As a trainer, my job includes climbing on new horses all the time. In the past, these scenarios were fraught with what-if outcomes. Fortunately, as I have gained experience, these ncounters tend to go much more successfully. But for many riders, the experience of riding an unfamiliar horse is venturing into the unknown. Like a blind date, it can be xciting, uneventful or downright disastrous. There’s a lot more to getting on a new horse than just
throwing your leg over the saddle. Having a plan will go a long way to keeping
you safer. It will also determine how much fun you have and what you’re able to
take away from the ride.
What follows is advice I give to riders when they are about to hop on a new
horse, whether it is a friend’s, a sale prospect, or new lesson horse.
My first piece of advice is what not
to do. Don’t allow others to influence
you too much about how the horse
rides. When other people—intending
to be helpful—fill your head with
information, you’ll tend to listen less
to yourself and your own instincts.
This never goes well. Remember
that any relationship between horse
and rider is entirely unique and your
experience with a horse can differ
completely from someone else’s.
It’s better to approach a new horse
with your own personal observations.
Otherwise, you’ll get on with a presumptive set of expectations, putting
you in a passive role.
When owners try to give me the
ins and outs of riding their horse, I
politely thank them but explain I
prefer to get on and feel things out
for myself. This helps me take a more
active leadership role.
Strategies for a safe,
successful ride on an
BY JEC A. BALLOU / PHOTOS BY SHELLEY PAULSON