|Clay and "Bay Breeze"|
In my observations a large percentage of my newest students are not giving enough attention to the preparation of the horse before climbing on. I usually start off in my first lesson about theory and the goal of establishing balance through correct position, however more often than not I see mistake's at an elementary level when tacking up. So I've gathered a few of them and will discuss them and hopefully more people will follow suit.
First off grooming: I see quite few barns that have professional groom thereby eliminating that step from horsemanship, that which we as teachers should be aiming at (another article). I suggest that all riders should get involved in that first process as it will teach them skills and I believe there are some lessons in empathy to be discovered at that point. What I have observed and coincidingly corrected was how each person prepared the horse, starting with grooming, then saddling and ultimately bridling.
There are a lot of people haven't the slightest idea that grooming is a function of basic horsemanship, that done correctly there are actual physical benefits not just making them look "nice". Correct grooming culminating into correct turnout is the first key area to teach! Make sure they (you) know how to stand properly when cleaning out the feet, which is staying closer to the horse with your body.
Making sure to groom under the horse as well (often missed) and to check for physical issues such as a swollen area or a abrasion/sore in some area where tack may rub and irritate, how evenly does the horse flex on each limb, hoof condition, eyes etc. This primary step is often the best to start up a relationship with the horse, get to know each other and the rider can ascertain the disposition of the horse. I teach and expect every student to show empathy, first off most horses are affected right away by the way we treat them and I believe they remember you, were you a jerk and unsympathetic or the opposite and left the horse with a good experience?
One could go on and on with the list, the point is that the first encounter in the grooming stall can establish goodwill and prevent an accident or injury by a simple discovering of a potential issue. On this I would like to expand a little.... how many instructor/teacher/trainers actively teach "WHAT" to look for? Do they even know themselves? By years of habit, I check over the horse as I am grooming and have by that habit discovered from time to time an issue that may not have shown up until I was out riding and noticed poor performance or unsoundness and it's often overlooked by many.
I realize that many will dismiss even scorn me for making such a "issue" over an elementary subject, However, I have, too many times, in teaching individuals and clinics, found myself facing a neglect to follow a good procedure in preparation to ride. I would venture that currently a large percentage of students have to learn it, as fewer instructor's seem to be teaching it. Few exhibit in action, what I would expect from any beginner rider. Many look the part of an equestrian but fewer act it out.
Frequently, I notice things like disheveled hair under the bridle at the poll, this often leads to head tossing and other "seemingly" rebellious activities. I wish I had a dollar for every time I had to correct this and other basics. How many times have I had to "educate" a groom or a student while tightening the girth NOT to set the girth tight in the grooming stall, my habit is to set the girth just enough to be snug (I can still get my hand easily under it) and then again before mounting, Ill check or tighten once mounted too! I have never created a "girthy" horse but have corrected that vice in quite a few by using this method. Not checking saddle fit is another of my pet peeves, realizing that the rider has no clue about it is amazing, this follows with bit choice and fit as well as subsequent bridle fit/adjustments... I am a real pain in the "tucas" aren't I? Well it's a fact that few teach it, so why am I surprised few exhibit it? Good grooming and saddling practices are essential to preserve the horse health and well being and ultimately safety
I know every student just wants to get to the end game, reach their threshold of experience on the horse, perhaps take home that ribbon and I myself admittedly can't wait to get to the jumps or the trail or whatever my goal is for the day.... but not a single time can one over look the basics and everyone should learn them and practice them and TEACH them. I will soon create some instructional video and text to encourage riders and teachers to promote good basics and ultimately share some of my insights in working with horses my entire life, I'll have about 55 years and several hundred horses of insight to share with you, hopefully it will be met with fruition and many more educated riders/trainers will emerge! First teach and require empathy in every case, each student, must learn correctness in preparation of the horse physically and as well mentally.
"Riding and teaching should be fun but not at the expense of the horse even at the slightest level."
Clayton A Jackson 3-2019