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- Something more... - Horseback riding camp, Lyoben Karavelovo, Varna region, Bulgaria-


Walk
horse rides
horsesTo ask a horse to walk you squeeze gently with your lower legs and once the horse starts to move forward your legs should be relaxed. Some horses may not be as responsive as others and may need a small, gentle kick with both heels to move foward. If, whilst walking, the horse starts to falter a soft squeeze with the lower legs will persuade it to continue.
The walk is a "four step gait". This means that the horse moves each leg in turn and places all four legs on the ground individually.
As the horse walks you will feel the body sway from side to side. This happens because as each hind leg in turn is lifted by the horse and moved forward that side of the horse becomes higher. And so by feeling the sway of the horse's body from side to side you can tell which back leg is being lifted and is moving forward.
As the horse walks you will also see that it moves its head backwards and forwards in a nodding motion. To allow for this you should keep your arms relaxed so that you can allow your hands to move forwards and back with the movement of the horse's head. By moving your hands with the movement of the horse's head you can maintain the same tightness of rein (known as "contact") throughout without restricting the horse's natural movement.

Trot
horseback riding campThe trot is a "two step gait". This means that the horse moves its legs in pairs. It actually moves its legs in diagonal pairs, that is it lifts the left front (near fore) and right back (off hind) legs together and the right front (off fore) and left back (near hind) together.
As with the walk you can feel the body sway from side to side as each hind leg is lifted and moved forward.
Unlike the walk, the horse does not move its head forwards and backwards in the trot and so your hands can remain in the same position without restricting the horse's movement.
The trot can be ridden in two ways: sitting and rising. Rising Trot, once learnt, is easier and more comfortable for both the horse and the rider. However, it can take a lesson or two to pick it up so don't expect to learn it straight away.
Rising trot is done in the same rhythm in which the horse moves its legs. As one pair of the horse's legs land on the ground the rider sits, and then rises as the other pair of legs land on the ground. It is often difficult to keep up with the rhythm at first but much of this is due to a tendency to try too hard and rise too high out of the saddle.
Rather than thinking of rising you should think of pushing your hips upwards and forwards in a gentle "thrusting" movement. The lower leg should remain in the same position throughout and so it is only the upper leg that moves allowing the hips to move upwards and forwards and then back down into the saddle. As soon as your seat is returned to the saddle it should be on its way up again in a continuous movement. It often helps to listen to the beat of the horse's hooves on the ground and count one-two-one-two in time to the beats to co-ordinate the corresponding sitting and rising.
To ride on the "correct diagonal" the rider should sit as the inside hind leg hits the ground and rise as the outside hind leg hits the ground. However, this is usually something that is covered once the rider has mastered the rising trot.
Sitting trot although it may seem easier can be equally hard, if not harder, to learn. Due to the horse's bouncy stride in trot there is a tendency for the rider to become tense which results in the rider being bounced even more. The main thing with sitting trot is to try and relax, keep the legs relaxed and keep your back soft and relaxed. The more relaxed the rider, the less bouncy the trot feels. Relaxation in sitting trot will come with experience and confidence but to start with take deep slow breaths and try to relax. Although bouncing around you may feel the need to tense your legs and hang on try to avoid this as tensing the legs will not only make the horse feel you are asking him to go forward faster but will also result in your seat and back becoming tense, making the ride more uncomfortable for you both.

Canter
horseback riding
horseThe canter is a three time gait with the horse placing one leg, then two together (a diagnol pair) and then the remaining leg on the ground. It is more comfortable than sitting trot with a rocking motion although the faster speed can be intimidating to the novice rider at first.
The horse will "lead" with one front leg, that is one front leg is thrown further foward by the horse than the other. The correct lead is when the horse throws the leg nearest the centre of the school or arena further foward than the leg nearest the outside of the school or arena. The horse finds it easier to balance on the correct lead when cantering around in circles.
The aids for the canter are different for the walk and trot in order to "tell" the horse which leg to lead with. Whilst in sitting trot, to ask for canter the leg nearest the outside of the school should be moved gently back slightly whilst the leg nearest the inside of the school remains in the normal position. With the legs in this position, sit up straight and gently squeeze or give a small kick to ask the horse to canter.
Avoid any tendency to hold onto the reins too tight or to tip forward as this will most likely cause the horse to come back to trot.
As in the walk, the horse nods it's head in canter and so you should keep your elbows relaxed allowing your hands to move foward and back with the movement of the horse's head.
The back should remain soft and supple to allow your hips to rock with the horse's movement when cantering. A stiff back will make the canter uncomfortable for both horse and rider.

Turn
hourly riding varna bulgariaTo turn a horse the rider uses the reins and legs. To turn a horse to the left, gently pull back on the left rein asking the horse to bend his neck to the left. Use your legs at the same time to encourage the horse forwards.
Placing the right leg slightly back whilst turning will encourage the horse to turn in a gentle bend rather than just to "spin" round. This is particularly important when riding a circle as this helps to keep the horse's body bent around the circle.
To turn the horse to the right the opposite aids are applied eg right rein and left leg moved back slightly.

