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 11:55 AM
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@bsms : I completely agree that we can give a lot more credit to the horse for being able to control its body. I get a chuckle out of the arena lessons I had on my horse, teaching him "balance". Lady, this horse slides down muddy ravines with me on his back and never misses a beat...he does not lack confidence in being balanced.

The "complex" riding you quoted may be useful for an asymmetric horse. A race horse that only knows left turns and thus lacks bilateral flexibility and muscle control may need some added instruction from a good rider to bend into a ride turn so as to turns like a train on rails rather than a boomerang. But that's a horse ruined by its career. A horse that rides like yours (and mine) from the time it's become accustomed to a rider will be athletic, flexible, and confident, and you can trust him.

Even if he does snort at a little garden windmill spinning in the wind.
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post #14 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 01:24 PM
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I actually think you ARE, in fact, a rider...especially with the attitude you have & the dedication, you kept going & didn't give up...many people would have thrown in the towel by then. Seems like nothing can stop you, and that is great. How it should be! You should enjoy this journey.

Ride more, worry less.
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post #15 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 03:25 PM
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We've had these conversations before @bsms . I have felt more tired and sore after a one-hour lesson with my coach than a 7 hour trail ride. I love trail riding, in fact, that's what I really want to do. But I also feel lessons in an arena help build up my riding muscles and skills so I do that too. I don't jump, I don't do any complicated manoeuvres. I'm not that good. Posting for 45 minutes gets me pretty darn tired. Using my seat and legs all the time is exhausting. Sitting back and relaxing in a saddle, not so exhausting. I'm happy to let the horse figure out the best footing, and I'm not saying arena riders are better riders than trail riders. Both require different skill sets and a lot of people can only do one. I try to do a bit of both. I challenge you to try posting for 45 minutes, doing one-stirrup or no-stirrup posting, while you do serpentines or other patterns, and tell me you don't feel you got a workout. Is it necessary? Well, maybe not, but I want to be able to do it. I like to challenge myself. I hope to challenge myself to more arduous trail rides with my new horse soon too. But yes, there is a difference between passive riding and active riding in my humble opinion.

And although I agree that staying on is a pretty important part of riding, it's not all there is to it. Furthermore, when you're just learning or re-learning to ride, a spooky, unpredictable horse makes it very difficult for you to build up the necessary skills and muscles to stay on. Ask me how I know. When you spend half your time clenching your jaw and clinging for dear life, it's really hard to get that nearly imperceptible half halt perfected. With some horses, spooks are explosive, and unless you're a bronc rider, good luck staying on. Again, ask me how I know. So yes, I believe you should learn to ride on a reliable horse so you can first focus on yourself, not the horse. Eventually, riders should get on more challenging horses if they wish to do so. Or not. It all depends on everyone's goals.

Last edited by Acadianartist; 11-02-2018 at 03:30 PM.
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post #16 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Acadianartist View Post
...I challenge you to try posting for 45 minutes, doing one-stirrup or no-stirrup posting, while you do serpentines or other patterns, and tell me you don't feel you got a workout. Is it necessary? Well, maybe not, but I want to be able to do it...But yes, there is a difference between passive riding and active riding in my humble opinion.

And although I agree that staying on is a pretty important part of riding, it's not all there is to it...
Gotta admit, I've never been tempted to post for 45 minutes, let alone do no stirrup posting. If you wish to do so...fine. But that hardly demonstrates a difference between active riding and passive riding, nor is it a requirement for good riding. After all, lost of folks don't even post...but that doesn't make them passive riders. In fact, Caprilli (and Littauer) rejected stirrupless riding as building bad habits.

A passive rider is like a dead weight being hauled around. They don't anticipate the horse's movement or attempt to match their balance to the horses. They expect the horse to do all the work. They are...passive. One can post passively. It is often taught - to let the horse's back thrust you out of the saddle. That is passive - letting the horse work harder so the rider can work less, instead of actively anticipating what the horse will do and matching it.

An active rider, to me, is one who is aware of what his horse is doing and what he is about to do, and then using his body as a rider to set the horse up for success. Here is a picture of my wife and I riding...one passive, one active:



The experienced little BLM mustang my wife is riding is quite content to be ridden passively. He'd greatly prefer that to being tightly controlled! An active rider can get a better performance out of him, but active in that sense refers to active balance.

There is also active riding mentally. Horses don't talk because people don't listen, and people don't listen because they don't particularly care what the horse is thinking - the "Just do it" school of riding. I believe one deals with a spooky horse by actively riding its mind. That means being aware of your horse's concerns and dealing with them in a way other than "Just do it!" An active rider learns to defuse the bomb before it explodes, although trial and error means one will need to ride a few explosions to learn the warning signs and how to manage the tension.

That requires very active riding, but not complex physical riding or extensive cues. It is also IMHO a specialized subset of riding and many won't need to do it.

