A Summertime “Round Up” Of Great Horse Riding Links

linksThere is so much good information on the Internet if you know where to look. I regularly read and watch videos about horses and horse riding, just as you probably do. Some of them are instructional while others are inspiring.

Here are top quality links that I’ve visited lately. Some are new and some were posted years ago, but they are all worthwhile. 

Light In Your Hand – Not Non-Existent! This blog is written by an excellent riding instructor, and an online friend. Lots of great info on this site.

Daniel Stewart Tip Of The Month: The Goldilocks Zone: A discussion about how the mental affects the physical in a rider, and how to keep up your confidence when faced with difficult riding challenges.

Watch: Robert Dover Riding! Here is an excellent clinic video of Robert Dover working a horse to become more “in front of the leg”. Super demonstration.

Don’t Give Up On Your Dressage Dreams: A super encouraging and inspiring article by Canada’s Belinda Trussel, letting us in on her path to achieving her dreams, and to just jump over the hurdles! Especially relevant as she was one of the top competitors at the Pan Am games this year.

Develop Your Dressage Horse’s Topline: Written by Sue Blinks, this is an older article that just keeps on giving. Very detailed information about the aids for developing your horse’s topline, and discusses the various components including conformation, age and temperament. A must-read.

The Pain That Is Back Pain, Part I: Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the horse’s back (well, almost), written in clear and easy to understand terms, written by veterinarian Dr. David Ramey.

The Pain That Is Back Pain, Part II: More information on diagnosis and treatment of back pain in horses.

Training Video of Ambolas and Legolas: This video is part of a series presented by dressage trainer, Will Faerber. Real horses ridden by real riders in real time, with real problems. It’s like you’re standing beside him while he teaches.

 

Plus, if you’re still looking for more reading, here are some of the top Horse Listening posts from this summer.

10 Ways To Spot A Horse Person: A humorous reflection on how you can spot one from a mile away – if you know what to look for.

17 Things I Learned While Developing My Seat: Here are some of the lessons learned over the years as I focused on developing my seat.

How To “Allow” A Lengthening: It isn’t easy to work your horse into a true lengthening. That is because most horses tend to increase their leg speed when asked for “more” by the rider’s aids.

Focus On Transitions – Week 4: This series was a first-ever focus for Horse Listening. Each week, we presented an exercise you can take to the barn to try with your horse. If you missed them, start with this one first and work your way backward to link one (the links are in the posts). Enjoy!

How To Stretch Your Horse Over The Topline: Here are the aids to develop a functional (or effective) stretch over the topline.

If you have a quality link to share with us, please add the link in the comment section below.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

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More reading:

14 Ways To Have A Great Ride:  Here are some quick ideas to add to your normal repertoire of horsin’ around activities. 

13 Reasons Why You Should Be A Barn Brat: Not only is time spent at the barn well spent, but here are 13 reasons why barn bratting is good for us – and more importantly – makes us better not only as equestrians, but as all-around humans.

4 Mutual Grooming Strategies For Your Life: It’s mutual grooming madness back at the ranch!

 

How To Cool Off When You’re Hot To Trot

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Eyes closed, ears back (so no water goes in), and lips open for a little drink!

 

Err… I mean, after you’re done with your trot (and canter and walk).

It’s the middle of summer here and the heat is all-pervasive. On the hottest days, many of us stop in at the barn just to hose down the horses to give them a little extra comfort.

I tend to make my rides considerably shorter on hot days, depending on how my horse feels. However, during the time that I do ride, I still ask for energy and impulsion, helping my horse do his best to move in a healthy manner and carry my weight properly. In other words, I don’t let the ride become a “plod along and flop” episode just because of the heat.

Assuming all goes well, and the horse feels fine, I’ll ride for up to a half hour, with some (stretchy) walk in between. Sometimes it feels fine to ride in the heat if you keep moving – it’s only when you stop that you can feel the true strength of the sun beating down on you and your horse.

Here are a few ideas to keep you and your horse cool during these dog horse days of summer.

1. Watch for signs of overheating.

In your own case, you can tell the beginning of overheating by how hot your face feels. Know how red your face gets and what that means. Some people get a seriously red face and it’s normal for them. I usually don’t get a lot of change so a red face for me means that I’m moving into the overheating stage. I can also feel it while I’m riding – if I feel like the heat is radiating off my face, I know to call it a day. I’ve also been known to grab the hose and soak my whole head and face with cold water. That usually does the trick.

