Men Riding English

This group is established to offer friendship, support, advice and encouragement to what seems to be a minority - men riding in the English disciplines.

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Latest Activity: Jan 28, 2014

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Comment by Jackie Cochran on July 8, 2012 at 2:45pm

Hi Christopher,

Winchester is a school horse, right?  Believe me, your little taps with your heel will not hurt him, he is probably tuning them out because because he is a school horse and has learned that most of the taps he gets mean NOTHING.

This is what will probably get Winchester mad--grabbing hold of the reins and pulling as hard as you can and never letting go.  Horses do not like that.  Also, wearing a spur that comes to a point or small bulb, if the rider digs such a spur in the side of the horse said horsie won't be happy.

I remember when I was trying to pasture breed, and when my mare was coming into heat but not quite there, my stallion got kicked and kicked when he did not listen to her "not yet honey".  Thud, thud, THUD, believe me Christopher, you are not irritating your horse enough to get him mad, horses are used to much more powerful blows from other horses.  Their kicks and bites can HURT, you tapping your unspurred heel tapping into his ribs does not hurt and is at most an irritation.  An irritation he is used to and he probably has learned to deal with it long ago and probably ignores.

May I make a suggestion?  The spurs I use, the Spursuaders ( are not pointy at all.  Usually in the summer I have to take my spurs off because I can't control my leg enough in the heat, but these spurs I can wear all summer without driving the horses crazy.  They look sort of odd, but they are gentle and at the same time the horses respect them.  You'd have to get permission from your instructor but look them up and describe them to her.  If you just ask if you can use any regular spurs she will probably say no, but she might let you use these. 

If she won't let you use these spurs then get yourself a crop.  I do not hit the horses with my crop, I hit MY lower leg hard enough to make a "crack" and the horses react faster and better than if I hit them.

MOST SCHOOL HORSES END UP DESENSITISED TO ALL AIDS, especially those given by beginners.  They ignore the leg until the rider kicks hard, they ignore rein aids until the rider emphasises them.  As you learn to ride better you will convince Winchester that yes, your aids DO mean something, and that yes, you DO expect him to obey them.  THEN you can profitably experiment with doing your aids lighter.

And remember, lesson horses are angels from heaven, they forgive their clumsy riders' mistakes and it takes a lot of abuse (flogging or spurring excessively) to get them mad at their rider.  Mostly they just ignore the beginner rider, which sounds like your problem with Winchester.  Sometimes you have to get a little rough to get them to obey at first because they have learned to ignore most of the leg and hand movements of their beginner riders. 

When I first mount a lesson horse it usually takes me a few minutes to convince the horse that I know what I am doing, but sometimes it takes me a few months of riding until they stop treating me like a beginner.  Keep riding, it will come.     

Comment by Christopher Koth on July 8, 2012 at 1:32pm

Its been a first week of increased riding sessions.  More than anything else is the realization of just how 'early in the  game' this all is.  I have trouble progressing to a canter, which according to my coach, is partly, not completely, but partly due to the school horse and his tendency to want to veer away from the direction I need to take him.  I have discovered that I have a fear of hurting the animal with 'taps' that is interfering with my ability to get him to respect me as his rider.  So, it looks like before anything else advances, I have to discover the extent to which I should 'control' Winchester versus having no control out of a fear of angering him.  Interesting development I'd say.  And, a little ego bruising to see these magnificent young women in their early teens take such graceful control of their giant horses in the arena with me.  I almost get a kick out of the slight smirk they get on their faces when they see Winchester and me lose direction. Sheesh people, I'm trying (not discouraged by any means) but trying!

Comment by Christopher Koth on July 3, 2012 at 12:31am
Jackie, what a real find. . . Thanks to the Hathi Trust, I located an online digitizedvcopy of the book you recommended "School for Riding: a primer for modern horsemanship" You can find it here
Comment by John Freeman on July 1, 2012 at 12:36pm

Hi Christopher,

I'm so glad you and "your boys" are doing better. I think we have to be sponges - absorbing all the information and tips we can get. Then, when we have more experience, we can select the items which work for us and discard the ones that don't. As Jackie said, there's a million opinions out there, and they won't all work for you, but they are all worth listening to (well, most, anyway).

Yes, getting more riding time is great - so much of it is about mileage, and also being comfortable with the idea that it is your job to dominate this 1000 lb animal. You can't do it physically, so you have to do it mentally/emotionally. As with dogs, the horse will respect you for it as they are programmed to follow a leader. The trick is to find the real balance between being boss and showing love.

My horse is thoroughly spoiled and knows only too well that he is adored. On the other hand, he knows he can't step out of line without getting in trouble.

It seems to work as a balance, and I know you're not riding your own horse yet, but where I board all the horses know me and respect me because I love them all (well, almost all of them, lol) and they respond to that communication.

