Crafting exercises for horse and rider
This will be my second season volunteering with a local horse 4H group. I’ve worked with horses in a variety of settings: stall cleaning, rescue sanctuaries, equine plasma banks, and more. But in my 15 years of horses, I’ve never been asked – really – to teach someone else how to ride a horse.
This column, Riding Lessons 2.0, will be posted bi-monthly as a follow up to the 4H meetings where I volunteer. I’m calling it ‘Riding Lessons 2.0’ because I hope it will serve as supplemental material for anyone in the beginning stages of learning how to ride. Of course, nothing will ever substitute the physical act of riding as a learning tool. But sometimes revisiting the exercises we worked in the arena from the comfort of the couch can help solidify and parse the theory.
In each column, I’ll recount an important lesson or exercise that was practiced by the 4H members. Some of these riders are brand new, while others are more experienced. Thus, columns will touch on the most foundational aspects of each exercise, but will also include variations for more advanced riders. A few things will be assumed, for the most part, such as: you are riding a safe and patient lesson horse. Also, that you are working with a competent trainer (or at least an experienced rider who can assist you from the ground). I’ll assume you feel comfortable at the walk, trot, and canter, although most exercises should be performed at the walk or jog unless you are an advanced rider.
For new riders: Since these are common lessons used by horse trainers all over the world, turn to this column for another perspective on how to execute these basic – yet fundamental – exercises. Look at them away from the barn and the excitement of being on the back of a horse. Glance at them before you leave the house; revisit them after dinner as you are settling down for the night. Sometimes a slight twist in explanation shines light onto that which seemed so mottled the day before.
For advanced riders: Look here to find exercises you’ve long forgotten about. Revisiting these exercises will refine your horsemanship. If the exercises are too easy for horse and rider, use your knowledge and experience to add elements of difficulty; insert flying lead changes, half-halts, or side passes where acceptable. Use your imagination.
I hope this column will serve all levels of riders. I welcome questions from beginning riders, tips for success from veteran riders, and ideas of how to make the exercises more fun or challenging. Looking forward to this journey with you all!
A horse-girl with a dash of hip-hop. A.H. Korgan will ride anything once and can clean a stall like a boss!