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How to Think Like A Horse: The Essential Handbook for Understanding Why Horses Do What They Do

Horse Stable and Riding Arena Design

Horse Owner's Veterinary Handbook (Howell Reference Books)

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage: Designing and Managing Your Equine Facilities

Student Riding Levels

What students will learn at Equine Kingdom:

     First things first: Safety Rules!

    Safety Rules
  • Always wear your helmet when riding. Don't ever get on the horse without wearing a helmet!
  • Never wear shorts or really loose clothing - it promotes hazards!
  • When walking behind a horse, either stay really close, or really far away. Walking just a few feet away increases the force of the impact, should the horse decide to kick.
  • Never run or shout around horses. Walk and speak in a normal voice.
  • Never sneak up on a horse, because you will startle them. Approach the horse from an angle, because they cannot see you if you are directly in front of or behind them.
  • Never stand directly behind the horse
  • Always watch the horse for signs of action - what it will do if startled or scared
  • Always squat down if you're doing something towards the ground - you can spring away faster than if you're kneeling
  • Don't make sudden movements around horses
  • Never punish a horse in anger. They will not understand. Know the difference between discipline and revenge
  • Always wear boots or shoes when working around horses. No sandals or loafers, please
  • Never ride when you're completely alone. Always have some means of communication in case something happens.
Leading, Tying, and Turn Out
  • Hold the lead rope in your right hand, standing on the left side of the horse's head.
  • Never loop the excess lead rope around your arm or hand.
  • Drop the lead rope on the ground or place it over the neck when haltering or unhaltering.
  • The horse should walk beside you, not in front or behind.
  • When turning a horse, turn to the right and walk around him. Turning to the left could easily result in squished toes.
  • If the horse tries to get away, don't try to hang on.
  • Never tie or wrap the lead rope around you!
  • Protect your fingers!! Keep them out of the way!!
  • Make the horse stop at gates and doors and the handler go through first.
  • When turning a horse loose, always make him turn to face you and stand still before you let go of the lead rope.
  • Don't turn a horse out with its halter on.
  • Tie the rope 'eye high and arm's length'.
  • NEVER tie with the horse with the reins!!!
  • Tie the horse to something solid ' not a board or something that would easily break
Bridling and Saddling
  • Stand back and beside the head so the horse won't hit you with his head
  • Never stand in front of the horse's feet
  • Open the horse's mouth by sticking your thump in their mouth
  • Be gentle when pulling the bit into the horse's mouth
  • Use your left hand to guide the bit into the mouth, and the right hand to slip the crownpiece over the ears
  • Always check the saddle and saddle pad for abnormal objects
  • Don't tighten the girth all the way to start with
  • Secure the girths and stirrups before putting the saddle on the horse, to avoid banging the horse with them
  • ALWAYS check the girth for tightness before you mount!!

Mounting and Dismounting

  • Don't flop into the saddle when mounting.
  • Never move off as soon as you are seated - always wait a few minutes, so the horse will not get the idea that mounting means 'go'.
  • Foot should be parallel to the horse or with the toe turned into the girth, while mounting.
  • Check the girth before mounting.
  • Bounce three times and spring lightly into the saddle; don't haul yourself up using the saddle to pull your body up.
  • Always run English stirrups up after dismounting.
  • Never loop the reins over any part of your body.
Arena Etiquette
  • Horses going to the left have right of way
  • Fast horses get the rail, slow horses move in
  • Always check behind you before stopping or backing
  • Never hit your horse
Walking Exercises/Goals
  • Bump the horse lightly with one leg only, click with tongue to go
  • Smooth, slow motion'move entire lower body, from waist down, with the horse's body
  • Don't stiffen up
  • Stand in the saddle, using center of gravity
  • Shift body while standing, using the entire leg from the hip, to find a place where standing without holding on is possible
  • Stretch, reaching forward to touch bridle, back to touch tail, touch toes, twist, reach for the sky, relax totally
  • Neck rein and direct rein steering
  • Bridle is a guide only, not the only aid available!
  • Body weight and leg aids are crucial
  • Emergency stop
  • Emergency dismount
  • Circle around half the arena
  • Circle around posted cones/markers
  • Weave between cones/markers
  • Stop and start at intermittent cones/markers
  • Stop, back up, walk at intermittent cones/markers
  • Count the number of steps backing, and control the number of steps taken
  • Feel which leg is stepping when ' right or left front
  • Note head position, explain the different moods/expressions
  • Make a figure eight using the whole arena
  • Stand and sit at alternating cones
  • Stand without holding onto anything or using anything to stand up
  • Learn to have soft hands that open quickly and close slowly
  • Correct length of reins, pull back and not over to the side when turning
  • Use voice commands 'whoa' and 'walk' as well as cues from reins and body position/weight
  • Maintain a steady, relaxed pace
  • Straight line from ear, to shoulder, to point of hip, to back of heel
  • Stand in stirrups without moving feet, at any gait
  • Balanced seat critical ' without balance, everything is thrown off
  • Eyes are forward, not down
  • Back is straight and flat
  • Seat bones are planted firmly in the deepest part of the saddle
  • Legs are straight down, not out front or behind
  • Toe is pointed up, with the heel down
  • Reins are carried one in each hand, with hand curled around the rein and fingers closed, pointing down ' top of the knuckles should be seen.
  • When riding one-handed, the left hand is used to hold the reins
  • Allow rider to discover his own balance
Skill 1
  • Correct body alignment, in which a vertical line perpendicular to the horizon would pass through the ear, shoulder, point of hip, and back of head.
  • Exercise: Rider must be able to stand repeatedly, in balance, without support from the hands, while maintaining this alignment first at the halt, then the walk, and then, eventually, at all three gaits.
Skill 2
  • Rider learns to lower his center of gravity
  • Exercise: Rider learns to stand and then sit repeatedly, with correct alignment.
Skill 3
  • Rider learns to unlock lower back and move with the horse
  • Exercise: Rider pretends to sit on the seat of a bicycle, imagining the stirrups as pedal. Rider 'pedals' backward from the hips in rhythm with the horse
Skill 4
  • Rider learns to move the upper body around a correct, stationary leg. This teaches the novice to avoid typical nove reflexes of 'saving himself' by moving the leg away from the horse to compensate for an out-of-position upper body. The rider learns to use his leg as an anchor.
  • Exercise: Rider touches the horse's ears, tail, and then the rider's own toes on both sides with both hands while maintaining her seat in the saddle and her legs in place, first at the halt and then at the walk. Rider must keep her weight centered
Walk with a cup of water and/or egg on spoon

