Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day Seven: Introduction to a rider

Stevie has been with me now since she was six months old.  The first several months were devoted just to acclimating the filly to people.  After that, however, a portion of nearly every day was devoted to this exercise.  I tend to take advantage of feeding time; while Stevie was eating her grain, I'd be hanging over her back.  Consequently, this exercise went very smoothly.

Even with the past experiences she has had, I tend not to take anything to chance with young horses.  After a brief review of her previous ground work, I began by simply draping my arms over her back.  It's amazing how bothered some horses get by anything crossing over their mid-line. 

The next step was to jump up and rest my belly on her back.  With my left hand, I keep a hold of the lead rope, so I can gain control of her nose and feet if need be.  As a side note, this is one of the only times you'll see my 'on' a horse without a hardhat.  I am a firm believer of protection while riding; it is so easy to be injured, especially when working with young or problem horses.  Even if the horse doesn't act up, they can still stumble, trip, or fall.  During this exercise, I find that wearing a helmet can interfere with some of the movements I need to make later on.

While I'm hanging over Stevie's back, I just stay nice and still, and scratch all the itchy spots I can!

This is the final step I take (and is why I don't wear a helmet for this step... it makes getting into this position too awkward).  It's important to note that my feet always stay on the same side of the horse (I never straddle the horse at this point).  If you have one foot on either side of the horse, you are very likely to grip should something go wrong; it's natural to squeeze to hang on it the horse gets nervous and moves off.  By not straddling the horse, you can always push off and away if something goes wrong.  To make sure of this, I keep my feet crossed, ensuring they stay on one side of the horse at a time!

Stevie passed this exercise with flying colors!  

Please use caution and common sense.  Horses are large animals, with an exceptional amount of power and strength.  They are also concerned above all with their own personal safety, and will do whatever they feel it takes to keep themselves from harm.  Being individuals that act and react differently, the only certainty you have when working a horse is uncertainty.  I am a professional trainer with twenty plus years experience, yet even with the knowledge I possess, I still get hurt from time to time.  This blog and the accompanying media are for entertainment purposes only.  No responsibility will be assumed for injuries or damages incurred while trying to use these methods at home.  Please ride responsibly; protective gear can save your life!

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