Horses 101: Ten Horsemanship Tips For A First-Time Ranch Goer

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Horses 4When our guests arrive at the tack barn for their first ride of the week on Monday mornings, they are always excited to meet their assigned horse!  While some of our guests may already be experienced and advanced, it is a first time for many, and some might be a little unsure about their experience with horses.  We always pair each individual rider with a specific horse, one that will make the most comfortable experience out on the trails.  It is always important to put aside shyness and let your wranglers know if you are a bit uneasy around horses, as it will make it easier for them to help! There are a few things about horsemanship that can make a new riders experience here at Red Horse Mountain much more enjoyable, and gaining more knowledge can also help to build a better relationship between you and your horse throughout the week.  These tips are meant as a guide, but your stay at Red Horse will for the most part be guided by your wranglers!

Tip #1: One of the most important things to know and understand is that horses have a unique way of seeing the world.  Their vision is crucial to understanding how to handle them, and respecting their sensitive eyesight can help a great deal.  When approaching your horse for the first time, pet them on their neck or back first, they will appreciate this!

Horses2Tip#2:  When maneuvering around a standing horse, either stay close enough to let them know your presence, such as keeping a gentle hand on them, or keep a good distance, some horses can be particular about their personal space, just like humans.

Tip #3:  Don’t worry and relax! As far as the horse you might be paired with here at Red Horse, it isn’t their first rodeo! Although you are in charge, they know the routine, so have confidence in this magnificent animal.

Tip #4: When horseback riding on one of our beautiful scenic routes, keep your eyes on the trail (specifically for trotting or cantering).  When driving a car, you keep your eyes on the road, and the same goes with horses!  In addition, horses can sense nervous glances, so if they know you are confident, they will be too.   Horses are quite keen on detecting body language.

Horse5Tip #5: Balance! Keep your center of gravity, well…centered! Good posture in the saddle, as well as making sure you are not unintentionally leaning form one side to the other can make a big difference in your comfort.  And again, your horse knows what they are doing!

Tip#6:  This relates a bit to #5, but keep your seat bones in the saddle, if you let yourself slide around, balance can be a bit difficult.  When going up a steep slope, shift your center of gravity forward, when going down a slope, do the opposite.  After your first day of riding, you’ll have the hang of it!

Tip #7:  We use Neck Reining here at Red Horse, which is a type of directional steering that involves the weight of the rein and slight pressure, and is used in both western and English riding.  It basically involves simply holding the rein on one side of the horse, depending on the desired direction; this can be done with one hand. Your horse will simply turn away from the pressure of the rein.  Direct Reining, on the other hand, is more of a pull, and it not normally necessary for well-trained horses, so resist the urge to tug on the reins!

Horses3Tip #8:  Jeannie, one of our lead wranglers, had some advice for this one:

“If your butt hurts, your stirrups are too long.   If your knees hurt, your stirrups are too short.   If your butt and your knees hurt, they should be just right!”  Essentially, if something doesn’t feel right, just let your wranglers know, it’s usually an easy fix! (our morning yoga and stretching can always help too)

Tip#9:  While horses are very sensitive to your body language, there are things that you can pick up on about theirs as well.  Some horses are just determined to be first, but try to keep a horse length between you and the horse in front of you.  This also ties in with their ears: if a horse is uncomfortable or irritated about something, they will put their ears back. Most likely it is the horse in front or behind yours that is following too closely, again an easy fix.

Tip #10:  Perhaps most important, have fun and enjoy being out in the wilderness with these amazing animals! Also, don’t be afraid to ask the kitchen staff for an apple or a couple of carrots for your loyal horse.

Thanks for reading about how your horseback riding experience at Red Horse Mountain Ranch can be more enjoyable, our wranglers and horses are excited to meet you!