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
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?
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.