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Selecting a horse

The selection of the horse depends partly on the skill of the rider. Experienced riders may prefer high-spirited,responsive horses. But most beginners feel comfortable on a gentle, reliable horse. Youngsters may feel more at ease on a pony than on a large horse. Geldings which are male horses with their sex organs removed are easier to control than stallions or mares. In choosing a horse to buy, a person should consider such factors as well as the animal's age, training and physical condition. A well-trained horse over 10 years old is the best for a beginner. An expert should ride the horse to determine how trained it is. In addition, a veterinarian should examine the animal and check for possible health problems.

 


 

Mounting a horse

The first things the rider learns are how to mount a horse and sit in the saddle.

The rider mounts the horse from the left side. Most horses become used to being mounted from the left during training. Someone mounting from the right might startle or confuse them. The custom of mounting from the left must have started probably when men wore long swords that hung down the left leg. It was easier to throw the right leg across the horse's back than the left. Many horses trained to travel on mountain trails can be mounted from either side. After mounting the rider sits in a relaxed position. The weight should be firmly settled in the dip( middle of the saddle). The back is held erect but not stiff.

 

To start a horse : the rider squeezes both legs against it's sides. As the horse moves forward, the rider lets the reins follow the movement of the horse's head. Riders should look where they are going and not at the horse.

To control a horse : riders use their hands, legs, and body weight. English riders call these aids. Westerners call these cues. Skilled riders can put their mounts thru difficult performances and tricks with only the slighest movements of their bodies. Trainers teach horses to move away from the leg. i.e the horse moves to the right when the rider presses the left leg against it and vice-versa. Skilled riders shift their weight in the direction of the horses movement. They move forward with the horse and to the right and left while turning. They move back in their seats a little while slowing and stopping. A good rider moves so smoothly that only the horse knows that the rider has changed position.

To stop a horse : riders shift their balance back a little in the seat. Then they squeeze their fingers to increase the pressure on the reins slightly wihtout tugging them. When the horse stops the rdier releases the pressure.

To move backwards : the rider squeezes both reins simultaneously, prventing the horse from moving forward and presses both legs against the girth of the saddle. A well trained horse then steps back.

 


 

Gaits

They are the ways a horse moves. Horses have three natural gaits 1) Walk 2) Trot and 3) Canter. A fast canter is ogten called a gallop. Many horses are trained for three different speeds at each of the three natural gaits.Trainers also develop artificial gaits in some horses, used in shows etc.

Walk : is the slowest of the gaits. The horse moves at a speed of 4 miles ( 6 kms ) an hour. It raises one foot after another and puts them down in the same order. The horse keeps it's balance by altering it's front and back feet and it's right and left feet.

Trot : is a two-beat gait at a speed of about 9 miles (14 kms ) an hour. The front leg on one side of the body and the back leg of the other side hit the ground together. The horse bends it's legs more in the trot than in the walk. When beginners ride at a trot, they should hold on to the horse's mane or the saddle until they get used to the motion. On the first beat of the trot, riders raise their bodies slightly by pushing their feet on the stirrup. They come down in the saddle on the second beat and the cycle repeats. This method of riding is called posting. A beginner should practise the movements of posting while the horse is walking.

Canter : is a comfortable, three-beat rhythmic riding gait. A horse canters at a speed of 10-12 miles ( 16-19 kms ) an hour. On the first beat, one forefoot strikes the ground. Then the other forefoot and opposite hind leg hit the ground together. On the third beat, the other hind foot strikes the ground.

Gallop : is a horse's fastest natural gait. Horses gallop in a leaping and bounting motion. On the first beat, a hind foot strikes the ground. The other hind foot and opposite forefoot hit the ground together. On the third beat, the other forefoot strikes the ground. Then the horse leaps forward and all it's feet leave the ground. A racing horse runs at an extended gallop.

Pace : like the trot, is a gait used in harness racing. When a horse paces, it moves the legs on the same side of the body at the same time. The pace is an uncomfortable riding gait.

Rack : is a fast, smooth four-beat gait. It resembles the slow gait but is faster. Five-gaited saddle horses are trained to slow gait and rack.

 


 

Dismounting

Grip the reins and the the horse's mane with you'r left hand and put you'r right hand on the pommel. Swing your right leg over the horse's rump and bring it next to your left leg, moving your right hand to the cantle. Balancing your body with your hands, remove your left foot from the stirrup and drop down.

 


 

 

 

The Stable

A horse should live in a clean, comfortable stall that measures atleast 10 feet by 10 feet ( 3mts by 3 mts ). The stable should be light, dry and well ventilated. Clay or finely ground cinders make the best floors, but cement or wooden floors can be used. Bedding spread atleast 1 foot ( 30 cm ) thick over the floor gives the horse a comfortable resting place. Wood shavings, sawdust, straw or peat moss make good bedding materials. Horses can sleep standing up and often dose while standing with their eyes wide open.

 


 

 

Food

A horse needs food atleast three times a day. The horse's stomach is small for the size of it's body and holds about 18 quarts (17 litres). In comparison, a man's stomach holds little more than 1 quart ( 0.95 litres ) of food. Horses eat grass, grain and hay. When a horse eats grain or hay, it gathers the food with it's lips. When a horse eats grass, it bites off the blades close to the ground. Horses chew their food slowly and throughly. They do not chew a cud as do cows and deer. Hay for horses should be placed in a net or on a rack. A manger ( open box ) holds the grain. A thousand pound ( 450 kilo ) horse that works three or four hours a day needs about 14 pounds ( 6.4 kilos ) of hay-5 pounds ( 2.3 kilos ) in the morning and rest at night. A horse should never eat mouldy or dusty hay or hay that contains coarse sticks, thorns or rubbish. Timothy, or timothy mixed with clover or alfalfa, makes the best hay. Horses like oats more than any other grain or hay. But they will eat oats too quickly unless they have some hay first. Working horses eat from 4-12 quarts ( 3.8-11.4 litres ) of oats, or a mixture of oats and barn everyday. The exact amount depends on the size, condition and the amount of exercise it gets. They require about 10-12 galons ( 38-45 litres ) of water. Horses need a lot of salt as their bodies lose a lot of salt due to respiration. A box of salt or a solid salt block in the stable or pasture provides this important part of the diet.