As I said before, "If [really riding] is...competing at a high level in any equine sport, then "really riding" is obviously very hard and only a few will ever be good riders." If "really riding" means actively moving in fluid balance with your horse and motivating him to listen to his rider - which is how I would define it - then really riding IS within the reach of most riders who care.

As for staying on, it seems to be a much underrated part of riding. After all, one ceases to ride the moment one comes off, and it is very hard in particular for an older beginner - like me starting at 50 - to be confident if learning riding must include falling a lot. I don't think it does. But I do think a lot of riders learn how to ride a predictable horse and never learn how to adjust their position, balance and control to deal with an unpredictable horse. I think too many instructors say "you need to fall XX times to become a good rider" to cover up their own inadequate or false riding instruction.

Here is an example of what I mean:
Quote:
It seemed to me in 1933, when this book appeared (and I haven't changed my mind since), that if the rider's position depended primarily on firmly fixed knees then he was greatly hampered in the use of his legs. For, as long as a strong use of the legs releases the wedging of the knees, it would seem that the rider's position would be weakened every time he had to control the horse forcibly. Of course, on perfectly schooled horses, such moments may occur very rarely and don't have to be considered seriously; but a perfectly schooled horse is far from being a general case in this world, at least today.

I am also against gripping strongly with knees alone because as a result of abrupt movements of the horse which the rider has not been able to follow rhythmically he often loses his position by pivoting on the knees, usually landing on the horse's neck or beyond. All of us have seen this happen to such riders during unexpected refusals or irregular take-offs for the jump. Obviously, gripping with the lower thighs, knees and upper calves is stronger than with the knees alone.

Furthermore, a strongly fixed knee interferes with the flow of the weight into the stirrups and stiffens the knee joints, thus greatly diminishing the amount of spring in the rider's body. This spring, which is rarely mentioned by other schools of forward riding is to me a very important element in a good, effortless forward seat.

And last, but not least, I am quite certain that a hard grip stiffens a beginner and, once in the habit of being stiff, some never relax in their lives. So how am I to produce relaxed riders (not merely sitters) if my teaching from the outset is to be based on a fixed knee? Thus, with great regret, I had to reject for my work this part of the Italian method, of many principles of which I personally am so fond. - Common Sense Horsemanship, VS Littauer, Chapter 5
There are videos on posting that say the knee should be a fixed pivot point and that you should post by pivoting the thigh around the knee. Heck, practicing posting without stirrups seems to me like it would REQUIRE much of that, since without stirrups no weight can be supported below the knee. I've tried both with an explosive horse, using my Australian saddle. And a soft knee with weight flowing into the stirrups is what stopped me from slamming into the poleys.

ANY fall has the potential to kill or cripple a rider, and thus the former military safety officer in me believes all falls should be examined to determine what went wrong and how to break the chain of events leading to the fall. Like plane crashes, prevention starts by taking them seriously. No student can be promised they WON'T fall, but every fall has its root in some error - tack, poor teamwork between horse and rider, bad position for that specific moment, etc.

Staying on is certainly not the height of good riding, but it IS its prerequisite! And having started at an age where my bones break easier and my body doesn't bounce as well, staying on WHILE learning is pretty important. I've had one fall during a dismount. My error. It caused m 9 years of pain. It still limits my riding. Perhaps those years of pain made me more aware of why falling is serious. Particularly for those of us long out of our teens...

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #17 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 07:00 PM
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I see both sides of the argument. Everyone should determine their own riding goals, but in general, riding, yes really real riding, is not as hard as it is made out to be sometimes. If you can control your horse, ride all gaits, and generally get your horse where you want it going, I would call you a real rider. If you can control your horse in a tense, stressful situation and stop your horse from running ahead and nearly knocking me on my horse off the cliff (thanks for that terrifying memory, mom), then you are definitely a real rider.

OP, you are definitely a real rider with such passion to keep going after all of that. I admire your persistence and dedication. And you really don't need to be show jumping or winning dressage tests or running barrels or roping cattle to be a real rider. You just need to go out and ride and enjoy that horse time. I hope that you find that mellow confidence building horse that you really do deserve to ride!

"You can do something wrong for thirty years and call yourself experienced, you can do something right for a week and experience more than someone who spent thirty years doing the wrong thing." ~WhattaTroublemaker
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post #18 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 08:36 PM
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Right, well I am certainly not saying that you have to be able to post stirrupless for 45 minutes to be a "real" rider. Not in the least. What I am saying is that active riding is more than sitting there, even anticipating your horse's movements. It is actively directing that movement in very fine ways. Asking the horse for that slight flexion, for collection, to lengthen or shorten its stride, to pick up the right lead at the canter, etc. etc., all require a certain degree of riding skill that goes beyond staying on in a spook, or remaining under control of your horse. Is it necessary if you mainly want to ride trails? Probably not. But there is beauty in the language that is spoken between a horse and rider to make these very subtle movements and still look like a harmonious partnership. Achieving that is hard work. Of course, few people will get that far, I certainly won't. But I feel it's good to get the basics down so you gain a better appreciation of what it's like to take that horse and rider relationship to another level.

