My first post and a couple of questions - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 02:20 AM
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@elzilrac, boom, found you Similar in quality to PP (SF is the actual lesson barn). If you ever want to come down to the lower peninsula, SDEC is a good lesson barn for your first real showing experiences, though it's not a "be all, end all" place. I board on a private property about 2 miles from SDEC.
Looks like your group comes down to [email protected] for the shows. I am right next to that property. Maybe I'll get to see your gang if you come down for the summer dressage circuit! Look for Win It to Be in (Tyra! <3 )

Last edited by jaydee; 12-24-2017 at 12:09 PM.
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post #12 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 02:33 AM
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Originally Posted by elzilrac View Post
Hello! I've been lurking here for some weeks, reading as many of the threads as I can as well as taking weekly lessons for the last four months. I had no idea how much I didn't know!

Anyways, I've got a couple of questions that I haven't found an answer to here to elsewhere if you helpful folks wouldn't mind answering.

1. The horse I usually ride is a real big guy, and his back is quite muscular (he's also such a good boy!). However there have been two other horses I rode that had prominent spines behind their shoulders. By comparison to "big guy" it seems like riding a bony-er horse would hurt their back. Does it? And/or is improving the bony spine area to be more muscular what people mean when you all say "build up the topline"? They were a little on the thin side to my very untrained eye (best guess a 4 on the "Henneke" scale, since their ribs weren't visible).
This is multi-faceted. Some horses have naturally strong top lines. Even in poor condition, they still remain muscled along the top. These are usually broader, stocky types. Muscle-bound if you will. Others do not keep toplines well. They are usually leaner, more narrow. It takes a lot more work to build those muscles and they lose them quick. A back without adequate muscling can be more sore because they don't have the needed muscle to hold a rider. A well fitted saddle shouldn't impact this. You can have a thin horse with a strong topline and a fat horse with a weak topline. One horse's strong topline may never look as good as a horse with a naturally strong topline.

2. Riding crops. I uh, don't like them. I really don't want to use them at all, because as I've improved and my communication gets more clear to the horse it's becoming more apparent that "lazy" behavior is more my fault than the horse's. Eg, now that I can feel them slow down, a squeeze and a cluck before they change gates is so much more effective than nagging at them after. (btw not knocking my trainer here, she's the one who helped me realize that). When do you get to understanding when use of a crop appropriate vs it's "user error" and you need to fix yourself instead?
I don't think anyone likes hitting their horse. Often, a nagging leg is created because of a horse who is already dull to the leg. Using the crop to back up the leg in this case often will resolve the nagging leg because it is finally being listened to. What happens when a squeeze and cluck is ignored? Need to back that up with the crop. When you become conscious of your own body and can realize how you are using your aids, you can recognize when it is appropriate to use the crop because they are ignoring you, vs you are wrong. Time in the saddle.

3. Looking around at different places to ride. This weekend was the first time I ventured out to another riding place. I was glad that I did, and it made me appreciate how nice of a barn and trainer I lucked into by having a knowledgeable friend refer me. It's not that I want to ride someplace else, but I have an urge to just see what else is around. There are half a dozen places to try out within a 45 minute drive of where I live, but I'm feeling guilty about being "disloyal" to my barn. (I'm looking for some reassurance with this one)
This can be delicate. Many trainers will not take kindly to their students shopping around at other barns, even if it's only window shopping.

4. Barn etiquette. I have a fear of accidentally making the other barn humans mad. Is there some in depth checklist that I can read to make sure I'm not messing up? I read all the signs that are posted around, but still fear the "unwritten" rules. Is it OK to say "hi" to the other horses (offer them my hand to sniff, scratch their forehead if they're friendly)? I know I shouldn't feed them, but if a horse is looking interested in me, I just can't resist saying "hi" back. I also feel bad keeping the tack out while I'm grooming/putting away my horse, but I also don't want to leave it in the tack room uncleaned in case someone thinks some air head didn't clean up after themselves. But I also don't want to make my horse stand out there alone by cleaning tack first. Ahhh! Overthinking!
Yes, overthinking. It's generally considered OK to say hi to other horses. Watch for any signs posted on the stalls, that might say otherwise. Do you have your own tack, or is this borrowed? What do the other riders do? I personally don't clean my tack after each ride, but if I did I would while my horse eats his grain. If you don't have an opportunity like that, I'd say deal with your horse, then take care of the tack. As long as you get the tack done, who cares when.

