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Should rider stand when horse urinates?

From: Charlene

This is almost embarrassingly basic-- but I have not seen it in books (and I DO own yours!!)

When a horse is urinating, should a rider rise out of stirrups to "take pressure off the kidneys"? Some seasoned riders I know scoff at the idea, but this was stressed at lessons.

Thank you!

Charlene


Hi Charlene! I would say "Yes, continue to stand in your stirrups" just as a matter of courtesy to the horse. It's not so much the urination itself, as the position assumed by the horse, that's at issue.

When you watch horses in a field, without riders and tack to obscure your view, you'll notice that horses compress their bodies slightly to urinate.

A horse can defecate easily enough whilst it is moving - and carrying a rider. The position isn't static - the horse can stand or walk, trot, or canter - and the horse does not put itself into any position that would, in the wild, make it vulnerable to attack by predators.

A horse urinating is a different matter - to urinate, a horse must first stop and stand, then stretch its body, and in this position, with its fore- and hind-legs extended (sometimes in almost rocking-horse fashion), it would, in the wild, be extremely vulnerable.

Many riders never deal with this at all, because they ride for brief periods, and their horses wait to urinate until they have been unsaddled and put back into their field or stall. Horses prefer to urinate on absorbent surfaces and in places where they feel safe - which is the answer to the typical rider's question "Why on earth does my horse wait until the end of his ride and then mess up his nice clean bedding by peeing in his stall?"

Urinating under saddle can be both psychologically and physically difficult for horses, and riders can make the process easier by allowing the horse to stretch its body freely, and not interfering with the horse - that's where standing in your stirrups comes in! It's not, as some people think, something that riders should do to "protect the horse's kidneys" - the kidneys are deeper in the body than you might think, and covered with layers of muscle as well as the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae. "Taking your weight off the horse's kidneys" is not an accurate phrase.

"Making it easy for your horse to urinate comfortably and then get its legs underneath itself again" would be nearer the mark. By standing, you don't make yourself or the saddle weigh any less, but you do shift more of your weight into the stirrups and less onto the back of the saddle. Since many riders use saddles that are too small for them, the shifting of pressure can make the horse more comfortable.

A horse is best able to carry a rider comfortably when it is balanced over its legs, and when its belly muscles are engaged and its back is lifted and stretched. The urination position changes all of this - if you are in the saddle when a horse is getting ready to urinate, you'll feel the drop of its back and the change in the position of its legs.

Some riding horses are taught to assume this position on command - it's then called "parking" or "parking out". It's a practice that began, sensibly enough, with the training of carriage horses - by asking them to assume a position that made it extremely difficult for the horses to take a step in any direction, the coachman could ensure that the horses would stand quietly until all passengers were either on the ground or seated in the coach. Similarly, the idea behind teaching riding horses to "park out" is that by making it difficult for the horse to balance itself and move, and by lowering the height of the horse's back temporarily, riders will find it easier to mount, as the horse's back will be nearer the ground and the horse will not be able to walk off whilst the rider is climbing aboard. This is hard on a horse's back, and it's a much better idea to teach the horse to stand still and balanced when the rider mounts.

By standing in your stirrups when your horse is preparing to urinate, and not sitting again until the horse is once again standing in balance, you accomplish three things.

One: You make it physically easier for the horse to move in and out of the necessary position.

Two: You make it psychologically easier for the horse to urinate - your actions are saying, in effect, "Go ahead, take the time you need."

Three: You reinforce your own good horseman's habit of thinking of what is right, good, and comfortable for your horse. ;-)

So even though standing in your stirrups has nothing to do with the urinary system of the horse, and doesn't protect the horse's kidneys, it's still a good practice.

Jessica

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