In the case of your horse, you can monitor several signs. Keep track of his breathing. If his sides seem to be heaving a lot sooner and with less work, take it easy.

Sweating is a key component of cooling down in the summer, so if you don’t see sweat coming from your horse, you can be worried! Do you know that horses don’t have the ability to pant like dogs? So they must rely on losing heat through their skin. Sweat helps to cool down the horse’s internal body temperature by carrying heat out with sweat through the pores – creating a fairly efficient cooling system when considering the large muscle mass of horses.

Sometimes, the sweat builds up to the point that you see foam on the neck, between the hind legs, or on the face. If your horse starts foaming quicker than usual, pay attention. People have often been told that only unconditioned horses foam when worked. That isn’t exactly true. Even the fittest horses, who are used to working in heat, can foam any time there is an increase in heat and humidity or level of work. Foam isn’t all bad, but be aware of what is usual for your horse.

Also keep an eye out for other signs. If your horse seems to become lethargic, or loses focus easier than usual, then consider calling it a day.

2. Modify your ride.

Consider your options.

Ride earlier in the day, or later in the evening. Stay out of the sun in the middle of the day when it’s hottest.

If you can’t change your schedule, you can always decide to make it a shorter ride. 

You could stay in the indoor ring if you have one. The roof over your head will give enough shade, although in some arenas and depending on the breeze (or lack thereof), the heat might just stay in and make you feel like you’re in an oven.

Or go for that ride on the trails that you’ve wanted to do. Riding under the trees and in the woods is a completely different experience although you should keep the humidity factor in mind.

3. After the ride.

Your after care can make all the difference.

Remember that sweat is filled with electrolytes and the various forms of salt that are expelled stick to your horse’s skin. Just as you wouldn’t want to walk around sticky and feeling a burning sensation in your salt-encrusted skin, so does your horse deserve a nice cool down and wash off before you leave him for the day.

Grab the hose and give him a full-body hose-down. Make sure you run the water over all the sweat areas, and wait until the sweat suds have all been washed off. Get underneath the top layer of the coat and clear out the mud that sticks to the skin.

Hose the front of the chest, the belly and between the front and hind legs. Those are all arterial areas and so they carry the highest amount of heat. Just running cold water on those areas helps considerably with the horse’s inner body temperature. Make sure that you finish by scraping all the excess water off the horse’s body. 

I like to finish off by running a light stream of water over my horse’s face. This takes a little repetition for the horse to get used to, and you might need to have a secure area to tie him to when you start to teach him. But I can tell you that once the horse knows how good a face wash can feel when he’s hot, he’ll learn to appreciate it. My horse now knows to point his face directly into the hose and let the water hit his forehead. He closes his eyes and licks the water as it drips down over his face!

How do you deal with riding during the hottest days of the year? Share your ideas below in the comments.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

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Read more here:

42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your Horse: Horses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.

5 Common Horse and Riding Myths: Do you regularly find yourself explaining/educating/justifying/rationalizing/defending your “horse habit”? Then this article is for you!

HL on The Dressage Radio Show?? Yes! Follow the link to hear me speak about 20 Ways Horse Riding Becomes Life Itself.

Eight Legs Plus Two: A poem.

42 Ways to Learn, Play and Grow With Your Horse: Horses give to us in countless ways. We play, learn and grow with them, making horseback riding not merely a sport (which it truly is, like no other), but so much more.

Five Steps To Transforming Your Horse’s “Give To The Bit”

Give to the bit

Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

Hint: It starts with you… and it doesn’t require a pull on the reins!

Riders often talk about getting their horses to “give to the bit.” If you’re unfamiliar with the term, here is my interpretation of what the phrase means. The rider shortens the rein to the point that the horse feels the pressure in his mouth. Then the educated horse should soften his jaw and poll and “give” in the direction of the pull. The rider then releases his pressure on the bit.

The result is that the horse feels light on the bit, and avoids pulling against the rein pressure. The head and neck do soften in response to the pressure, and the horse’s movement might in fact improve when compared to the horse that is ridden in tension and tightness.

It’s relatively easy to get most horses to give to the bit in this manner. A cause and effect response (the horse finds a release when he releases) is fairly simple for horses and riders to learn and respond to.

Many people ride like this over the long term, and I have done so myself – so I know of what I speak! The problem is that most horses have to develop some sort of coping mechanism to be able to hold their body in a position that allows for the bit release (also called “framing“).