5. Kind of a joking-not-joking question here. How can I cure myself of this horse crazy bug??? I feel like I'm going to drive all my non-horse friends nuts because it's all I want to talk about
You don't.
6. (edited in! forgot this one!) When people talk about injuries from a fall, how bad are they? I've never fallen off a horse, but I HAVE taken many an other tumble (flying over the handlebars of a dirt bike without a scratch, broke an arm with those darn wheeley shoes when I was a kid, and my least favorite, high speed ice skating crashes that result in nasty purple bruises and problems sitting for weeks). What's the range for "beginner" level spills from a chill lesson horse?
Most beginner falls are tame. Horse makes an extra bouncy step and the rider is popped out of the tack. Zig instead of Zag. Usually results in a bruised ego, sand down your shirt. Maybe a sore hip.

Or it could be a broken wrist, sprained ankle, concussion... worse. Those usually occur at higher speeds, more technical sports, unruly behavior.
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post #13 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 02:55 AM Thread Starter
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@thecolorcoal Wow the equestrian world is small (but also big, wow I'm getting a bit dizzy keeping track of all the acronyms).

I feel so "green" right now that even the thought of doing a show is intimidating. Might be fun to come spectate though. I watched my first rodeo this year and it was very exciting. When I started, the only distinction I really grasped was "english" vs "western", so I've been slowly trying to figure out what the heck everything is and even the choices available to do. Currently my understanding is not a whole lot better:

cutting = horse needs cow sense... and a quote from here somewhere "like riding a spook"
barrels = run real fast, need to be bendy
bronc riding = SCARY
roping = cows and lassos
mounted shooting = real life western movie?
gymkhana = ??? but it looks like the word "gymnastics" so I picture doing vaults on a real horse instead of a gymnastics "horse"
hunter/jumper = jumping over stuff like hedges and ponds
dressage = fancy steppin' horse. Something called a "lead change". Sometimes it's flying.
trail riding = need to know how to introduce your horse to random scary things like bikers! deer! cows! tarps!

PS I know nothing. These are meant with love and humor and appreciation for how much cool horse stuff there is!!
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post #14 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 03:04 AM
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Haha you will learn! A lot goes into all those sports, it looks easy but none of them are!

Are you riding english right now? or Western?
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post #15 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 03:15 AM Thread Starter
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@thecolorcoal I'm riding English.

@ApuetsoT Thank you for the insight into topline vs the build of horses. That makes sense. It's borrowed tack, and the signs around the place say to clean every time if you're borrowing.
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post #16 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 03:34 AM
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great, english is very technical. Not saying western isn't, but i have no western experience. There is a lot of biomechanical theory that goes into english riding, as it is derived from fox hunting and pleasure riding. Western is derived from working horses, ranchwork, where the mechanics and finesse were not necessary. English will teach you good equitation, western will teach you how to work alongside your horse accomplishing a goal, like cattle penning or roping or even reining. Trail riding, i'd say, is the real test of english and western. A lot of english horses struggle on the trails because english in itself requires a horse that is nearly 100% dependent on its rider, and I believe and have experienced western horses rely on a horse who has a sense of self and can be independent, a thinker, and who can problem-solve for their rider.

Western riders, correct me of i am wrong. I am fascinated by the discipline, coming from dressage/hunter-jumper it is a completely different need and philosophy in a horse.

I think english riding is coming along with not needing total submission of the mount, but the needs are just different. there is a higher emphasis on showing, in which a horse must be keyed into their rider as a lot of the english disciplines call for very hot, forward horses and they can be difficult to control on their own. I am thinking showjumping and dressage, specifically. There isn't a ton of "ground work desensitization" in english like there is western. You won't see any natural horsemanship. You may see some questionable methods but like in my first post you must must MUST be open minded and respectful. There will be a lot you don't agree with, acknowledge it and decide that when you become an independent rider and own your own horse, you will not do these things.