Lesson Plan
  • Make sure rider is in the right frame of mind. If attitudinal or upset or distant, do groundwork or something different than riding for the time being
  • Review what the previous lesson was about. DO NOT RECAP. Were there any problems? Have the students met the criteria for today's activity?
  • Introduce the day's work
  • Emphasize/demonstrate/goal ' explain what to do, why to do it, the mechanics of why it is done, allow the exercise to teach the skill
  • Practice the exercises ' let the riding do the teaching
  • Summary. What was the skill? What was the exercise? How is it done? Were there problems? Are there any questions?
Before mounting
  • Learn about the nature of the horse
  • Learn to start, stop, and steer
  • Steps of the emergency stop
  • Understand the horse's mouth and the importance of steady hands.
  • Check girth
  • Know what to mount on and what NOT to use when mounting.
  • take your reins in your left hand, short enough for control, but not too tight
  • Grab the mane with your left hand as well
  • Face the horse's tail, take the stirrup in your right hand, and turn it towards you.
  • Put your left toe in the stirrup; hold the pommel or cantle of the saddle with your right hand. Put your toe against the girth or turn your foot so it is pointing forward
  • Take three hops on your right foot and SPRING up. Keep your upper body as close to the horse as possible, to aid his balance as you swing your right leg over the horse, ease gently into the saddle, and put your right foot in the stirrup.
  • Don't move off immediately
Standards for walking:
  • Has learned the 1-2-3-4 mounting method
  • Has acquired the following vocabulary: reins, mane, pommel, cantle, girth, rump, stirrup, seat
  • Can explain the following concepts: we face the tail so that if the horse does move off, we can more easily spring up; we must control the toe while mounting so we do not stick it in the horse, which will cause him to move
  • Understands why some horses fidget while being mounted
  • Knows that the position half on/half off is precarious
  • Knows to always check the girth one last time before mounting
  • Knows not to bump the horse's rear with leg when mounting
  • Knows the correct alignment for sitting/walking
  • Knows how to dismount
Teaching alignment
  • When does weight leave the saddle? When does it return? Learn to feel the horse. Standing and sitting is to confirm the alignment and control the leg, and preparation for the sitting trot.
  • Goal: to be able to stand and sit or any interval at the walk without losing balance or leg position.
Explain predator/prey fight/flight response, and response to pressure

Lesson 1
  • Safety lecture
  • Approaching
  • Haltering
  • Leading
  • Tying
  • Saddling
  • Bridling
  • Mount
  • Dismount
  • Correct alignment
  • Standing and sitting
Lesson 2
  • Aids/cues for walk, halt, and turns. Figure eights, serpentines, weave in/out of cones, circles, diagonals, squares, other school figures. Straight, curved, broken lines. Stop, halt, back up. Soft hands.
Lesson 3
  • More of the same from last lesson.
Lesson 4
  • Review lessons learned. Touch ears, tail, toes, stand in stirrups ' all with seat in saddle and legs in correct position.  More school figures.
Lesson 5
  • Review previous lessons
  • Stand in stirrups without hand support
  • Stand in stirrups without hand support at the walk
  • Stand, sit, stand without hand support
  • Stand, sit, stand without hand support at the walk


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