Thursday, April 20, 2006

Horseback Riding - The "Feel"

horseback riding
The 'Feel" by John Foley
Feel is a word often talked about in riding circles. This "feel" is an essential component of an harmonious and confident relationship between a horse and rider. While it comes easily to some, it is a fallacy to think you can never achieve it - with practice you can.
Feel is really the ability to judge the cause and effect of the horse's reaction to the rider. Examples are being able to give as the horse responds; being able to spot potential problems and deal with them before they become an issue; and being able to tell whether a horse is simply being disobedient or is just nervous. A lot of this comes with experience.
A well trained horse is the best professor of feel as it will teach a rider, literally, how good it feels when he or she gets it right. A good instructor will always communicate the idea to his pupil by asking, "How did that feel ?" The novice rider has to go through something of a learning curve of trial and error to find out what it takes to make it feel right and how then to achieve it consistently in the future.
If you look at a very good horse and rider combination at work, it almost seems as if the rider is doing nothing, while the horse looks happy, balanced, performs with brilliance and is in complete harmony with the rider, who will feel as if he or she only has to think and the horse reacts. It takes a combination of attributes, one of which is good training of both halves of the combination, to achieve this "state of grace". Feel in a rider can be described as a mix of concentration, quick reactions, sensitivity, adaptability and a feeling for rhythm and movement, with the added ingredient of a relaxed and sympathetic attitude.
Riding is really the art of communicating between a willing horse and a sympathetic rider. It is never a matter of force.Instead finesse, skill, training and coordination result in perfect partnership and harmony.

horseback riding by J. Foley

Sunday, April 16, 2006

English Versus Western Style Riding

horseback riding

English Versus Western Style Riding By J. Foley
So, you want to learn how to ride a horse, but then you found out that there are two different types of horseback riding, English and Western. Now, you need to choose the right one for you, but are they really that different? Is one better than the other?

Actually, English and Western riding really are pretty different in many ways, but they are very similar in at least one way. Both styles of riding involve a lot of practice if you plan to ride your horse in competitions. However, if you want to learn to be a competent enough rider to ride for pleasure fairly quickly, you may want to consider Western riding. This more relaxed riding style is usually easier for the complete beginner to pick up.

If you are interested in learning to jump with your horse or learning dressage, then you will need to learn the English style of riding. If you want to learn to barrel race or compete in the rodeo, then you should learn the Western style of riding. Endurance and eventing competitions are also Western.

However, if you just want to eventually compete and aren't sure exactly what you want to compete in, which style should you learn? Think about your personality. Are you easy going and relaxed? Do you have trouble sitting straight in a chair? Does the thought of wearing anything dressier than jeans make you break out in hives? If so, then you should really consider Western riding. This style is definitely more relaxed and riders are expected to actually lean back a bit while they are riding. Even better, riders are actually supposed to wear jeans, when they are competing in events. On the other hand, if you are the type of person who loves to dress up in formal wear and you always seem to have perfect posture, then you may want to try riding in the English style, instead.

Of course, besides your posture in the saddle and the clothes you wear, there are other differences between the two riding styles. English style riders hold the bridle reins in both hands, while Western riders hold the reins in one hand. Also, English style riders have much shorter stirrups than Western riders.

While Western riding is basically the same no matter what events you are competing in, the English style has several distinct variations. When you begin riding, you will need to decide between the hunt seat style and the saddle seat style. If you want to compete in jumping competitions, you should opt for hunt seat style. If you just want to ride your horse on the trail or you want to compete in saddle seat shows, you will want to learn using the saddle seat style. As you advance, you may opt to switch to dressage.

Finally, no matter which riding style you choose, you should be sure that you wear the proper protective equipment. While most English riders routinely wear helmets, many Western style riders wear cowboy hats instead. The hats certainly look more stylish, but do not provide protection if you fall off your horse. At the very least, you should wear a helmet while you are practicing.

horseback riding by J. Foley