Halt
horse  races
horseback riding varna bulgariaThe aids for halting a horse are a combination of legs, hand and seat. To ask the horse to halt from the walk, stiffen the lower back and at the same time squeeze gently with the legs whilst stiffening the hands and gently pulling the reins back towards your body. The pulling back on the reins should be a gentle movement and not a fierce or sudden movement. As soon as the horse has stopped relax the hands, legs and back. If the horse does not respond immediately do not simply pull harder on the reins but relax the hands and ask again applying less leg pressure. The same aids are used to make the horse slow down from one gait to another, eg from canter to trot, trot to walk (known as a downward transition). Remember that as soon as the horse has done what was asked to relax the hands and back.

Rider position
horse stable varna bulgariaFirst the stirrups must be set at the correct length for the rider. A good way to gauge length before mounting is to measure the length of the stirrup leather and iron against your arm. Make your hand into a fist and place your knuckles against the stirrup bar then pull the stirrup up under your arm. If the bottom of the iron reaches right up under your arm then this is approximately the correct length.
Once on the horse the rider must sit in a balanced position to help the horse remain balanced underneath and move naturally.
The rider should sit in the lowest part of the saddle, allowing the hips to open and for the legs to move back and lie gently around the horse so that the heel of the foot is directly in line with the hips. The ball of each foot should rest on the strirrup iron with the toes pointing fowards and the heels pointing down.
The upper body should remain straight but not stiff with the head looking foward. It should be possible to draw a straight line from the shoulder to the hip to the foot of the rider.
The upper arm should rest by the body with the elbows bent, allowing the forearms to become an extension of the reins.
To hold the reins correctly, face your hand face down with your fingers pointing towards the horse's neck, place your little finger under the rein and the other fingers over the rein and the thumb underneath. Curl your fingers around the rein and then turn your hand so your thumb is on top and your knuckles are facing foward.
It may be difficult to maintain this position at first, especially once moving and you may find that your legs creep forward, or you may be tempted to grip with your knees if you feel unbalanced.
If you feel unbalanced or feel you are losing the correct position it is often best to move to a slower pace, reposition yourself correctly and then start again rather than to continue unbalanced as this only serves to make it harder for both horse and rider to relax and work together.

Dismount
horse rides
horseback riding clubTo dismount from a horse or pony, first remove both feet from the stirrups. Then hold the reins in the left hand whilst holding the pommel of the saddle. In one flowing movement, lean foward, lift the right leg and swing it over the horse's hindquarters (being careful not to kick the horse in the process) and land on the ground beside the horse. Once you have dismounted, take the stirrup leather and slide the iron up the back part of the leather and then take the folded bottom end of the leather and pass it through the centre of the Iron so that it falls behind it. This prevents the stirrup iron from falling and knocking against the horse.
Then reward your horse by lifting up the saddle flap and loosening the girth by one or two holes.
The first thing you will learn on your riding lesson is how to mount the horse or pony.
Before mounting it is always advisable to check that the girth is sufficiently tight. A loose girth will result in the saddle slipping to one side when mounting.
It is always best to mount a horse using a mounting block rather than mounting from the floor. The use of a mounting block makes it easier for the rider to mount the horse, puts less strain on the stirrup leathers when mounting and decreases the chances of the saddle slipping to one side when mounting.

Mount
horseback ridingMounting a horse or pony is done from the "near" side ie the horse's left side. (The horse's right side is known as the "off" side.) Facing the horse, the reins are held in the left hand and the left hand placed on the pommel of the saddle. The reins should be held tight enough to prevent the horse or pony from wandering off when you try to mount but not too tight that the horse or pony starts to walk backwards.
Then turning to face the rear of the horse, take the stirrup in your right hand, turn it clockwise to allow you to gently place your left foot in it so that the ball of your foot rests on the bottom of the stirrup. An important thing to note is that whilst mounting you should be careful not to inadvertedly kick the horse with your left foot as this will encourage the horse to walk forward.
With the reins held in the left hand, your left foot in the stirrup, the right hand should be placed over the back of the saddle (cantle). Then with a small spring, jump up straightening the left leg as you swing the right leg over the back of the horse, remembering to move your right hand forward as you do so, and then gently sit into the saddle.
Once astride the horse, turn the right stirrup clockwise to allow you to place your foot in it, sit up and take hold of the right rein in your right hand.

Glossary
horseback riding lessons
horseback riding camp varna bulgariaAids
Parts of the rider's body that are used to communicate with the horse eg legs, seat, hands, voice.
Canter Lead
Reference to which leg the horse throws further foward in the canter eg left lead is when the horse throws the left leg further forward than the right leg when cantering.
Contact
The tension in the reins which allows the rider to feel the horse's mouth.
Diagonal
Reference to the horse moving its leg in diagonal pairs whilst trotting.
Downward Transition
Moving down a pace - eg from canter to trot, trot to walk.
Gait
A pace, eg walk, trot, canter.
Inside
The side nearest to the inside of the school, arena or circle eg "inside leg" is the leg nearest to the centre of the school, arena or circle.
Near side
The left side of horse and rider whilst riding.
Off side
The right side of horse and rider whilst riding.
Outside
The side nearest to the outside of the school, arena or circle eg "outside leg" is the leg nearest the outside of the school, arena or circle.
Upward Transition
Moving up a pace - eg from walk to trot, trot to canter.
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