Do you sometimes wonder if what you are doing with the horse is beneficial to him? Are you occasionally unsure of how well your riding/training program is going?
One of the surest ways to know if you are being helpful to your horse (with your riding) is to listen to your horse. If you know how to interpret his signs and communications, all your questions will essentially be answered, especially in terms of how well your ride is going.
Are you following your horse's movement?
Are you asking for/allowing enough impulsion?
Do you "commit" your body to the forward motion you're asking for?
Is the horse learning to/allowed to stretch over the topline so he can more effectively use his musculature to carry you?
These questions (and more) can be answered by correctly reading the horse's responses to your requests. Although many of these signs can be seen from the ground or during groundwork, the advantage of these horsey "yes answers" is that they can be identified while you ride. Here are some ways to know if you are on the right track:
- the horse gives an emphatic snort.
- the horse licks and chews through the movement.
- the horse is calmer at the end of the ride than he was at the beginning.
- the horse's topline looks fuller, even just moments after the ride.
- the horse's stride becomes longer, bouncier and more cadenced.
- the horse bends deeper with less rein aid.
- movements come easier after a few repetitions.
- the horse reaches higher/wider/longer with the hind end.
- the eyes get soft.
- the horse's expression is calm.
- the horse's ears fall (of sometimes flop) gently to the side unless he is "listening" to your aids, at which point the ear will momentarily come back to you.
- the horse softens his poll/jaw upon contact.
- transitions come easily.
- bends and turns are softly negotiated.
- he can stay straighter in his body while moving on or off the rail.
- the horse engages his hind end quickly and easily without tensing or bracing through the additional energy.
- the back becomes softer, especially in the trot.
- the tail lifts slightly during movement.
- the hind legs track up or overttrack.
- the horse's overall body outline rounds rather than hollows.
There must be many other ways to know how your riding or ground work is going. Please add your tips in the comment section below.
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Other articles you might enjoy:
Why You Don’t Need to Panic When Your Horse ‘Falls Apart’: Even if you are not thinking “panic”, your body might be communicating it by either being completely passive or too reactive after the horse is off balance.
When Good Riding Instruction Becomes Great: How much can an instructor really do to help a rider improve?
Find the Space Between the Give and Take in Horse Riding: As with so many other things in life, we need to find the happy medium.
16 Ways to Not Become Bored During Your Ride: Here is a list of just a few ideas to keep ring riding fresh and interesting for both you and your horse.