There is no round penning, no halter work, and if a horse is unruly most use a stud chain. Horses are allowed to get away with a lot because frankly the owners are ill-equipt to train horses and the trainers do most, if not all, of the equine management and riding. It is a completely different world, almost closer resembling the saddleseat world than the western world.

There are a lot of misgivings in english riding, and if you want to point out one downfall and blame worthy entity it is the Pony Club, both UK and USA. It is derived of military riding technique and is incredibly outdated/old, but many youth start their riding experience in PC, so that is where a lot of the over-use of crops/whips/spurs comes from, along with people seeing horses as mindless machines. I was never in PC but I do know, from a nonfiction book I read, that it teaches very old, very unuqdated horsemanship. So keep that in mind: you cannot fault ignorance, for ignorance is simply the lack of knowledge.

It is also important to note that a lot of lower-level english riders haven't a clue about horses outside actually riding. They do not understand horse language/psychology. This is a very common thread in the english world. There is no pressure to understand the horse. If you ride at SDEC, there is a lot of this mindset going around, but MOST barns operate very similarly to SDEC unless they are smaller and more independent. It is the rare gem of a barn that lets you try and make mistakes on your own.

I ride hunters, and hunters in itself is a very high-nosed, snotty discipline filled with people who can't ride, but can sit and look pretty. Dressage is where the real test of rider and horse come into play, and can be compared to reining. But still, shortcuts can be taken when there is pressure from sponsors to do well.

I love to jump. It is harder than it looks. My horse is very forward on the flat but not 100% on the aids, though when the standards come up she gets it into gear. We have some soundness issues that make her unsuitable for sports like eventing and showjumping, and hunters is a slower, laggier style of jumping so that is what we do because that is what will keep her safe and sound, pun intended. I personally HATE hunters. I am an equitation rider but there is not much in terms of adult eq. She's not an equitation horse, her bascule is too round and I still don't trust those tight turns.

Last edited by thecolorcoal; 12-18-2017 at 03:53 AM.
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post #17 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 07:36 AM
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Western riders, correct me of i am wrong. I am fascinated by the discipline, coming from dressage/hunter-jumper it is a completely different need and philosophy in a horse.


For the intents and purpose of the OP, basic horsemanship is basic horsemanship. Doesn't really matter if it is "english" or western. Tack, style, and some technicalities developed differently for the different purposes. But the basics are the same. Learn to ride the horse, not the saddle.

Hope that helps some.
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post #18 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 08:21 AM
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Welcome to the horse world! I have been riding for about 9 years and I still have a heap to learn!

The topline questions seem to have already been answered to a good extent, so I won't bother going into that :)
With artificial aids like riding crops, they can be good and bad, it depends on whose hands they are in.

I have seen people using artificial aids in a very cruel way, so for thing like spurs, only more experienced riders should use them. You must have a steady leg, and be able to use your leg properly. I am only opposed to them if they are in the wrong hands - or more specifically attached to the wrong boot.
With whips and spurs, they are a very handy tool, but only if you need them. I don't usually with a whip or crop because my horse has plenty of go, but in the case where I need extra help moving his bum across in leg yields for example they come in handy. I will only use spurs to stop him from leaning on me, or to help him straighten. I know the aids thing is super overwhelming when you are starting out, there are so many different uses for your body, your legs and your hands.

It's hard not to feel disloyal to your barn by looking around, but you also have to keep in mind your ethical concerns. My friend moved her horse to my property after realising that they were near starving their horses (her horse is now in great condition at my place).

As you become more confident in yourself and your horse knowledge, the barn etiquette thing will become less of a problem. As long as you aren't damaging or misusing their property or mistreating their horse (and yours), people generally don't mind what you do. With the saying hi to the horse thing, I have gotten in trouble giving a horse a pat without asking the owner first, so if the owner is around, you should always ask if you can pat him/her. Otherwise you can make the assessment yourself if the horse seems friendly enough. For me I would always be happy to see someone giving my horse love. Yes overthinking with your tack! Don't feel bad keeping it out while you put away your horse (just make sure it is in no place that it may get damaged, fall or get wet and dirty).

There is no cure for the horse crazy bug, but however you may tire of it at some point, it is a massive commitment to you, your time, your energy and your bank account. But they are worth it!

