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New instructor, new ways

From: Sefronia

I have had a few instructors and never been very happy with them although I seem to have come across one that seems perfect.

My horse is a 17.3hh Tb. I got him off the track about 8 months ago. After several silly accidents in the paddock he is finally in work. I had one instructor out who tied his head to his tail to get him to listen to the riders hands and then used a rope to pull his head down. He realy did not like this he reared and caried on even the trainer got a bit worried. I really didn't like it but at the time had some rather nasty horse people as friends as I had just moved to the barn and was trying to be friendly to every one. They were telling me how the horse needed this and I guess I was pretty stupid.

I then went to another instructor who was telling me to see-saw my horses mouth to get him down on the bit. She also insisted that he goes deep into the corners and told me to use a martingale as when I was trying to get his head down he would chuck it up as a resistance.

My new instructor is great but I just wanted to know what you thought because I have not had a very good run up till now.

She dose not care where his head is but tries to get me to have a steady contact on the reins. He seems to be coming down quite nicely with this but only some times (not that I would expect and more). He is leg yeilding quite well in the walk and she gets me to work in an egg shape untill he learns more balance. We are mainly working on transitions between halt walk and trot and within halt walk and trot. She say as soon as he loses his balance to bring him back to walk and then push him on again so he does not learn to run or hang which he was doing alot with the other instructors.

She says that it will take about a year to give him a good basic training that will give me a good quality horse for life. He has the best temperament really trainable. He pus his heart into every thing I ask him for and is a total sweetie on the ground.

My instructor also said that I should work him for a few months but only 3-4 times a week and then give him a spell of a few weeks so he can come into his body. She said I should do this every few months for about 6-8months. He is only 5years old so do you think this is a good idea?

Do you think what I did with the other instructor would have damaged him considering it was only about 3 lessons with each( feeling very guilty)?

I was also wondering if you should be hurting after a lesson especially on a young horse. I have heard people say that in order to have a good lesson some part of you must be hurting. I assume because you are using a muscle you dont normaly use. I don't usually get very sweaty or have sore muscles after I ride, does this mean I am not trying hard enough?

Also if you have time after the above questions I was wondering your opinion on something else. I have a few friends who are lucky enough to have their own property but as I live in the city, I don't. I agist about 20k away but don't have a car so I ride my bike it takes about 1.5-2hr my bike has a battery so it's not as hard as you may think, I still pedal) to get there and I go after school most days(4-5 school days per week) and every weekend. My friend say I should not have a horse if I cannot see it at least twice a day. Is this true?


Hi Sephronia! Let me answer your last questions first. Not everyone is lucky enough to own a farm; not every rider can keep her horse at home. Your friend is fortunate, and should enjoy her situation. You are less fortunate, but you are managing to get out to see your horse every weekend and on most weekdays - you're doing very well, and have nothing to feel bad about.

One reason it's so very important to find the right sort of place to keep your horse is that even if you can spend an hour with your horse every day without fail, 365 days each year, that still leaves 23 hours each day during which you are NOT with the horse. If the horse's situation is a good one, with companions, freedom of movement, good grass or hay, water and salt, then the horse will be fine even if you see it three times a week instead of seven. If the horse's situation is a bad one, and the people in charge of the horse are unkind or incompetent, and the horse is confined, isolated, and/or improperly fed and watered, then the horse will NOT be fine even if you see it every day - even if you see it TWICE a day. That is why finding the right place for the horse to live is every horse-owner's most important responsibility.

Riding should not be painful for you or for the horse. It can be a little tiring, and you may feel sore a day or two later if you are using different muscles or using them in a different way, but you shouldn't be sore when you are riding, and as for sweating... much depends on the ambient temperature, on the relative humidity, and on your own perceptions. On a very dry, hot day, you might sweat a lot and not even realize it because the sweat will evaporate so quickly. On a damp, hot day, even tacking up and mounting could make you sweaty, because the sweat will not evaporate (instead, it will stick your shirt to your back, or trickle down your sides and annoy you). If you're riding your bike 20k back and forth to your horse's agistment, five or six times a week, then I'd say there's every chance that you're simply very FIT and quite unlikely to become sore from an hour's riding. Riders who walk or ride bicycles for exercise use many of the same muscles they use when they ride, so that's no surprise.

Right, now on to the questions about your horse and your instructor. You've been through the mill with those two earlier instructors, neither of whom should ever be allowed anywhere near another horse! But it sounds to me as though "third time lucky" applies in your case. Your new instructor seems to have a good understanding of horses, riders, and training. Every suggestion and practice of hers that you've described is good, solid, classical training - I'd say that you seem to be in good hands at last.

You've also discovered one of the worst feelings in the world, and one to avoid forever - the feeling of guilt because you've hurt your horse or let it down. As you didn't take many lessons from the bad instructors, and as your horse is only five and you've now got a proper instructor with a sensible plan to help you and your horse, I'd say that yes, you hurt and confused the horse by doing (and allowing) the tying, pulling, and see-sawing, but with any luck, the damage will have been temporary. Your new instructor's plan of time on and off work should help give your horse a chance to recover, and you'll be ready to learn better and do better when you begin riding again.

So don't worry, look ahead to a long and enjoyable relationship with your horse and your new instructor. Don't look back, except to remind yourself that certain practices should never be employed with any horse - they're not in the best interest of the horse, and thus are simply incompatible with horsemanship. If you've learned a lesson from your earlier experiences, it should be this: It's YOUR responsibility to do what's right for your horse. If an instructor wants you to do something that's wrong, you need a different instructor. If your friends want you to do something that's wrong, you need different friends. Your horse can't speak for himself or defend himself against unacceptable treatment, but YOU can refuse to do things that are wrong, and when the horse involved is your own horse, you can also refuse to let anyone else do things that are wrong. Stand up for your horse when he needs it, and speak up for your horse when he needs it - that's your responsibility. Remember, your horse needs to be educated, not forced - and if he doesn't enjoy his training, something is very wrong.

Finally, the "new ways" your new instructor is teaching you are actually very old ways - and they're also the very best ways, designed to help your horse develop over time, mentally and physically, until he's the best horse he can be. If you follow the classical principles, your horse will enjoy his training - and so will you.


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