Comment by Christopher Koth on July 1, 2012 at 11:59am

Oops, sorry for all the spelling mistakes, I really do dislike 'autocorrect'. Sheesh!

Comment by Christopher Koth on July 1, 2012 at 11:38am

Boy, I sure appreciate everyone's thoughts, comments, and experiences.  I took to a swing set with the little one the other day and 'connected' with the idea of the pelvis flowing with the motion of the horse while keeping my back straight and my arms relaxed. This sure helped me the next day when riding.   My current status is to learn to pay attention to what my body says when my deals are corrected downward . . . I am beginning to notice what works, I think.  I have also been able to secure an increase in rides throughout the week to get some momentum going with what I am learning and I am real happy about that. My coach is telling me I am too timid with my horse (I don't' like the bought of hurting him through the 'aids' she is teaching me, but she assures me there is a difference between a horrible jab that hurts, versus a message that is a communication, which does not hurt. That, and continuing to stay centred and find that all-important seat *not to mention keeping my stirrups in proper position once transitioned to a canter" is the current focus. It so happens that a colleague at work is a great belly dancer and she has agreed to give me a few tips!  I think anything that helps to connect with the motion of the horse and helps improve my core has to be a good thing.  Oh, and boxer briefs, and the other saddle we used really are helping!  We have agreed to have me complete my Level 1 and 2 by the end of the summer, if I am ready. So, loving this in my life. 

Comment by Jackie Cochran on June 30, 2012 at 1:31pm

First, Christopher Koph, this discussion just illustrates the eternal truth that no two serious horsemen or horsewomen will ever agree totally.  Sometimes the disagreements are minor, and sometimes they are major.  This can be unfortunate in that beginners often get confused about who to believe.

From my own personal experience the Forward Seat has given me the security necessary to stay in the saddle through various permutations of movement.  Have I fallen?  Of course, however I have fallen LESS using the Forward Seat that any other.  The reason I recommended Kournakoff's book over the other FS books is that he illustrates how to avoid the major causes of difficulties in using a FS consistently.  

When I changed from the "balanced seat" to the FS I stopped falling of the horse regularly and I felt secure on horseback for the first time in my life.  The two-point/galloping/jumping position gives me a safer place to deal with the horse's movement.  So far this has proven true through normal bucks, runaway horses, horses going down on their knees (at a trot and at a slow gallop), most refusals, etc., etc., etc..  This is MY experience, Geoffrey's experience is different, and his seat works for him just as my seat works for me.

Personally, when my back had NO concavity, my heels go up.  My riding teachers can testify to this (my ears remember the yells.)  In a proper FS, when the seat bones are out of the saddle, the slightly concave back LOWERS my center of gravity in relation to the horse and drives my knees (and therefore my relaxed heels) down.  When I ride with my seat bones in the saddle my back changes to a less "sway" back posture so I can move my pelvis with the horse's back.  Then I have to be careful to concentrate of keeping my heels down or my heels fly up and my lower legs start irritating the horse, making both the horse and my riding teachers unhappy. 

I don't think Geoffrey and I will ever agree on this!

Christopher, in around five to ten years you will probably be experienced enough and riding at an advanced enough level so that you will develop your own system of riding, one that suits your particular body and the types of horses you are riding.  You may be good enough to ride wherever and however you desire, compete, teach other riders, and train horses.  This takes riding time and experience, lots of riding time and lots of experience. 

Until then enjoy your rides, learn a safe and secure position FIRST.  Learning to ride is a process, first position, then control, then "going with your horse", then competing, then training.  All through this process the main goal is to stay on the horse's back without causing the horse any pain.  Luckily many horses understand beginners and will put up with things that they will not put up with from an experienced rider.  

If riding was easy everyone could do it without ever taking a lesson.

Enjoy your rides!


Comment by Geoffrey Pannell on June 30, 2012 at 8:34am

I have to dissagree Jackie, any concavity of the back WILL give the rider a weak lower leg. It will draw the heals up raising the centre of gravity of the rider.
Only when the rider has acquired a safe , balenced dressage and light seat can the froward seat be developed. It's purpose is to give freedom to the horse's back and to enable the rider to follow swiftly all changes of the horse's balance, while retainind most of the aid-giving influences of the dressage seat.
To suggest that any concave-ness of the back helps keep the heals down is a gross mis-understanding of the basic bio-mechanics of how the body of the rider works. To have a "caved in" back , however small, will place the rider in a fork seat, which , along with a collapsed seat, will draw the heals UP. The back must remain flat at all times, whether jumping , galloping or riding on the flat.

Comment by John Freeman on June 29, 2012 at 1:29pm

I believe it Jackie.

Comment by Jackie Cochran on June 29, 2012 at 1:21pm

Doing belly dancing exercises (and just the exercises) helped me free my pelvis up so my seat could MOVE with the horse's back.


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