By Real Riderz
Ride and leave, that seems to be the philosophy of many lesson barns all over the world.
So what is it that makes this ordeal seem so lucrative to many clients that want to ride? Time. Instead of spending thrity minutes before and thirty minutes after getting your horse ready and then untacking, you get on the horse and go ride. That’s the intention of a riding lesson afterall, isn’t it?
The problem is that we are creating riders that don’t know how to handle the horse on the ground. This is more of a danger than it is anything else, both for the rider and the horse. Good riding comes from good observation of the horse on the ground first and foremost. A beginner rider should be taught how to observe the horse’s behaviors and feelings. A beginner rider should also be taught how to handle the horse. This is how a relationship is built with a horse, and that relationship is then transformed to the ride.
Novice dolphin trainers are required to have a two year observing period (of the older trainers working with dolphins) prior to gaining the privilege of touching the animal. Horses should not be an exception, because although learning how to ride is also important, you can never truly understand the horse if you haven’t worked with him/her from the ground (at least at the most basic level).
We have an alarming number of riders and clients coming in and excpecting just to ride. That is the expectation we have set and allowed to happen time and time again. So what is it that we can do differently? Require groundwork lessons for beginner riders. Whether that be grooming or even just leading the horse for the start. We need to teach riders to observe the tiniest of cues in their horse, from the entire body to just the eyes and ears. We might lose clients because of it, but we will also find clients who really care and are dedicated to becoming complete horsemen.
As for riders who already have experience, you too can improve your groundwork skills. Take the time to ask questions or maybe even consult a trainer (especially one who has a proven track records in groundwork). Make it a goal to learn something new about your horse on the ground, and never stop observing.