No Horse, No Rider

Photo by Grace Earley on Pexels.com

By Real Riderz

This is for all those just getting started, if you’ve been in the horse world for a while, you can skip this one.

No horse, no rider means exactly what you think it means. Without the horse, the rider is just a person. Actually, the term “horseback rider” would not even exist in the first place. No horse means no jumping, no placings, no prize money, no business, no nothing. The horse is the god here.

No horse, no rider also means you are limited in what you can do based on the horse that you have. A horse that can only jump 90cm is a horse that can only jump 90cm. Especially if it is a horse with properly fitted tack, no health issues, good training, etc. This is something that many fail to consider when they first start riding. The chances of moving up the levels on a lesson horse are slim. Why? Because the lesson horse has many riders to train. If a lesson horse is used to their maximum potential in one lesson, then how will he/she have any energy left for the next client?

However, if you are one of the lucky riders that gets their own horse (or horses) and starts to move up, remember: no horse, no rider. That really is the main principal of the sport (and also why there are many great riders who have not reached their full potential as an athlete because of lack of horses that have the athletic abilities to reach those ranks).

Underrated People in the Horse World: Aidan Reese

By Real Riderz

Who is Aidan Reese?

Aidan is a professional who has been riding for her whole life. She grew up doing rodeos and speed events. Aidan was nationally ranked for some time during her riding career. At the age of 16, she made the switch to eventing. She competed up to the preliminary level and placed 9th at the American Eventing Championship. Aidan is currently pursuing a career as a stunt double, specializing in stunts with horses.

What are some of the struggles you have encountered on your journey in the horse world? 

Trainers. I love learning and growing but I have found that most trainers in the industry have been jaded and take it out on working students (and sometimes regular students). They use gaslighting and manipulation and rob students of their passion. My goal is to change that.

What change(s) do you wish to see in the equine world? 

I wish to see working students treated fairly. I hope one day the view that you have to work 90 hour work weeks or have millions of dollars to make it in the industry will go away. I hope the mentality of “I yell at you because I care” disappears completely.

I am actually working on a podcast about my points and I’m working on building a student base that is taught out of mutual respect. I’ll be posting more about it on my Instagram @ThtBlackSheep.

Thank you Aidan for your insight! We wish you the best of luck in your professional career path. If you would like to have a chance at being featured in the underrated people of the horse world column, fill out this form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1wvP3tT6ELOhNK3qQRuTVT2sX10kA4SsOmyiVz_uwRN8/edit

Trying Horses: What You Must Know

Photo by Barbara Olsen on Pexels.com

By Real Riderz

Trying a horse can be an exciting and a nerve-wrecking time. On one hand, you are getting a new partner, on the other hand, you are taking a risk. Here’s a what you need to know before, during, and after you try a horse.

Before

Make the goal and budget as clear as possible before you even start searching. What do you need this horse for? Will he/she be competition or a trail partner? A budget is important to determine because it will narrow your choices, sure you might end up paying a tad bit more or a tad bit less, but it’s best not to waste your and the owner’s time on horses you can’t afford. You will also need to look at your riding experience as realistically as possible. Have you just started riding? Or maybe you have been competing for a while but are a bit more timid? This is where a trainer’s experience comes into play (or at least that of a more experienced equestrian).

Once you start looking, keep in mind the age of the horse/pony. A five year old horse which is sold as a beginner pony will more likely than not need some further support from a more experienced rider. Keep that in mind and be realistic about what you can give the horse. Height does make a difference but it should not be a dealbreaker (well unless we’re talking about a 177cm rider riding a 120cm horse, no…just no). Breed is also something that, although should play a factor, should not lead your decision. Besides, for a lower price range, a well-bred horse might be too out of reach (or if in reach, too green to even consider). Color should come last when choosing, and who knows…maybe you’ll end up loving greys!

Now that you have seen the horse (preferably in some videos), and have recieved the approval of a professional (preferably), it’s time to contact the owner! You will want to ask some questions about the horse and schedule a trial ride. Here are some questions you may consider asking over the phone:

  • Why are you selling the horse?
  • When is the last time this horse has been ridden?
  • Has he/she had any medical issues (e.g. sacroids, ulcers, colic, etc.)
  • When did you buy the horse and from who did you buy the horse?
  • How is the horse with the farrier/vet?
  • How is the horse on the trailer and can he/she travel alone?
  • How much does the horse weigh?
  • What is the horse like to ride?
  • Can the horse go on trail alone?
  • Does he/she live mostly outside or inside?
  • What type of schedule is he/she used to?
  • What type of experience does this horse have (e.g. jump height)?
  • Does the horse have a passport/registration?

