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  • Writer's pictureFiona Tothill

Getting on your horse

This is another area where I see horses and people unintentionally unsettling each other.

The horses come to their lesson with a very different agenda. It may be their first ride of the day, they may be focused on their hay or their friends or it may be the last ride of the day. What ever they will bring forward the ‘memory’ of their proceeding ride which may have been a really positive learning experience or maybe they were a bit challenging or their rider was struggling to direct them or guide them - whatever the experience your horse will normally bring it to the next ride.

So typically we see horses and riders who are disconnected from each other.

We encourage our more experienced riders to assist in bringing the horses to the mounting block, although even our younger and less experienced can be involved.

How your ride goes will often be affected by what happens next! From the outset you want to let your horse know what you want from them. Whilst many would take themselves to the block it is actually important that you ( or one of our team) lead them. Tell them where you want to stand, better still tell them exactly where to put each foot! I am sure you have experienced the difference between clear direction, well given and vague, fluffy instructions; when it matters we need clarity!

Again it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security...”the horses know what they are doing” and whilst this is true I personally would not trust them to just do it (as I have said before just because they can doesn’t mean they will!). Give them a little direction and you can expect a good response. Say HELLO 🐴

So now you have mentally prepared you and your horse, you have connected, you can then mount mindfully. Things I ask my horse:

🐴 Are you ready? ( I am transferring a lot of weight to their backs)
🐴 Are you listening? (or are you distracted)
🐴 Are you standing still? ( or are you ready to move )

  • I make sure I am balanced and TAKE UP THE REINS ( you wouldn’t want to ride without reins so why get on without them).

  • I recheck that my horse is engaged and relaxed.

  • I gently place my foot in the stirrup being careful not to poke the horse in the ribs ( that’s never the best start)!

Do not let your horse move away, even one stride. It’s a bad habit and whilst you might be ok the next rider might not, the horse won’t understand. Teach every horse to be good - it’s for your benefit and theirs. I will always ask someone to hold my horse (just because I can mount alone doesn’t mean I should).

It’s now time to adjust your stirrups and tighten your girth.

I see so many riders whip in hand jiggling about, moving their legs, shifting their weight, essentially giving very confusing aids and then reprimanding the horse for moving on ( when it’s quite likely to have tapped them with your stick or put your leg on - in ten minutes you want them moving off these aids!). Ask for help, it makes sense. Of course it is good to learn how to do this but help your horse by asking for help yourself.

And finally you are on and ready to ride. Take a moment to reflect on just what has gone on for the last five minutes or so; give yourself and your horse a chance to have a good ride!


About the author:

Fiona Tothill, BA Educational Studies, UKCC level 2 coach (equestrian). Equine Assisted Facilitator.

Fiona is an experienced public speaker and trainer who is able to engage her audience and empowers them to explore challenging issues. Fiona is the co-owner vision behind Kingsmead Equestrian Centre in Surrey.

Fiona is available for public speaking engagements, workshops and events.

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