Finding the right instructor is essential if a rider wants positive, satisfying, and safe equestrian experiences. The “best” riding instructor may be a very different person for different riders. It is an adult student’s responsibility to choose an instructor that suits her current level of ability and her goals.
Choosing a riding instructor is as personal a decision as choosing your doctor. The first step is clearly defining your objective:
• Are you just beginning to ride and want to learn solid, basic skills you can use for any riding discipline?
• Are you returning to riding after a period of years and want an assessment of your current riding skills?
• Are you riding already but want to change riding disciplines?
• Are you riding already but want to improve your skills or work on specific problems?
Being clear about your riding goals right from the start will not only help you evaluate the suitability of different riding instructors but will also help any instructor understand your expectations. If your goal is to excel in a particular equestrian sport, you will want an instructor with a successful background in that sport, one who knows how to develop and challenge her students so that they can be competitive in the show ring.
If your goal is to ride confidently and safely while enjoying nature from the back of a horse as you head out on trails, you would probably seek out a very different type of instructor.
Even though horse back riding is enjoyable and should be fun it is really important to realize that when you are having lessons and learning to ride that you need to have goals and be setting progress goals. A well prepared, good instructor will be interested in your progress, know what level you want to go to and be able to answer this, whereas an instructor who is ill prepared or not that interested will have trouble with this and what your growth is.
Many instructors will take the time to write down your progress and what needs to be worked on and will talk to you about it before and after your lesson. When you get in the ring you will have an idea on what you will be doing and concentrating on no matter how big or small the goal is.
Every lesson you won’t learn something new you maybe concentrating you have not quite mastered or polishing up on a skill that you have already learnt.
Knowing how you are going, what your progress is and having an interested instructor as a good sounding board makes the whole experience more valuable.
When it comes to equestrian events, most casual observers can tell that there is a large difference between English and Western shows. While the riding techniques themselves are actually quite similar, the jumping tack is vastly different. This is mainly because the traditional use of horses has been so different on opposite sides of the world. Western riding has its beginnings in the cowboy lifestyle of the wild west, while English dressage comes from the hunting and sport of old aristocrats. Of course, the resulting styling will reflect that vast spread.
Because Western terrain was rough, the jumping tack is also much more heavy duty. A Western saddle is quite substantial, as cowboys needed to be able to sit for long periods of time, travel at high speeds and still remain secure atop his mount. The noticeably larger tree and pommel accommodate roping in the Western discipline. The horse’s bit is also made to accommodate more slack on the reins and often includes flashy embellishments for show.
Western riders wear a long chap to protect their legs from brush and that is still seen in modern showmanship. There is also a big difference in the uniform of the rider himself. In Western competitions, the rider’s apparel is designed to draw attention and add to the showmanship of the event. It is much flashier than what you will see in an English horse show.
In English competition, it’s all about clean lines and control. Both the horse and the rider offer a toned down picture of professionalism and mastery. The jumping tack in English riding is composed of a flat saddle that lacks the extra features seen in Western saddles. There are also significant differences in the bridle. The reins are shorter as English riders always use both their hands to guide and control their mount. You will also notice the distinctive nose band seen on the horses in English competitions. The rider’s clothing is also more streamlined. The basic uniform features tight fitting breaches, high boots, a neat shirt with tie, a sharp jacket and, of course, a cap or riding helmet. In English riding, the emphasis in removed from the riding accessories and placed on the skill of the horse and rider.
Whatever the preferred style, there is much to appreciate about horsemanship in general. Learning to control an animal with that much power and ability automatically teaches a rider discipline. To the casual observer, it can be interesting to understand the differences in style and jumping tack. Knowing each piece and what its use is can increase your enjoyment of the show, whether it’s the Western or English discipline. Make sure you have quality horse trailers when taking your horse to all of their shows.
While most people are familiar with the impact that the invention of the wheel had on civilization, many people are less familiar with the impact of the stirrup. The ability to use and control powerful animals like horses and mules marked a turning point in human history and the stirrup was essential to this domestication process. However, while horses were first tamed in about 4500 BC, it wasn’t until around 500 BC that the stirrup was put to common use.
In simple terms, the stirrup attaches to the saddle, providing foot support and control for the rider. The basic composition is generally the same with all styles, including English stirrups. A strap is used to attach the pair of stirrups to the saddle on either side of the horse. English stirrups have a thinner strap than their Western counterparts. To these straps the actual stirrup is attached. This piece of horse tack has several functions.
First, they provide a foot hold making it easier to mount the horse. Most riders mount on the same side and the leathers can become unevenly stretched. The stirrup straps can be periodically adjusted or the rider can switch sides for more even wear. Riders can also adjust their straps for greater performance. A longer strap will give the rider more control, while shorter straps increase mobility. Once firmly seated, the stirrups also allow the rider to better maneuver their mount. By gently pressing the stirrups into the horse’s side, it is easier to let the mount know what the rider has in mind.