Be patient and curtious to the owner when working out a time to work this horse. Once you have a time, prepare yourself by turning on your logical skills, intiution, and brining a trustoworthy horse person with you!

During

So you have packed your riding equipment and arrived on time to your trial, now what? It can be a bit daunting, but try to act as if you’ve done this before. A good sign from the get-go is if you are allowed to lead, groom, and tack the horse yourself. You will want to see how the horse handles and acts when you are on the ground. Run your hands all over the horse and take in as much detaul as you can. A bad sign is if the horse is sweaty, has droopy lips, and generally seems a bit unaware. You can test for sedation using a pen light. If you shine into the horse’s eye and the horse does not react instantaneously, it is best to leave and not bother trying the horse. This may be a sign that the horse was drugged or worked before you came. Another bad sign is if you are sent to the arena and given an already tacked up horse. The process must be as trasnparent as possible.

Avoid getting on the horse first, as this could be potentially dangerous. When the rider gets on, notice what the horse is like. Does he/she stand still? Or do a bunch of people have to hold the horse? Or maybe the rider only gets on outside of the arena? Keep all of this in mind. Watch how the horse handles under the rider. Watch how he/she uses her aids and if he/she wears crop/spurs. Also watch how the rider warms up the horse (notice details such as from which gait he/she does the canter transition). If you like what you see, get on. Or (if you are less expeirenced) have the trustworthy friend to get on first and try some things that maybe you don’t have the skills for yet. If the trainer/friend gives you the thumbs off, get on and start slow. Stay at the halt for a couple of seconds, and only then walk. Try some transitions from walk, and if you feel comfortable, move on to trot. At a faster pace, make sure you have your controls. If you like the trot, try a couple steps of canter. If anything feels out of control, stop and re-evaulate. Your safety should always come first, and you have nothing to prove.

If you are a jumper, try a few jumps, and if you are a dressage rider, maybe try a few moves. Only do this if you feel comfortable and safe, if you don’t like something, it’s ok to turn around and leave. The owners will be grateful that you didn’t waste their time and the horse’s energy that could be used for another potential client. If you did try the horse to the end, be kind enough to cool him/her down. Don’t be quick to leave and offer to help put away the horse. Note that the more time you spend with the horse, the more you may find out. Linger even a bit longer to ask a few more questions, and if you like the horse, tell them that! If you have other horses to try, keep the owners informed and tell them of a deadline when they can expect an answer. Don’t expect the owner to “hold” the horse for you and realize that business is business. Do expect that you may be able to negotiate the price with the owner, but you are unlikely to get more than 20 percent from what the horse cost. If the price doesn’t go down, consider asking them to sell the horse with some tack or perhaps help you with shipping. Do note that if the owner offer to ship the horse themselves, this may be a red flag because the horse may be a difficult traveler.

After

Once you tried the horse, avoid getting to emotionally invested because there are several pieces of approval that you need to recieve. The most important approval is from your trainer and other experienced equestrians (trustworthy!) However, keep in mind your feeling. It’s a horse for you, and if your gut tells you something is off, trust it. Avoid external pressures from the owner (e.g. them saying that they have other interested buyers….*sigh*). Any red flags and you need to run, because a horse shouldn’t be a compromise. Once you are certain and have taken the time to get approval from the pros and your brain (and soul), STILL don’t get too emotionally invested because the horse needs to pass the pre-purchase examination (PPE) or vet check. More on that in the next article but rember that if A) the owner doesn’t let you have a PPE or B) the owner tells you that they will do it but only with their own vet: RUN. A PPE may be costly, but it will save you a lot of money in the long-run. Once you get a pass from the vet, consider having the horse on trial or at least trying the horse in a different environment (maybe even at a different barn), it may cost you more, but it will ensure that you are certain about your choice.

Happy Horse Trying! 🙂

Underrated People in the Horse World: Connor

By Real Riderz

Who is Connor?

Connor is a junior show jumper who competes in the 3 foot (90cm) show divisions. He has be a part of the equine world for seven years. After retiring his older horse, he recently acquired a new horse named Hans. With Hans he has already achieved a milestone of jumping 3’9″ (1.15cm). Connor’s biggest goal is to be the first trangender equestrian in the Olympic Games. However, he hopes that there will be other transgender athletes that will start comepting at the top level of equestrian sports.

What are some of the struggles you have encountered on your journey in the horse world? 

I am both transgender and bissexual. This has been a huge struggle for me because the equestrian community tends to be extremely conservative and not accepting towards people like me.

What change(s) do you wish to see in the equine world? 

I want the equine world to be more accepting and less gatekeeping towards newer riders. I think that everyone should deserve a chance to develop as an athlete, no matter who they are.

