Horse Riding Up and Down Hills
 By Saferaphus   •   23rd Sep 2017   •   441 views   •   0 comments

Riding up and down hills takes a few different skills than riding on flat ground. As you go up or down a hill, you and your horse must adjust your balance so you stay together. This makes the ride more comfortable for you, and the job of carrying you easier for your horse. Itís also safer, since a balanced horse is less likely to stumble, and if it does stumble, it will be easier for your horse to regain its footing.

One skill you may have already have learned riding in the arena or over flat terrain is how to ride two-point. Learning to ride two-point is useful whether you ride English or western. And learning to stay in balance while you are riding in two-point is important riding up hills.

Why ride two-point up a hill? Riding two-point will bring your weight forward, over the horseís shoulders so that the horse can drive with its hind end more freely. It also prevents you from sliding backward in the saddle, making your seat less secure. But not just your body should be more forward over the front of the saddle, but your arms and hands should reach forward as well. This will help prevent you from using your horseís mouth to hold you from sliding back.

As you ascend a hill, your horse should have free use of its head and neck. Keeping balance over the horseís withers will help you do this. To maintain the position, you may have to let your feet slide back just a bit further than normal. You donít want all your weight in the stirrups, just enough to help you balance. It can be tricky to sync your horseís center of balance with your own. But itís one of those things that become easier with practice. As the incline of the hill changes, so should your position in the saddle. You donít want to be way up over your horseís neck going up a hill unless youíre scaling a cliff. So you need practice feeling where the center is over a variety of inclines.

When you ride uphill, something your horse should not do is bolt or scrabble forward. This is common before horses are fit, and donít know how to manage the incline. An unfit horse will try to lunge up a hill. Itís better to make them walk up until they have the muscle and balance to go faster. Itís also easier to strain muscles galumphing up a hill, so slow and steady is best. Your horse needs to learn to take hills calmly, using the large hindquarter muscles to push up the hill. This will be less tiring for the horse over a long haul.

What goes up must come down, and this applies to hills too. Riding down hills in balance is important for the same reason as going up them. In fact, if your horse rushes or stumbles, it's almost easier for things to go awry, with momentum, weight, and gravity propelling you down the hill.

While riding in two point up a hill helps your horse use its hindquarters better, it's not quite as helpful going down. Downhill, youíll want to lean back - but not a lot. Again, you want to stay centered over the horseís center of balance. You donít have to brace your feet forward and recline back. You just need to make sure your horse can use its shoulders unhindered while letting your seat follow the rhythm of the horseís hindquarters as both hind legs stride forward and brake at the same time.

Again, how far you lean back will depend on the steepness of the hill. For small inclines donít need you to be in the position of the Man From Snowy River chasing the brumbies down a cliff. And, a slow controlled descent, with your horse effectively using its haunches is much safer than letting your horse roll down like an out of control caterpillar.

The ideal position to ride in on the flat ground is with a straight ear, shoulder, hip, heel Line. Riding uphill or downhill, you strive to maintain this same line, adjusting it slightly depending on how steep the incline is. With a bit of practice, youíll get the feel of just how much you need to change your position, depending on the hill.
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