Equestrian Questions & Answers
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Q: Why do we mount horses from the left? Is there any reason why we should or shouldn't mount from the right?
A: The tradition of mounting from the left dates back to the time when people carried swords on horseback. Since most people were and are right-handed, the sword was carried on the left hip to enable them to draw it quickly.
Horses were mounted from the left so that the right leg could swing up over their back without the sword getting in the way. Mounting from the right would be difficult, as the sword would get in the way of swinging the leg up, and might poke the horse.
So it really is nothing more than tradition. We mount from the left because we've been taught to. Mounting from the left resulted in tack that was designed to be buckled, cinched, or fastened from the left-- most halters, bridles, and saddles are left-sided.
It's actually a good idea to teach your horse to accept everything from the right side as well in case of an emergency. It is also a good idea because it will teach your horse to be balanced and accept things from both sides.
It can also help to reduce strain on the horse’s shoulder. When we mount, putting our foot in the stirrup, it pulls the saddle over the horse's side. Mounting from both sides equally can helps to balance things out and prevent the horse from getting sore. It'll probably help you to balance too-- notice that if you've always mounted from the left, and you try to mount from the right, it feels 'wrong' and is more difficult! If you do it enough you'll get better and it will become just as natural as mounting from the 'correct' side.
Of course, most horses will need to be accustomed to right-side handling if they've been handled from the left all their life. Most horses are one-sided to begin with, so working from both sides can benefit them by helping to balance them out and can benefit you by stretching the muscles in both your legs equally.
Q: Am I too small or big for the horse?
A: Weight, size and strength will determine if you are the right size for the horse. While horses are able to carry the weight of riders, some people are too large (height or weight) or small for the size of horse. For example, if you are too large for the horse, you could injure yourself, the horse or put unnecessary pressure on the horse’s spine.
Alternatively, the riders legs need to be long and strong enough to clear the saddle, kick, squeeze or move the horse and balance the rider. Arms need to have sufficient strength to slow, stop, steer or guide the horse.
Q: What does "Riding Bareback" mean?
A: Riding bareback means, riding your horse without a saddle. This means that you staying on the horse completely depends on your riding and balancing ability. Once you've learnt how to ride bareback, all that's left is hours of joyful riding!
Q: What is an "Apple mouth Bit?"
A: A bit that simply has an Apple flavor.
Q: What is western Riding and English Riding?
A: The Western riding style was developed according to the needs of 'cowboys'. The type of saddle used is made to distribute weight more evenly over the horse’s back so horse and rider can counterbalance the weight of a roped cow. The seat of a Western saddle is comfortable for long hours over rough terrain. The horn anchors a lariat when roping cattle. If one could say, Western riding is a very casual way of riding. English riding takes many of its traditions and equipment from European mounted military styles. The saddle used is more for flat ground and simpler work. However, both forms have their thrills and are widely accepted.
Q: What does "Bitless Riding" mean?
A: Bitless means to ride a horse without using the metal part of the bridle that goes into the horses mouth, this part is known as the 'Bit". Some would argue that it is not possible to fully control a horse without it, however, new research proves that horses are much better of and happier without a Bit in their mouths. If we think about it logically, a thick iron piece in you mouth? Obviously uncomfortable, and then being controlled by it- 2x bad. Many people are reverting to bitless riding as this is much more natural to the horse and most horses behave a lot better without the added pain and tension caused by the bit.
Q: When you first start riding is it essential to have your own body protector?
A: It's not a mandatory requirement for new riders, but regardless of the activity, if you have access to a body protectory that fits properly, then we would always recommend you wear one. If you've never ridden a horse before, it's probably a good idea to have some lessons first, before making the purchase of a body protector.
Q:How often should I attend riding lessons?
A: You will get more out of your lessons if you attend classes on a weekly basis. Regular lessons will provide you with the correct skills and muscle development necessary for you to enjoy your horse riding safely.
Q: What is the right age to start riding?
A: Horse riding requires a combination of physical strength, mental and emotional maturity. Each child matures differently, so it is difficult to say at what age a child is ready for horse riding. A minimum age of 6 years old is preferred before children are allowed to ride a horse on their own. Children may start earlier if they are led, supervised or instructed in an enclosed area.
Q: WHAT IS A ‘BOX/BOXY’ FOOT/HOOF AND IS IT GOOD OR BAD?
A: A boxy or vertical hoof is a common conformational fault in horses. The horse may show sign’s of ‘shortness’ or unevenness of stride, which would prevent it from doing any serious showing / dressage / endurance events or any event that puts excessive strain on the legs.
Sometimes both fore hooves or all hooves are boxy and this is less of a problem but if one hoof is affected it is a source of weakness. Gait abnormalities develop and even strains are placed on the limbs because the body is unbalanced. Such an animal is more prone to injury as a result. Regular farrier attention from a young age is necessary to improve the hoof angle and with time most mild cases will improve to the point where the horse works without difficulty. Each case is different however and you should enlist the help of a good farrier to give a prognosis.
Boxy hooves tend to lead to narvicular disease later on in the horses life.
A box foot is the result of a problem in that limb. The primary problem is a deep digital flexor contraction syndrome originating in the deep digital flexor muscle located between the elbow and the back of the knee. This muscle tapers into a long tendon that attaches to the bottom of the coffin bone (third phalanx, or P3). When the muscle fibers contract more often than they should, the result is a shorter-than-normal length of musculotendinous unit and a constant upward pull on the coffin bone and internal structures of the heel. The upright, boxy hoof capsule shape is a product of the unrelenting pull of the abnormal muscle contraction.
There can be a wide range of over contraction of the muscle fibers, which when transferred to the foot via the tendon causes a corresponding large range of response. Unfortunately, we simply do not know the trigger mechanism for the spastic deep digital flexor contraction.
Boxy hooves are either
a) Genetic, and therefore bred from a sire or dam (a present from Mom or Dad)
b) Formed over time from neglected trimming and/or not trimming the hoof correctly ie: in true balance.
Is it possible to correct this 'problem'? Yes it is.
It simply takes time, dedication and frequent trimming. In most instances if the horse is still young, (between the ages of 6 months – 3 years) as the growth points are still flexible and can be encouraged to change. It is a little more difficult to correct a boxy hoof in older horses.
Will corrective shoeing work? No.
What needs to happen is - a gradual (very gradual) and frequent reduction of the heel height. Stimulation: an environment needs to be created or provided for the horse, which encourages movement whilst grazing.
Frequent (2 - 3 weekly depending on growth) and gentle lowering of the heels, (by an experienced farrier) and providing a stimulating environment - these go hand in hand.