Thank you Connor for the insight and good luck with the Olympic dream! If you would like to have a chance at being featured in the underrated people of the horse world column, fill out this form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1wvP3tT6ELOhNK3qQRuTVT2sX10kA4SsOmyiVz_uwRN8/edit

Are You Making Your Horse Lame?

By Real Riderz

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Indirctly or directy, it is indeed a possibility that you as the rider, owner, groom, or even trainer could be having a detrimental impact on your equine partner.

So what is it that we could be doing that could be leading to potential lameness? Well, simply said, it’s neglecting the details. These details include (but are not limited to) not cleaning the hooves enough (e.g. after turnout or after a ride), riding your horse with improperly fitted tack, training too hard too soon, lunging as a means to take out energy without taking the proper precautions, and more.

So what can we do to protect our horses? Take the extra step to check your horse everyday, and avoid skipping the basics. That means basic safety precautions and of course warm ups. Take your time with your horses because your time with them is limited, and every moment counts. Groom your horses, know what is normal by observation/feel, and enjoy!

Underrated People in the Horse World: Gina

By Real Riderz

Who is Gina?

Gina is a trainer who owns an 18 year old quarter horse which was taken from the kill pen. She was an eventer for a few years before switching to the hunter/jumper discipline and comepting all over the country.

What are some of the struggles you have encountered on your journey in the horse world? 

I am a victim of body shaming because people see me for my weight and nothing more. Many do not take me seriously because of my body type. They just see me as a body and ignore what I know.

What change(s) do you wish to see in the equine world? 

I wish to see more inclusivity and open mindedness in the horse world. I want to see the equine world become more accepting of everyone (males, transgender people, people of color, etc.) I think that the horse world is a bit stuck in the past because of the fact that it is an old sport. However, I do think these changes can happen, it’s just a matter of starting small and being open to something new.

Thank you Gina for the insight! If you would like to have a chance at being featured in the underrated people of the horse world column, fill out this form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1wvP3tT6ELOhNK3qQRuTVT2sX10kA4SsOmyiVz_uwRN8/edit

Kent Farrington Eyes

By Real Riderz

Well actually, you don’t need to have Kent Farrington eyes, you just need to keep your eyes up.

So what’s with the eyes? What’s the need to look up? And where do you even look? Well, just like you look where you go when you run or drive, we want to look where we want to go when we ride. However, that’s the simple answer.

When you look where you want to go, your body follows, which makes it clearer to the horse which direction you intend to go in. When making sharper turns, this is even more important because it gives your horse instructions instantly. So where do you want to look? To start, we want to look up and ahead, just above the ears or between them (depending on the horse’s head carriage at the moment). Besides looking just ahead, you want to plan your next move with your eyes. This means planning your track in your brain, and first riding it out with your eyes.

The sharper you are with your eyes, the sharper you are in your riding. This applies to just about anything in riding, but especially jump off rides in show jumping.

Happy riding and use those eyes!

Helping the Ukrainian Equestrian Community

By Real Riderz

Photo by Nati on Pexels.com

As Ukraine fights the war against Putin, the rest of the world needs to gather and think of ways we can help the people of Ukraine. The horse people are no exception, so here are a few ways that you can help out:

  1. Donate Supplies and/or Money

For those who are capable of contributing, donations to Ukraine may help the cause. Donations counting for feed through the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation can be found here. You can also contribute by making a Disaster Relief Gift through The Foundation for the Horse. The gifts recieved in March of 2022 will be donated to veterinary and equine communities in the EU which will be helping animals (including horses) which have been impacted by the crisis.

2. Spread Truthful (and Useful) Information

During war, truth becomes a little bit less clear. Besides spreading unbiased information on both sides, we need to spread information about how one can possibly help Ukrainians and their animals so that more donators can reach out, below are a few useful and verified sites:

https://helpukrainehorses.eu/

https://vetsforukraine.com/

https://www.ifaw.org/

Many people and coutries have already chipped in to help, and the equestrian community is no exception. There are hundreds of people offering transport at the border, stalls, and even job opportunites for those escaping. However, do note that we must also consider those less fortunate people of Ukraine who do not even have passports let alone cars to get out of the situation. The equine community (especially at the sports/recreational level) is fairly blessed financially speaking. Therefore, we must not forget about the people (and domestic animals) who do not have the chance to leave the country. Click here to see ways you can help the average people in Ukraine right now.

Help! My Horse Won’t Go!

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

By Real Riderz

Lazy horses, who hasn’t experienced one of those? Usually, dull horses are most commonly lessons horses, or horses ridden by people who are scared of lacking control. There are three causes for a dull horse: pain/poor care, imporper training, and incorrect riding.

