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Our Newsletter

September 2006


Tricks Of The Trade




We do beginner riders and their horses a disservice when we teach them from the beginning to use their hands and legs to make the horse stop and go; many intermediate and advanced riders have never learned to use their seat aid (the most important natural aid) for upward and downward transitions. A method I use to teach riders from early on to use their seat effectively is to have them think of their pelvis as a vessel containing a precious liquid (you can get creative with this, depending on the group of students the liquid might be cool-aid, champagne or liquid gold). Most of the time when you are riding, you want that vessel to be level, containing all the liquid (the pelvis is level when the rider is in correct position with a flat and relaxed lower back). When you want the horse to go more forward, tip the pelvis slightly forward so that you pour a little liquid out the front, then come immediately back to a level pelvis so that the horse does not continue to speed up and so that you don't lose all your liquid. When you want the horse to stop or slow down, pour a little liquid out the back, again coming immediately back to the level position. This mental image will help the rider stay in correct position and use the seat/weight aid correctly, with synchronization between the horse's and the rider's centers of gravity.


The gullet of the saddle, both English and Western, is the channel underneath that runs down the middle of the saddle and its purpose is to protect the horse's back so that no pressure is on its delicate spine. When you put a saddle on the horse's back, it is imperative that you lift the pommel and pull the saddle pad up into the groove of the gullet, creating airspace over the back so that the pad is not in direct contact with the horse's withers. This will also help prevent the saddle from slipping from side to side as it puts the pad into an A-frame shape, which is far less likely to slip than if the pad is rounded over the withers. If the pad is not lifted into the gullet before the cinch/girth is tightened, then the saddle will put pressure down on the pad and withers and once the weight of the rider is added to the saddle, it can create even more pressure on the withers, which can cause serious damage and soreness.





Forging' is when a horse hits the bottom or heel of a front foot with the toe of the hind foot on the same side, as he trots or walks and it makes a clicking sound. Over-reaching' is a more serious problem and is caused by the horse striking himself with his hind hooves, causing injury to the lower forelegs, which can be protected by the use of over-reach boots. Forging (and sometimes over-reaching) can usually be resolved by squaring the front toes of the horse so that his front foot breaks over sooner in the stride. If you have a horse that forges or over-reaches, be sure to tell your farrier and have him/her watch the horse trot and ask him/her about squaring the toes.



The Mecate' (meh-cah-teh) is a long combination lead rope and rein, traditionally made of horse hair, but today rope is often used. It is typically used on a bosal bridle (rawhide noseband which is a non-mechanical hackamore) but today is often used on a snaffle bridle as well. The rope is about 21' long for the bosal and about 18' for the snaffle and is tied to form a single loop rein, with a lead rope coming off the near side of the bridle, so that when the rider steps off the horse, the reins are left over the horn and the rider has a lead rope to hang onto the horse. When in the saddle, the mecate (or lead) can be tied off on the horn or looped in the rider's belt in such a fashion that it will come loose if the rider falls.