6. (edited in! forgot this one!) When people talk about injuries from a fall, how bad are they? I've never fallen off a horse, but I HAVE taken many an other tumble (flying over the handlebars of a dirt bike without a scratch, broke an arm with those darn wheeley shoes when I was a kid, and my least favorite, high speed ice skating crashes that result in nasty purple bruises and problems sitting for weeks). What's the range for "beginner" level spills from a chill lesson horse?

I have had extremely nasty falls, however you would be pleased to know that none of them have been on "chill lesson horses" but instead on frisky ones. You will fall off at some point, and you have to remember horses are unpredictable animals. Just because he is a lesson horse, doesn't mean he wont spook or bolt, and because you are a beginner your seat won't be good enough so you probably wouldn't stick it. However this is nothing to be afraid of, I have had many falls, and only a couple have been nasty, the others I may have been a little sore for a couple of hours, but I always got back on and finished the ride. There are always ways to learn how to fall safely, or what to do when your horse bolts or spooks.

I am a dressage rider, and I would be happy to tell you more about the "fancy steppin' horse. Something called a "lead change". Sometimes it's flying."
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post #19 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 09:21 AM
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Which guy is healthier - a weightlifter or a distance runner? Like humans, horses can be naturally muscular or not. And like humans, the "correct" muscling depends on the sport. Big thighs are good for sprinting but bad for marathons.

A horse needs a strong enough back to carry a rider without sagging too much. As the weight of the rider becomes more difficult, the horse will tense its back more. If the horse needs to brace its back to protect it, then the rider is too much for the horse to carry - either because of size differences, or because of how the rider rides, or what the rider is trying to do, or because of how the horse is built or how fit the horse is.

I don't carry a crop. That doesn't make me special. My horse is very slender, and the one my wife prefers is like a little tank, but both are happy going fast. We have more problems with slowing them down than speeding them up. Some horses prefer walking to trotting. A horse ridden by a lot of riders may not want to go faster for ANY rider because of how SOME riders ride.

With the Arabian mare I used to own, I carried a leather whip hanging from the horn. About twice a year, I would use the whip to hit MY leg. That always got her attention - me hitting me. A lesson horse I used to ride would ignore ANY rider's cues to go faster unless the rider CARRIED a crop. Then he'd behave wonderfully. But only if the rider had a crop with them.

I seriously doubt the Pony Club teaches bad equitation. Bad equitation is riding in a way that makes it harder for the horse to perform a task, or that increases the risk to the rider. The way one rides a cutting horse differs from riding a jumper differs goes on and on. Riding is about balance and moving with your horse and staying on when your horse does the unexpected.

I learned to ride while riding on pavement and in the desert. There is no good way to fall into cactus. There is no good way to fall onto boulders. This has made me very defensive in my riding. I think that is OK. I've had one fall. January of 2009. It was 5 years before I could take up jogging again, and I still have back pain on some days. "Soft tissue damage" - and it still causes me problems nearly 9 years later. Not a fan of falling.
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post #20 of 28 Old 12-18-2017, 09:29 AM
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I'm a western rider, but rather than go into more detail than your cute little one-liners, I'll just address one: gymkhana. No, gymkhana is not vaulting on and off horses - that is Vaulting (also known as trick riding).

Gymkhana is more like games for non-pro riders.
There's your traditional barrel racing (not near as fast or amazing as pro), and pole bending (weaving in and out of poles), some have ribbon runs (race down the arena, grab the ribbon off a pole or fence or hanging thing and race back), and others may have dozens more oft made-up-at-that-barn fun things to do/compete at on a horse. Prizes can range from money to ribbons to silly stuff, depending on the organizer and the level of seriousness or playfulness. Rarely, if ever, are gymkhana events 'rated.' Unless, of course, if a single venue stages weekly or monthly events where scores are tallied for year-end prizes. And in those, Yes, Clementine, they do give "World's Best" Egg-in-Spoon-Racer trophy.

Some gymkhana's are set up a lot like regular rodeos, but may include sheep or goat riding for the kiddos, steer riding for the kids that will one day grow up to be bull or bronc riders, roping, goat ties, etc. Most allow both boys and girls (or women and men) to compete against each other in their chosen events.
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