You often hear people say that they have been riding since they were three years old, or they were practically born in the saddle. Simple logic will belie this. No child of three years has enough coordination or strength. However, children do have a natural balance but no particular rhythm. Every sportsman knows the necessity of coordination, balance, and rhythm.
There must be coordination between the legs, hands, and body in moving a horse forward. For example: to move the horse forward you release the tautness of the reins and shift the body forward. If you shifted your body and pulled back on the reins, you would be asking the horse to stop and go at the same time. The reins, however, act as a control to keep the horse from moving out faster than the rider wishes. Horsemanship has rules of procedure just as any other sport, and in order to get the full enjoyment from a horse the owner should know the basics of horsemanship.
Before you buy a horse there should be a year of lessons, not only to learn the fundamentals of riding but to learn how to conduct oneself around an animal and the stables.
Without instruction you pick up a lot of bad habits. It used to be common practice to throw someone into the water to teach him to swim. In self-taught riding you may be able to ride a horse you are familiar with, but put yourself on an animal inclined to be stubborn or one that hasn’t been ridden for some time and you will be grabbing for leather and your apparent accomplishments will suddenly disappear. Not only will you be embarrassed by your own inadequacies but the horse will recognize the lack of skill and take advantage. Yes, indeed, there is more to riding a horse than the mere act of sitting on his back.
Riders can be placed in three categories, as can horses. The rider who goes on trail rides at the usual mountain resorts need only be capable of sitting in the saddle. This rider is called a passenger. The horse has been trained to keep his place in line, behind a certain horse, never gets out of a walk, and follows to the end of the trail and back again. The fact is, you couldn’t blast one of these horses out of his place in line with a pound of dynamite.
The second type of rider is the one who frequents riding academies. The rides are for an hour, and the horse knows exactly when this hour is up and will return to the barn whether the rider is ready or not, and usually at a dead run. This type of rider is called a gunsel. If he is lucky enough to remain in the saddle during the run, he believes he is a good rider. These poor horses usually have hard mouths, from amateurs pulling on them, their legs break down from cantering on pavements, and the stable string is constantly being changed because of the condition of the horses. Most academy owners try to buy horses that won’t get out of a walk because they last longer.
Then, of course, there is the expert and the person who takes lessons. The expert can spot a phony by the lack of correct horse jargon and by the way in which a person approaches an animal. He doesn’t have to see them ride. An expert shows his horsemanship, the amateur talks it.
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