While it is true that the stirrup is a simple tool that effectively pushed civilization well into the future, it is also true that the design isn’t without problems. One of the most common safety issues is having a rider’s foot become stuck in the stirrup itself. This is common with all designs. This can lead to the rider being dragged by the horse and injured. Many English saddles are now made with safety features that allow the leathers to detach if a rider becomes stuck. Also, many regular riders experience damage to their foot by spending long hours in stirrups. To decrease this risk, the stirrup bar can be made wider to provide more support. A good pair or riding boots can also be helpful and the rider can be trained in techniques to diminish foot damage. Despite these concerns, the stirrup remains an important part of civilization and we are still benefiting from the advances that it has allowed through the ages.
In horsemanship, there is a long history in both the tack and the technique. A few basic pieces of tack are absolutely necessary for any task that you wish your animal to perform. These include the saddle, stirrups and English bridle. The bridle provides much of the control and communication between the rider and her mount. While different configurations are best suited for different tasks, each bridle follows a basic design.
The basic English bridle is composed of a series of straps that go around the head of the horse. The main strap or headpiece goes around the head, resting behind the ears. The other straps attach to the headpiece. These include the cheekpieces, throatlash, browband, reins and bit. Some bitless bridles also have a noseband that provides the control in place of the bit. Other things can also be attached to the bridle depending on the riding circumstances. These include bit hobbles, blinders and even ornaments.
There are several styles of English bridle and each is suited to a different task. The most common style used in most casual English riding is known as the snaffle bridle. The Pelham bridle is also well known and features a single bit and two reins. There is also the double or Weymouth bridle which has two bits and two sets of reins. This is a more formal rein and is most often seen in dressage competitions and horse shows. Finally, a rider can use a bitless bridle or hackamore. This design eliminates the bit entirely and instead uses a nosestrap to provide the pressure needed to maneuver the animal.
Like many things in the equestrian discipline, the English bridle is custom fitted to the horse that wears it. There is no one size fits all approach as each horse is different in size and shape. The bridle relies on gentle and precise pressure and an ill fitting bridle can make the horse uncomfortable and also lead to a confusion in communication. Fitting the horse’s bridle properly is, therefore, extremely important.
Prices vary among styles and brands of bridles. Most establishments that sell horse tack should either carry or be familiar with the most popular brands. Some of these are Vespucci, Keiffer, Passier and Stubben. It’s a good idea to check competitors to determine the best price for a rider’s particular needs. With the proper bridle, the rider can ensure they are always in tune with their mount, facilitating better communication between the horse and rider.
There is nothing more elegant in the horse world than watching a horse compete in the English riding genre of Dressage. Dressage — quite literally the training and competition of a horse in such a manner as allowing the rider to be in complete control — has been around for hundreds of years and has often been thought of as the royalty of horse competitions from the local level all the way to the Olympic level and everything in between. The horses must behave superbly and maintain their aristocratic attitude throughout a course that is designed to challenge them and their rider to the fullest in endurance, jumping and the overall demeanor of the animal as far as relaxation and calmness is concerned. For those who would like to participate in dressage, the equipment used is very specific and can quite often be very expensive. For many who are just starting out in competition, purchasing used dressage saddles is often the way to go as it can save them a considerable amount of money at the beginning.
However, if you are going to purchase used dressage saddles, it is important to make sure that you know what you are looking for and to make sure the fit is proper for both you and your horse. Saddle fitting a horse is serious business in order to prevent soreness and injury to horse and you want to make sure that any saddle you purchase is going to fit properly. The best way to do this is with specific measurements of your horse and where the saddle is supposed to be properly positioned in relation to the horse’s shoulders, gullet and back. BY proper measurement, you can prevent serious injury during competition that could result in an ended career for your equine friend.
Once you know what kind of saddle you are looking for and have the proper measurements in hand, you can then begin your search for used dressage saddles. Some of the more popular choices include Billy Cook, Circle Y, Stubben and Big Horn. You can often locate people who are willing to sell their saddles on the dressage circuit itself, or online by doing a search for what you are specifically looking for.
There is almost nothing more beautiful than watching an ambling horse in the middle of their gait whether that gait happens to be a running walk, a slow gait, a lateral gait or a rack. Gaited horses — such as Tennessee Walking Horses, Missouri Foxtrotters and Paso Finos among others — do not move in a two beat hoof pattern as their equine counterparts do, rather they use each leg independently of itself creating a four hoofed gait that is often much smoother for the horse and rider. These horse have long been prized for their ability to produce such gaits and as such, it makes them the perfect horse to compete in endurance competitions and long distance trail rides as they can often travel for extended periods of time when in their gait. If you are riding any of the members in the gaited horse family, it is for this reason that you would want to make sure you are using specialty gaited horse saddles as it is imperative to health of the horse that the proper equipment is used.
Unlike traditional Western saddles, gaited horse saddles are lighter in weight and sit in more proper alignment along the horse’s back and shoulders. It is of vital importance that the fit of gaited horse saddles be properly measured because any bit of discomfort or restriction the horse can feel will more often than not cause the horse to lose their gait which can lead to muscle strain and soreness. Therefore, for the health of your animal, purchasing the proper equipment to ride one of these magnificent animals is imperative.
