Horse riding can be a wonderful hobby: You spend time with a gentle animal; you are out in the fresh air and even get some exercise for free! However, to enjoy your time with the horse as much as possible, there are some things you should keep in mind. They will make your life easier.
Horses are usually not overly interested in humans
Horses need food, safety and company. Humans usually provide all three of them, but otherwise we are not particularly interesting. It is we humans who want to do something with them. Therefore, it is our duty to take care of their needs so that our specific horse is physically and mentally able to perform the work we ask of it.
In our horses case, Koivikon Hevoshaka (the Active Stable in Korpilahti) takes care of these basic needs.
Horses want a leader
Horses feel safe when someone else is taking care of the dangers of life. They prefer another horse doing this dirty job, but they accept a human substitute. To become an accepted leader, you have to prove yourself capable of communicating your commands to the horse and to be reliable.
As a consequence, all work with a horse starts with tackling the communication gap between our two species. Horses have their own language. Remember, we want something from the horse, so we have to learn its language not the other way round! Humans can learn it quite easily: You mainly have to become skilled at how to use your body language. Luckily, horses are very good at interpreting our clumsy way of ‘talking’.
The real difficulty lies in the next two steps of a successful communication process with the horse: Always tell the horse what you are going to want from it and make sure that the horse reacts to your demand. Always. In that precise order. This process starts from the moment you pick up your horse from the pasture/box and ends when you bring it back. (Michael Geitner has written a very good book about this subject: ‘Be Strict’ . Unfortunately, it is only available in German at the moment, as far as I know.)
Horses were not ‘made’ for riding
Nature ‘designed’ horses to stand around, eat as much as possible and make new horses. Carrying other animals is not part of their natural agenda. But we can use their obedience to a good leader to train them to do that. And they have to be trained. Their back muscles need exercise to be able to carry our weight without causing the horse pain now or when they get older.
We have to exercise too, to be able to stay on the horse without hurting it or ourselves. Unfortunately, becoming a good rider (i.e. a rider that is able to move together with the horse in a relaxed and soft way and commands the horse with invisible aids; read more about that in ‘Biomechanical Riding & Dressage’ from Nancy Nicholson) is not a matter of a few hours. It will take time until your body knows how to react in different situations on the horse. And there are no shortcuts.
So why bother about horses and riding?
You have to find your own answer for that question. Here is mine:
Nothing beats the feeling to direct my horse only by thinking about what I want to do next. Or seeing my satisfaction reflected in the horse’s face when we are coming home from a trip in the countryside. Or the excitement when we are flying over a line of obstacles.
And what puzzles me most is the fact that I can do all that with a big animal around 10 times my weight and therefore physically able to waltz over me any time….