Here are some issues that can develop from pulling to get the horse to give:

– hollow back

– disengagement from the hind end (i.e. less energy)

– tilted head position

– overbend in the neck

– (the dreaded) “breaking at the 3rd vertebra” in the neck

– open mouth

I’m sure there’s more. In any case, if the horse shows these signs, chances are that you might unknowingly be putting the horse into a stressful position, even if it feels good in your hands. No matter how you slice it and dice it, a pull causes some sort of blockage of energy somewhere in the horse’s body.

There is another way, although I have to admit that it requires considerably more coordination and balance on the rider’s part. It will likely take longer to learn but when done correctly, the horse’s response is worth every stumbling, fumbling minute it took for you to learn.

Almost every horse responds positively if you know how to do it, even if the horse is green or less educated.

First Step

Start with contact. Taking contact doesn’t mean pull – it means that your reins are short enough for you and your horse to feel each other. Think of it as holding hands. Shorten your reins just enough for you and your horse to be able to communicate comfortably (as in, you don’t want to have to pull the reins shorter after he takes off, or conversely, you won’t be pulled out of the saddle because the reins were too tight).

Second Step

You must get a response from the hind end. Use your leg and seat aids to – Go! The horse should move ahead with confidence. Note that the horse shouldn’t move faster. Instead, you should feel an energy surge that might even give you a bit of a whiplash feeling. This is good. Ride it! (Don’t get left behind and inadvertently pull on the reins).

Third Step

Maintain contact. Don’t push your hands forward, straighten your elbows, release the reins forward, let the reins go, or anything else that will drop the horse suddenly onto his forehand. Also, avoid pulling backwards for any reason. Just be there and go with him.

Fourth Step

Half-halt. Yes, here it is again! The half-halt will help the horse not fall to the forehand. It will help him maintain balance even while putting in more energy – from the hind.

Fifth Step

This is the most important step.

Give a tiny 1-inch release forward. This comes after the half-halt. You can soften your elbows and/or shoulders to give that release.

You will feel like there is nothing in your hands. 

You might be amazed to discover that when you release, your horse can release too. That tiny bit of space forward allows him to reach TO THE BIT (not come off the bit). This movement automatically releases the poll and jaw, without the horse having to “learn” anything. It’s just a physical response.

The end result is a horse that is moving forward, “ahead of the leg,” with a naturally set neck, and a soft poll/jaw to top it all off.

But the best part is how it feels. I’ve called it “marshmallow contact” in the past because it feels soft and loose and sweet.

Basically, your release gets the horse’s release – forward. You can be on a bend or going straight. The feeling is the same.

Initially, you might be able to coordinate all your aids only once in a while. Or you might run into problems and not get a release at all for some time. The only answer is to get good, consistent feedback from your instructor. Keep trying until you “find” it. Then you will be able to find it more frequently, and then finally, one day, you’ll be able to get it (almost) consistently!

Keep at it, because in the end, it’s the horse who benefits. Listen to him for snorts, a swinging back, strength in movement, deep strides, and overall tension release. And enjoy how it feels!

Want to advertise your business on Horse Listening? Click here for more info.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

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Read more here:

Try This Exercise To Improve Your Rein Contact: This article is about how you can “take contact” in a predictable, consistent manner.

Try This To Feel “Forward”:  After you can reproduce it, you won’t be able to go without it, and you’ll wonder how you ever rode without.

What To Do When Your Horse Pulls: “Pulling” is something that is absolutely under your control and something you can change if you focus on your aids and timing.

What To Do When A Half-Halt Just Won’t Do: In the end, it doesn’t really matter why the half-halt did not “go through”. There could be a thousand and one reasons why! The fact is, it did not work.

“Go And No”: The Connection Between Forward And Half-Halt In Horse Riding: We have to learn the coordination between “go and no” – all the while, keeping our balance to give the appropriate aids while not pulling on the reins.

 

6 Tips For Safer Night Riding

Cantering in the dark

Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

There is something special about riding at night. Maybe it’s the fact that your eyes can’t take in nearly as much information as they can during daytime. You are left to experience your surroundings with other senses that you may normally filter out during the day.

If you ride in an area that is far away from city lights, you’ll be surprised to notice how bright the stars and moon really can be. The thousands of twinkling diamonds in the sky can make us feel like the tiny, insignificant creature that we are, and really bring home the awesomeness of endless space that surrounds us.

But aside from the moonlight, most of your vision is reduced to distinguishing between blobs of grey, darker grey and black. It’s quite hard to identify objects until you get a close-up view.