Fortunately, there are many companies — such as Big Horn, Stubben, Billy Cook and Circle Y, to name only but a few — that also specialize in the manufacturing of high quality, affordable gaited horse saddles. Most people often ride the gaited horse in competitions and having not only is having the proper equipment a must for the health of the horse, but it is also a must for the continuity of the competition itself and the rider is judged not only on how well they ride their horse, but on the equipment as well.
Anyone who is in the business of raising, riding and competing horses knows that for any given type of horse category, there is a list of specific tack that must accompany the rider during any and all competitions. If any piece of the equipment is missing, then it is quite possible the rider will lose valuable points in the competition and at times, can even be disqualified from competing. This is because the business of riding and showing horses is serious and for many people it is their life’s passion. Additionally, the best of the best can often find themselves in International competitions that can also lead them to a spot on the United States Olympic team. The most popular horse competition is that of dressage — which is basically the formal and competitive training of a horse to perform in a relaxed state in an arena that is comprised of tests such as movement and various jumps. To this end, there is specific dressage tack that allows for greater and easier movement of the rider and provides the horse with more comfort.
However, because the dressage horse is often shown in minimal tack, you should keep yourself up to date on the current rules that govern dressage tack, otherwise you could find yourself in violation during a competition and that can decrease your standing in the competition considerably. Too, because the sport of dressage is so formal, most all of the dressage tack that you see will be comprised of black leather and must be kept in near perfect condition.
All that being said, the basics of dressage tack include the saddle, of course, which is a lightweight English style saddle that has a long, straight saddle flap, a deep seat and a noticeable knee block. You may use a saddle blanket when competing in dressage and it is often nothing more than a white square, minimalist and distinct. As for the bridle, the rules are quite clear and the most common seen on the competition circuit is a double bridle with both a bradoon and a curb bit that utilizes a smooth curb chain.
When purchasing equipment for you and your horse, it is incredibly important that you make sure to have the right size, which will ensure a proper fit, and the right kind so that you can more easily control your horse. This is never more important than it is when choosing horse bits. The bit is quite literally the force behind how well you can control your horse. It is a metal piece of equipment that is attached to the bridle and fits in the horses mouth which allows the rider to control the direction and speed of the animal. Because the equestrian world is so specific with regards to everything from racing, to competitions to just regular pleasure riding, there is quite an abundance of bit types and styles to choose from, so much so, that many but the avid horseman can get confused on what is the proper type for their animal — this is especially true when you consider that one bit might work well for one horse but might make a stubborn mule out of another.
To this end, there are general rules of thumb you can follow when determining what kind of horse bits to purchase and use for your horse always keeping in mind that you need the correct bit for your style of equine activity. For instance, if you are in to show horses, you would not want to purchase and use a bit that is designed for the training a horse and conversely, if you have a gaited horse you would not want to use a bit that is designed for the ruggedness of a western horse when they are in a full on gallop. Keeping this in mind, you should be able to find the proper bit for your animal that will fit perfectly in their mouth without causing any kind of discomfort or soreness.
In your search, you will also most likely discover that there are two main types of horse bits, the curb bit, which provides leverage for the rider over the animal, and the snaffle bit, which is a non-leverage, jointed bit. The determining factor on which type of bit you should use, quite often lies in the amount of pressure you need to have over the animal — for instance, the curb bit provides greater pressure when the rider takes the reins as this allows them to more easily control the animal (good for Western riding) and the snaffle bit provides pressure equal to the amount of pressure the rider puts on the reigns. So depending on how you want your horse to behave and how much control you need, this will determine what kind of bit you purchase as well as the material it is made out of so as not to injure the horse’s mouth.
Anyone who rides horses for fun or for their living — whether it be on a ranch, for show, in dressage, racing or jumping — knows that having the proper horse riding apparel is always a must. Previously, people who required special apparel for riding horses were often limited to being able to find their clothing in local stores or via a catalogue that specialized in equestrian gear. However, since the advent of the Internet, many people who are looking for the proper equestrian apparel need look no further than any one of the many online retail shops that specialize in all things equestrian.
Too, one of the main benefits to doing your shopping online for horse riding apparel is that you can often find websites that offer good, quality clothing at a discount so you are not spending a fortune on the clothes you need to ride for leisure, sport or work. Additionally, it is far easier to find children’s, women’s and men’s clothing online than it is through mail order because you are able to compare various websites with one another and find the perfect size helmet, chaps, footwear and outerwear. As an added benefit to shopping online for quality clothing, you can more easily find formal riding apparel that is in stock and the right color for whatever your particular need is. For example, if you require specific breeches such as jodhpurs for the riding circuit, then you are able to find and compare many of the most popular brands such as Ariat, Arista and Kentucky, to name but a few.
Too, if you are looking for specialty horse riding apparel, it is also much easier to find the different types — such as western or mountain wear — online than it might be in the store, especially if the local stores in the area only carry one type of equestrian apparel as many often do. One thing is for certain, there is no shortage of the available horse riding apparel for those who participate regularly in the sport, it is only a matter of finding the clothing that is most appropriate for what type of riding you primarily do.