- Can you sustain your balance and that of the horse when you are riding without stirrups?
- Do you know that your hands are independent of your body and don’t interfere with your horses way of going?
- How are you helping your horse to maintain, rhythm, balance and impulsion?
There once was a belief that until a rider could ride bareback in walk, trot and canter they didn’t deserve a saddle. It is rare that riders are now expected to even learn without stirrups. I would imagine this would mitigate risk associated with accidents, therefore retaining clients, avoiding paperwork and potential risk of legal proceedings. I think also riders when learning have different expectations, they want to learn quickly and easily; for those who have learnt without stirrups and saddles you will know it is physically demanding and challenges your fitness levels.
Do you know during stage 3 you will be required to ride on the flat for a good duration of the exam on more than one horse without stirrups, in walk, trot and canter? You will have examiners watching you and assessing your ability to ride with an independent seat, your fitness level and confidence. With this in mind, how many hours are you currently practising and training your body to be able to balance and support itself without upsetting the horse or causing it injury (this is a very real possibility if you cannot balance yourself).
Developing your seat has many benefits
- Better application of the aids
- A better understanding of the way of the horses going
- More sympathetic hands
- Better alignment of the seat
Consider what is happening to your riding when your balance is pitched in front of the vertical
- Who is carrying your upper body?
- How effective are your ridden aids?
- Where is the horses balance?
- How are you creating your impulsion and maintaining an outline?
- Is the horse truly carrying itself?
When we can ride in balance and harmony with our horses, we can apply our aids correctly and help generate the forward momentum which is required for a horse to truly carry themselves and us in harmony.
There is a standard set of tack and protective leg wear which you would expect to see on a horse prior to its taking part in a cross country competition which is additional to the basic tack which you would use for jumping over collapsable fences in an arena. The first and foremost reason for this is SAFETY.
Let’s look at the additional items:
- Over girth (In case of girth stitching structure failing)
- Breast plate/breast girth (Galloping over distances and sharp uphills can case your saddle to move backwards and in some cases over the horses loins)
- Boots full cannon length and bandages secured with tape and/or Stitches (Prevention of injury through striking fences or opposite legs)
- Textured reins with knot (Grip on reins is significantly reduced through rain or sweat, chose your preferred type of rein which you feel reduces the risk of you not being able to hold your horse at a gallop. The knot is for ease of slipping over a drop fence)
- Revised bitting/bridle (What your horse feels like in your hands in the Dressage and Show Jumping phase can differ significantly to how well he listens in front of his fences when galloping across country, bits do not replace a well schooled confident horse. Be careful you do not compromise your or your horses safety by over bitting your horse).
- Studs (The choice of studs you use should be appropriate to the terrain you are travelling on, ask your farrier and professionals for their advice. Using studs when they are not required can result in injury to the horse and an unpleasant experience for you).
Prevention is better than cure, before setting out all tack and stitching should be examined for signs of wear and degeneration, particularly; girth straps, reins & stirrup leathers.
One of the reasons that leg wear is so important is that the fences don’t collapse and travelling at speed the horses legs are more prone to injury through both strain and blows from opposite legs. Other reasons are that the going can be more unpredictable and changeable in terms not only of undulating courses but soil types and moisture content.
All ridden activities will place additional strain on a horses delicate leg structure, after all we are asking them to carry our weight too. It is our responsibility to select the equipment most appropriate to the discipline to both protect the horse (and rider) and enable both to perform to their optimum level safely.
There can never be too much emphasis on safety when running your horse across country; be prepared to put hours of training in the school and confidence giving schooling sessions for a successful round.