If you spend any time at all in the lounge during lessons, you might hear people asking many questions. Seeing as the instructor and helpers are busy during classes, it usually means that no one is available to answer those questions. Some of the most frequently asked questions are as follows:
Q. Why are some school horses so old?
A. As in any other profession, people usually seek out older, more experienced people to gather information, wisdom, or advice from, based on their many years of experience. It is no different with horses. Older horses have gained experiences just like people.
When certain situations develop, you can usually count on an older horse to handle things more in their stride and be less likely to react, especially when dealing with riders who have not been around horses before.
Q. Why are some horses so hard to get to trot?
A. As with some people, some horses are not overly ambitious. However, what they lack in ambition can keep a rider safe. The beginner-level horses are chosen according to their age and temperament. If a horse does anything too fast, a new rider’s balance will be compromised.
When learning how to ride, a rider must develop a sense of confidence. If a horse moves or trots too fast, a rider will lack confidence and experience a sense of being in danger. When a rider has no confidence and becomes scared they stop learning.
Also, if a rider is off balance by leaning too far forward, or is off to one side, an older more experienced horse will feel this and knows the result will be a rider who could fall off. Riding is also learning to control an 1100-lb. animal.
A rider will learn to be more determined if they have to work hard to get a horse to trot. If they constantly have to worry about a horse going too fast, they will most likely become scared and not want to continue.
Q. Why do some students ride bareback?
A. Riding bareback teaches a rider to relax, feel their horse underneath them, and most importantly, to get stronger! In this day of video games and computer websites, kids simply are not that active. Horseback riding does require some level of physical activity.
When a rider gets off and comments on how sore they are, it is simply due to the fact that a person uses muscles they have never used before. Unless you have constant access to particular weight machines, these muscles do not get used during regular daily activities.
Riding bareback is the only way to develop the necessary muscles, body control and balance needed to ride faster, more advanced horses—not to mention cantering. Some riders are so proficient at riding bareback that they move on to riding in a saddle with no stirrups.
These exercises really teach a rider to “stick with” a horse when a horse spooks, or speeds up, or is simply having a day when they are “opinionated” and think they have a say in how things are run. Part of learning how to ride is dealing with a horse if they become difficult. Having the proper strength and balance will definitely help a rider in dealing with these situations.
Q. My child really does not like riding that horse. Why do they have to ride him again?
A. In everyday life, people will have to deal with someone that they really don’t care for. Learning how to deal with those times can start with horses. Horses can teach the very valuable lesson of finding out what it takes to accomplish something.
Don’t take the easy way out and say, “You don’t get it, I quit trying!” Look to yourself and see what needs to be done to handle the situation or personality you are faced with. Some riders have made the mistake of saying, “I hate…” This usually leads to countless lessons on the same horse only to end up learning a very valuable lesson from that horse.
90% of the time, the hated horse ends up being a favorite horse once the lesson is learned. If every horse was the same and did nothing wrong, no lessons would be learned. Riders who dislike a particular horse should work to understand and improve on that horse instead of looking for the easy way out and simply not ride them again.
In the same way, some riders will also ride the same horse if that horse is particularly good at working on a weakness. Thank god they are all different! The end result is a more rounded, more prepared, better trained rider.
Q. Why do you use geldings?
A. A gelding is a castrated male horse. In a herd situation, geldings tend to be less confrontational in the pasture, easier to train, and much more predictable. Mares become very moody when in their heat cycles and spaying a female horse is a very risky, costly, and intensive procedure. In a herd situation, even though geldings are castrated, if a mare comes into heat they will compete for her affection.
Sometimes this can carry over into the arena. Our only mare is not turned out with the herd specifically to keep this from happening. They are turned out separately to ensure ”everyone’s” safety. Horses are herd animals. They learn quickly and are much happier if they work and live as a herd. They develop a hierarchy that remains the same as long as no one feels the need to compete for a mare.