Schooling

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Every horse sport has unique movements which require specific footwork, balance, and training. Some movements appear similar while still being unique to their sport. For example, dressage riders bring their horse’s front end around their hind end in elevated pirouettes; ranch riders do 180-degree turns while tracking cows; and reining horses do 360-degree spins at high speeds. They’re all turning around but for different reasons and in distinct ways. What’s the purpose of these turns, when do riders use them, and how do they differ? We asked a dressage rider, a ranch horseman, and a reining judge to explain.

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When I was younger and hardier I was happy enough to ride in all kinds of weather. If truth be told, I have made my living riding and maybe I felt more obligated to ride rather than being happy to ride. Now that I am a bit older I’ve become a fair weather rider - or at least I’m not an extreme weather rider.

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While it might often be spoken about in artistic, aesthetic, or even philosophical ways, lightness — both of movement and also of communication with horses — is more than an abstract ideal. In many ways, it measures a horse’s current physiological capabilities.

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Wrong lead, reposition, relaunch. It’s the two-strides-forward, one-stride-back process of learning leads for riders and their horses. Fast forward a year down the road to see the same rider who once dreaded hearing “Wrong lead!” from her coach now initiating the wrong lead …on purpose. Why? She’s discovered the counter-canter as an essential tool in building a solid training foundation for her horse

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Contact with a horse’s mouth via the bit is a generally accepted principle when riding or driving. But a horse’s mouth is incredibly sensitive and many riders around the world are successfully guiding their steeds without bits. Where did the idea of contact come from, what is it, and do riders really need contact with a horse’s mouth to convince their horse to perform?

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It is a simple enough goal: The more time a horse spends in the correct alignment and balance, the more firmly good habits form. But putting this into practice during our daily training is often not as straightforward as it seems.

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Tension in horses can lead to all kinds of problems and hinder their ability to learn. Some horses are so tense and stiff that they are incapable of certain maneuvers. This can lead to frustration and anxiety, which in turn leads to increased tension.

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With today’s horse world being highly recreational, there are many horses that don’t have to earn a living. These recreational horses are often very well cared for and sometimes even coddled. I will not use the term “spoiled” as I think a spoiled horse is one that has become a serious problem for his owner. I will say, though, that some of these pampered horses are well on their way to developing “pampered horse complex.”

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At Eagle Feather Riding, the horses know when their riders are on their way, and come running to greet them when they arrive.

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Although there is no shortage of year round American show circuits to choose from, here in Canada, during the winter months the show season comes to a halt for most people. The benefit is that it gives us an opportunity to assess our goals and make whatever changes are necessary.

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