The nocturnal sounds are amplified – your horse’s breath, his footsteps and the creaks from your tack. The crickets and the frogs, the flutter of bat wings and the occasional rustling of undergrowth as a ground animals scurry about their business.

The most sensational part of nighttime riding is how it feels. The horse’s gaits seem so much bigger, probably because you can’t see how far each stride really goes. The breeze whisks past your cheeks in a way that makes you really feel each and every stride as you travel forward.

Night riding is a spectacular experience that appeals to many people, but there are certain precautions you should take if you want to embark on an adventure of your own. It isn’t for everyone nor is it for every horse. Just one little problem can morph into a huge emergency.

Here are some ideas to take with you if you choose to ride at night.

Ride when there is moonlight.

The moon really does light your path. No matter how small the moon on a given night, it can cast a soft glow over the area closest to you. It helps highlight the larger objects and can even outline a path or riding space for you. If you can ever ride during a full moon, you’ll notice in amazement how it illuminates the earth and casts long shadows underneath trees and forested overgrowth.

You will really feel the darkness if you go out on a moonless or cloudy night. Although your horse can still see better than you can, no light makes it even more difficult to negotiate hidden turns or lumpy, bumpy paths.

Know the area.

I wouldn’t go on a trail at night without having ridden it repeatedly in daylight. You need to know where the obstacles are, if there are any holes in the ground, and where the critters might be active.

It is very easy to be disoriented in the dark. You must know which way is home, and where each path takes you.

Even if you are riding in an outdoor ring, it helps to know where the deep spots and bumps are, and where the fence line begins and ends.

Ride with a friend.

It’s always advisable to ride in groups. Aside from the obvious safety factor, it’s a lot of fun to share the experience. Your horse will also appreciate having an equine friend along.

Pick a suitable horse.

If your horse is the nervous type, night riding might not be something you want to do until you have excellent communication with your horse. There is nothing scarier than a horse spooking randomly in the dark, for both the rider and the horse.

If you want to try this for the first time, stay in an outdoor ring, close to the barn and enclosed by a fence. Then see how your horse handles the situation, and work on developing your communication so that you can feel safe during an unexpected event.

Beware of critters!

One time, I was riding at night in the outdoor ring. The horse pastures border the riding area, and there are trees that surround the open space further away. I was enjoying a wonderfully rhythmical canter when suddenly… there was scurry of brightness not too far on the other side of the fence.

My mare caught a glimpse of an undefined glow and stopped in her tracks, focusing on the object. It turned out that a small herd of deer were crossing through the pasture, bounding through the tall grass and shining their white fluffy tails in the moonlight.

My mare’s high-headed snort interrupted their progress and they stopped still, noses in the air, trying to determine what on earth would be frolicking around in the riding ring in the dark!

Once they recognized the horse, they resumed their lofty bounce through the grass, deftly hopped over the fence and headed on their way into the forest. My mare watched them the whole way until they were long gone, but kept her cool.

We watched as they disappeared into the darkness and resumed our ride. But we did keep an eye and an ear out toward the grassy area they had come from!

Slow Down

Always err on the side of caution, and slow your horse down if something seems unsure. The horse’s survival instincts will give you fleet feet even from a standstill, but it’s always safer to stay at a walk, or go back to the walk, if you don’t know what’s in front of you.

Only trot or canter on a flat surface that you know is free from bumps and divots. Always return to the walk on unsure footing.

Remember that the glories of night riding don’t outweigh your safety. Always think of your safety as well as your horse’s.

Can you think of any other precautions for night riding? Let us know in the comments below.

Want to advertise your business on Horse Listening? Click here for more info.

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Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email

Buy the book for many more riding tips! Horse Listening – The Book: Stepping Forward to Effective Riding

Available as an eBook or paperback.

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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

20 Ways Horse Riding Becomes Life Itself: You could say that horses are our teachers. Not only do we grow in terms of physical ability, but perhaps even more so, we grow in character.

First, Plan Your Ride. Then, Scrap It: Even though you are inspired to get that horse to do the next cool thing, your horse might simply not be ready.

3 Questions to Consider Before Riding Bareback and Bridleless: What should be in place before you take off the tack?

What Responsible Horse Ownership Really Means: We need to keep in mind that horses are prey animals and long-time domesticated livestock. If we listen well enough, we discover that what we think of as giving might not be what the horses truly need.

10 Tips for the Average Rider: Are you an average rider? Then join the club!