by Nicky Moffat
If you’re having trouble getting the right help, here are some ways to find a good instructor who will get the best out of you and your horse.
- Ask friends and on forums for recommendations of who’s good and why. Once you have some names, check them out for yourself – either look at their website or get in contact to ask more about their way of teaching.
- A good instructor will be someone who gets the most out of you. Some riders need a softer approach, whereas others prefer their trainer to be firm and make them get on with it.
- Keep a diary of your riding so that you can monitor whether you are progressing or not. Give it a few lessons and if you don’t feel you’re any better, it could be time to try someone else.
- After your lessons think back to what went on. A good instructor will ask you questions, explain the exercises he or she was getting you to do and will have made some improvement by the end of the session.
- How do you feel at the end of your lessons? If you feel happy and buzzy then that’s a positive sign. Lessons shouldn’t leave you feeling despondent.
- Does your horse seem happy? While getting a horse going well requires effort, a good instructor will not advocate harsh treatment or bullying of any kind.
- Are your lessons good value for money? You usually get what you pay for, but the most expensive instructors are not necessarily the best.
- Video your lessons so you can watch them afterwards. This often shows up a lot of positive – or not so positive – signs that you are on the right track.
- A good riding instructor will take you slightly out of your comfort zone and push you to do just a little bit more each time.
- And finally, don’t fall into the trap of liking your instructor because he or she tells you what you want to hear. A good instructor will be honest and if something’s not good, they’ll tactfully say so and show you how to make it better.
Which type of horse suits you best?
Are you and your horse perfectly matched? Or perhaps you’re about to buy a horse and you’re not sure what to go for? Here are some thoughts.
Q. I want to do a bit of everything and enjoy some fun hacks. I want a horse that’s easy to do and can live out if necessary.
A. Consider a cob type or, if you like something a little narrower, how about going for a pure or part bred native pony? Cobs and natives are not only versatile and fun, but on the whole they are hardy and will stand up well to the colder weather.
Q. I want to do dressage and work up the levels.
A. A warmblood is still the favoured choice for dressage riders, although there are other breeds doing very well, too. Iberian horses have proved they can take on the warmbloods in the last few years and Irish Sports Horses do the job well, too.
Q. I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie and want to go hunting, possibly event and go for plenty of really fast hacks.
A. Go for something with plenty of Thoroughbred blood if speed is your thing. Ex racehorses can be fun to own and there are plenty in need of new homes. Remember not to go too mad when you’re out and about so you stay safe.
Q. I am quite nervous and need something completely bombproof.
If you’re small enough, why not go for a pony? Being smaller they are closer to the ground and will tend to make you feel safer. For larger/taller riders, cobs or even part Shire/Clydesdale types can be gentle. What’s more, as your confidence grows, they’ll be able to do more, too.
Q. I want to show jump.
At the higher levels, warmbloods are still the preferred choice and are dominating the competition world. However, any horse can take part at the lower levels and Irish Sports Horses do well in this discipline, too.
Get a great jump position
Start preparing for next year’s show season now by perfecting your jump technique.
The correct jump position is important because it puts you in the most effective position in the saddle, keeping it safer for both horse and rider. Explained simply, the rider should have their weight down into their heels and fold at the hips, so that their bottom goes towards the back of the saddle and their upper body folds forward.
A great exercise to help stabilise your jump position is to ride in trot or canter with a forward seat, keeping your weight down into the heel. If you lose balance, hold onto a neck strap or the mane to help you.
As you ride into a fence, ensure you have enough impulsion as you make your turn and then sit quietly and allow the horse to find his way over. Riders who interfere too much will have more disasters than good jumps, so remember less is more.
For those horses who want to fly into fences at 100mph, there’s a temptation for riders to grab hold of the reins in an attempt to stay under control. However, often you’ll find that when you let go, the horse has to balance himself and will usually slow himself down after a few attempts.
Strengthen your lower leg at home by standing over the edge of a stair and gently push your weight down into one heel and then the other. And of course Pilates and yoga are very good for balance, so if you want to be up there with the best, do everything you can.