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Common Horse Show Problems
 By Winniefield Park   •   7th Nov 2018   •   590 views   •   0 comments
Common Horse Show Problems

Horse shows tend to be where we are both at our worst and our best. And at schooling shows and smaller open shows, you see a very wide range of riding skills. So you get kids bumping around on ponies to experienced competitors bringing out a green horse for the last bit of exposure before winter hits and it goes into ‘real’ competition next spring. It’s always interesting to see how people ride, and the types of horses they are riding. For the most part, I saw kids mainly, and a few adults having fun. Which is the important thing, right? But when it came to the riding I was struck by how common some riding problems are amongst new or young riders. Here are a few things I noticed.

Flat Hands
I saw lots of flat hands, and I admit to having struggled with this myself. Effective rein aids are made more difficult when your hands are stiff and flat. Remember that your thumbs should be up and you should hold your hands as if you’re gently holding a baby chick in each hand.

Stiff Elbows
Your elbows should be down by your sides and there should be a straight line from your elbow, through your wrists to the horse’s mouth. That line doesn’t start at your shoulders though. Often this happens because the rider is feeling unbalanced. So working on feeling more secure in the saddle will help with this. Another reason some people hold their elbows stiff is that they are trying to get their horse’s head down by holding the reins lower. This is the wrong approach. There are all sorts of ways to teach your horse to carry its head and neck in the right position, but holding the reins low isn’t one of them.

Jammed Feet and Legs
Stirrups too long or short can cause riders to jam their legs forward. This is a simple adjustment. Riders that have difficulty rating their horses may brace against the stirrups and lean back to hold their horses in. This can get them in worse trouble when they are out of balance and unable to use their bodies correctly. Some seem to think that they had to jam their heels down, and because they were pinching with their knees, they ended up in ‘chair seat’ position.

Sway Backs
Sway backs and stiff elbows sometimes go together, so working on rider balance will help with both. Some think that hollowing out their back makes them sit up straighter, but this maybe an exaggeration of what they are aiming for.

Counter Bends
I saw lots of counter bent horses at the last show I was at. Sometimes this is because the horse being ridden was stiff on one side. But often it was the rider who was the problem. A coach is very useful for helping a rider sort out what should be happening each time you ride a curve or circle.

No Release
Riders that are insecure can sometimes use their reins for support. And going over jumps, they may hang on their horse’s mouths.

Saddles Don’t Fit
This applies to horse and to the rider. I totally get why saddles at low level shows don’t fit the rider perfectly. If a school horses carries a lot of riders, it’s going to be hard to put a different saddle for every one. So in this situation, the horse’s saddle should fit and the rider’s needs become secondary. Nevertheless, saddles that are too small or large are hard for a rider to sit in correctly. They’re either squished in uncomfortably, perhaps hollow backed because their backside is further up the cantle than it should be or sloshing around, feeling insecure.

Stiff Rider
Some riders are just tense and that’s certainly understandable when you are showing. Some hold their breath, and that makes things even worse. But when you are stiff and tense, your horse may be the same. At small shows, of course there are the school horse saints that if you set them at a small course, they’d do it whether there was a rider on their backs or not. But, there are lots more that aren’t as forgiving and will pick up that stiffness.

Shoulders In, Hips Out
When you are going around curves and making turns your shoulders should stay even and your balance shifts to the outside. This helps your horse bend. If you watch good barrel racers, you’ll see them keeping their weight to the outside, not leaning inwards as if they are banking their turns. Weight to the inside will inhibit your horse’s ability to use its legs on that side effectively. This doesn’t mean your going throw all you weight to the outside. This is just a subtle shift of balance - yet another thing to work on with a good coach.
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