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Tricks Horses Play on Novice Riders
 By Winniefield Park   •   20th Aug 2014   •   1,701 views   •   0 comments
Tricks Horses Play on Novice Riders

Camp week is always good for me, because it reminds me of how really difficult and sometimes frustrating learning to ride can be for beginners. Those of us who know how to ride forget the struggles we had starting out. And often, lesson horses donít really help matters.

This year, Iím happy to report, only two girls cried. One, because someone said something to embarrass her, and another, because she couldnít make her horse stop. That horse was mine, and her favorite trick is to slowly pull the reins out of her riderís hand, then wander to the middle of the arena, where she puts her head down and closes her eyes. As she wanders, the rider usually ineffectually hauls on the reins with her hands up around her ears as we shout, use your legs! Shorten your reins!

A lot of lesson horses quickly learn about pulling the reins from their riderís hands. Some do it slowly and subtly like my horse. Others drop their necks like a falling Douglas fir tree and almost catapult the rider out of the saddle. The instinctive response of the rider is to haul the horseís head up with the reins. However, youíre not going to win a tug-o-war with a 1000 lb animal. Using your legs to pick your horseís head up seems counter-intuitive. But thatís exactly what you must do.

Related: Trick Training - Teach Your Horse to Kiss
Related: Trick Training - Teach Your Horse to Bow

A tactic to avoid an ineffectual rider that a lot of lesson horses use is to ignore the riderís leg aids. Most new riders think that thumping the horse with their heels will make them walk forward. However, a lot of lesson horses ignore being thumped by merely wincing, grunting and keeping their feet firmly planted. If you donít ask correctly, they arenít going to do a thing. After about the third heel thump, the rider is beginning to curl into the fetal position. They may start to flap the reins desperately while the wiley horse blinks innocently. It usually takes some one-on-one coaching to convince the rider to sit up, hold the reins properly and squeeze.

Another lesson horse trick is the stop and spin tactic. This involves stopping suddenly and then stepping over a few steps with the hindquarters so the horse is facing the wall. The rider usually responds by tugging on the rein to pull the horse in the right direction. However, the horse says, hey, Iím facing a wall, I canít move. The rider has to learn to avoid this move altogether because once youíre parked, itís hard to get unparked.

Of course, thatís the real counter-strategy to all lesson horse tricks - learn to keep the horseís mind busy and motivated so it doesnít try any tricks in the first place. I know that the first time I ride my horse after camp week, sheís going to try the slow-rooting tactic with me. Iím ready for her. In fact, as I type this, certain muscles are already tensing up as I picture exactly how it is all going to play out. Horses usually figure out not only what tricks they can get away with, but who they can play the tricks on.
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