As for posting with or without stirrups, it's a very small movement when done well. Barely lifting your bum off the saddle, using the horse's movement for momentum. When I post for 45 minutes, my knees aren't hurting. My thighs ache a little, but mostly my abs are really sore. Because I am using my core, not my knees or feet to push up.

That said, I think I've gone a little off-topic. My purpose was simply to empathize with the OP, and express that yes, riding is hard. Sometimes you fall and it hurts. Sometimes you don't fall, but you still hurt after a lesson. And yet, we get back on over and over again. Because the joy outweighs the pain.
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post #19 of 34 Old 11-02-2018, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post


There is also active riding mentally. Horses don't talk because people don't listen, and people don't listen because they don't particularly care what the horse is thinking - the "Just do it" school of riding. I believe one deals with a spooky horse by actively riding its mind. That means being aware of your horse's concerns and dealing with them in a way other than "Just do it!" An active rider learns to defuse the bomb before it explodes, although trial and error means one will need to ride a few explosions to learn the warning signs and how to manage the tension.

That requires very active riding, but not complex physical riding or extensive cues. It is also IMHO a specialized subset of riding and many won't need to do it.
I do have to briefly comment on this part. I have extensive (though unwanted) experience with a spooky horse who is totally unpredictable. I have tried everything, have consulted with a multitude of experts, put her on supplements, have asked other people to ride my mare, and no one seems to be able to help. There is no "defusing the bomb" because she will be fine one second, and in the next millisecond, I am on the ground because she just spun and bolted, then spun again to make sure to shake me off. Mind you, she is probably exceptional. I certainly hope so for the sake of others. If I do have warning, I can usually take things down to a manageable level, but some of her spooks -- usually the most massive ones -- come out of nowhere. She has actually spooked at things that weren't there anymore because they used to be there. Anything out of context causes a meltdown. It's possible I just don't have the skill to ride her, and I sure do think that there are others out there who would be better qualified to ride her than me, but for some reason, no one wants to take her on. My point is that to suggest that a spooky horse can be fixed if only a rider can anticipate reactions only works with predictable horses. Sadly, a lot of spooky horses are unpredictable.
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post #20 of 34 Old 11-03-2018, 12:36 AM
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...My point is that to suggest that a spooky horse can be fixed if only a rider can anticipate reactions only works with predictable horses. Sadly, a lot of spooky horses are unpredictable.
You are totally correct! I'm sorry I created a wrong impression! Having spent 7 years with Mia, I know the feeling. There was often no warning. The time her saddle slipped onto her side, she was so calm a second before that I was about to take my feet out of the stirrups...and then WHAM! 1.5 full circles of spin, and while I remained on top the saddle did not. I ended up jumping off before she she could explode again.

With a horse like that, improvement can be extremely slow. She DID improve, but I had become resigned to always riding with one hand on the saddle horn in anticipation of a violent spin out of nowhere. Looking back, there may have been a few things I could have tried...but I swapped her for Bandit, instead. Who was spookier when he arrived than she was, but who was and is fundamentally a sane horse who stays aware of his surroundings.

I talked to Mia's current owner last spring and they now view her as nearly bombproof. I don't think it was any special riding on their part. They live in very open country and frequently take Mia out for 2-5 mile gallops. There is no place around me where that can be done safely. I suspect a lot of her explosiveness was her racing breeding and my inability to let her run hard for miles.


The other factor is how open the country is on the Navajo Nation. It really is a place where a horse can see in all directions for miles. That was Bandit's problem when he arrived. He could no longer see where sounds were coming from and it took a year or two to convince him that was OK.

Honestly, I wouldn't have minded riding out Mia's spooks in very open country. It was experiencing them surrounded by cactus that left me badly scared. How scared? Two days ago, I took Bandit for a solo ride in the desert. 15 minutes in, my stomach tied itself in knots. I eventually turned him for home. Not because HE had done anything wrong but because MY insides were churning!

When I take Bandit between the cactus, I'm doing something I never dared to do with Mia. In 3.5 years, Bandit had never once lost awareness of his surroundings. If he can afford to spook 50 feet sideways, he may spook 45 feet. If he can afford to spook 3 feet sideways, he may spook 2.5 feet. In 3.5 years, he has never lost his footing and never put my thigh into cactus spines.

All that said, not 100% of Mia's spooks were unpredictable. But most of her truly violent spin spooks came out of the blue. And I don't think a rider of my experience and with my southern Arizona desert terrain was ever going to truly calm her. She needed something I couldn't provide, and is much better off as a brood mare getting to run for miles than living with me. And I am much better off riding Bandit. Bandit doesn't always ask permission before changing directions or speed, but he is fundamentally a very sane horse. And thus a vastly safer ride! I still miss Mia, but my odds of getting older are better without her. And I suspect she is happier too, with a couple of foals and lots of exercise!

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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