Pain and general discomfort is a factor which should be ruled out first, before we even start to look into the other factors. Common problems can be poor saddle/bridle fit and illnesses. Diet can also be a factor within this category (not enough carbohydrates in forage/grain to create energy), but this is usual the last thing to look into changing if the diet suits the horse in other ways. Once you have discussed, analyzed, and resolved any potential problems, we can look for solutions in the next factor): improper training.

A horse which has never been taught forwardness from a young age, will likely always be a little more backwards. Most horses are natually forward, afterall, they need to flee from danger in the wild. However, with humans in the equation, quite a few things change. Naturally, we want to feel safe, so it is not uncommon for inexperienced riders with greener horses to use too much rein or incorrect seat in order to start “collection” of the horse. This creates problems in the long run because not only is the horse working incorrectly (not working from the back due to lack of muscles and incorrect signals from the rider) but also the horse starts to fear going forward. It is possible to resolve this training issue, but only with proper and consistently good re-training/riding. When it comes to training, lunging and groundwork can be used to encourage a horse to think forward.*

A horse can be well trained but as we all know, every time we ride a horse we also train him/her. A rider which is more timid/less experienced can unknowingly instill certain habits in a horse. A rider who has fear may overuse his/her rein aids whenever the horses attempts to go faster or starts doing something that may cause the rider’s fear. The abrupt pull on the reins is usually accompanied by pain which makes the horse fearful to go forwards. The less experienced rider may use the hands to balance, and apply leg at random times or even all the time. This makes the horse confused and causes a collision of throughts which do not make sense together. This is one of the main reasons why green (AKA young/inexperienced) riders and green horses do not mash.

“Fixing” the lazy horse with riding comes down to two factors: your seat and how you use it. You must be in full control of your entire body in order to avoid confusing the horse. When it comes to making the horse go forward, apply the leg just behind the girth and then release. The release is the vital part, even if the horse has not gone forward. If the horse did not go forward from a squeeze, tap with your leg. Release this pressure right away, even if the horse did not move forwards. The last resort is the crop/spur. The reason why releasing the leg is so important is because it teaches the horse to go forwards even from the lightest of leg aids. A leg that is always “on” can be confused by the horse as part of the saddle, which eventually numbs the horse to the leg in general. Besides correct use of the seat/leg, be prepared for your horse to go forward (and even have a few play bucks). If your natural reaction is to pull, the horse will only be more resistant in the long-run. Check out our previous article here for more on how to halt with your seat rather than reins.

*One helpful and relatively quick tip for reinforcing the leg on the ground is using the dull side of the crop against the horse’s side as a tool to mimic the rider’s leg. This tool can be accompanied by a cluck (or whichever other voice aid you use) and reinforced with the use of the crop. Do note however, that this is not the long-term solution, just something that could help to remind the horse on the ground.

Woke Doesn’t Work

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By Real Riderz

Especially not in the world of sport.

Word of notice: this is not an anti anything post, read until the end.

Woke doesn’t work when people cry out for change that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. For instance, normalizing people who are out of shape to be competing in any sport. Now, we’re not talking about just being too fat, we are also talking about being under muscled. We all (probably) know by now that horseback riders are not the most buff out there, but when it comes to conditioning, most riders tend to skip this step. Conditioning will look different for every rider (just like it looks different for every horse), but it must happen for everyone, no matter the level you ride at.

If we look at the scandals happening in the Russian figure skating team, we can see that their trainer uses methods that work based on how skinny you are. This is something that we see in the horse world too, but it is less talked about. If you are American, you know it as the infamous Big Eq Diet, everyone else just knows it as eating disorders. When we rely on skinniness or fatness to achieve certain results, we produce results that don’t last in the long run. Just like killing a horse when you compete it at a level they are not fit enough for, you can kill your body.

Another way woke doesn’t work in the horse world is normalizing mental illness (whether that be in connection with physical illness or not). Riding is a mental game, and when we normalize the idea of illness in the mind, we normalize performance weakness which in turn puts stress on the horse. Horses rely on us for confidence and safety, if you feel as if you have a problem, get help now and don’t let social media tell you that it’s normal to be sick and not do anything about it.

Transgender in sports is a whole different story which doesn’t touch horseback riding as it is already an “equal sport.” This is one part of woke culture that horseback riding embraces naturally. Unfortunately however, horseback riding is a really elite sport, which also happens to be predominantly white. Thus, inclusivity is one area where the sport can improve an move forwards. Otherwise, let’s keep treating riding as a sport and take care of ourselves (and our horses) as real athletes.