ESSENTIALS BASICS 1
YOUR PERFECT PARTNER
Create the ideal
riding horse For hacking, competing and all-round riding
WITH TINA SEDERHOLM supplement cover final.indd 1
Your perfect partner
Create the ideal
riding horse Tina Sederholm was born into a life of horses. Her father, Lars Sederholm, trained some of the best riders in a variety of disciplines, and gave Tina a clear understanding of how horse and rider could work together to achieve the best results. She evented to international level and her father sent her to many well-respected riders and trainers to soak up different methodologies and techniques. She writes regularly for Horse&Rider, solving readersâ€™ problems, and explaining how to improve their riding and their horses.
Photography by Bob Atkins
DJ Murphy (Publishers) Ltd, Headley House, Headley Road, Grayshott, Surrey GU26 6TU
supplement cover final.indd 2
hether we’re dressage divas, jumping enthusiasts or happy hackers – or all three, like many Horse&Rider readers – we want our horses to be a pleasure to ride. We’d like a positive experience in the saddle and if things need improving, we want to feel we’re making progress – or know how to make changes for the better. That’s what this Horse&Rider handbook is all about!
What makes an ideal riding horse? l Good manners l Responsiveness l Confidence and trust in his rider l A positive attitude We’ve enlisted the help of brilliant trainer Tina Sederholm to help us create all of these desirable horsey virtues. Riding our horses should be a life-enhancing experience and it can be that way, as we demonstrate in this handbook. Enjoy!
contEntS ESSEntiAL BASicS
Stands like a rock Back to school
Schooling for success Balanced and attentive Fun with fences
8 10 12
A rESPonSivE ridE
Light in the hand Accepting the bit Slow down! Liven up!
14 16 18 20
Baby steps Group dynamics Too hot to handle? Spook busting Hacking hiccups Get the gate
22 24 26 28 30 34
Alison Bridge, Editor, Horse&Rider magazine 3
Stands like a rock First things first – you really need a horse who stands still when you mount, for your comfort and safety The most common mounting problem is the obvious one – you can keep your horse’s head and forehand under control but he swings his quarters away from you. Tina Sederholm explains that a horse usually does this because he feels you coming towards him and moves away accordingly. For him to realise you don’t want this, put an object the other side of him to create a ‘channel’ to stand in while you mount. If you have a movable mounting block, the most effective thing to use is a wall, but if your block is fixed, a bale of hay or similar will do the job.
Have a helper When you first try this, ask a helper to stand in front of your
Top Tips l When training your horse to stand at the mounting block, do it over a few days l If the problem is caused by the horse having too much energy, burn some off (with lungeing perhaps), so that he is more ready to listen to you l Check your own technique. You need to land as lightly as possible and not drag at the saddle as you get on. A leg-up, mounting block or higher piece of ground helps 4
horse to gently insist that he stays in the channel. Later, you should be able to do this by yourself. Start by ‘parking’ your horse in the channel, and getting him to stand still and relax for several seconds. Once he has done that, walk him out and repeat the exercise a few more times. On the next occasion, park him, then step up onto the mounting block. Do not get on, but let the helper encourage your horse to drop his head and relax. You can pat the saddle and pull the stirrup down. If he moves, reposition him and continue to pat the saddle until he relaxes. If all has gone well, try mounting, but sit down in the saddle with care – any bump will stay with him for next time and he’ll try harder to get away from that unpleasantness. As you swing your right leg over, therefore, control your weight by placing your foot in the right stirrup or pressing your calf against the saddle, before lowering yourself down. Then when your horse is happy with this, repeat it without the extra ‘wall’.
You can pat the saddle and pull the stirrup down. If he moves, reposition him and continue to pat the saddle until he relaxes
Teach your horse to stand quietly at the mounting block 5
a responsive ride
Light in the hand The ideal horse is responsive to your aids, and to start, here’s a clever exercise to ‘make’ his mouth Top Tip A neckstrap or breastplate is a useful piece of kit in case you need something to grab on to when you’re riding a young, fizzy or unpredictable horse or pony
Making a horse’s mouth is one of the more challenging elements of training, particularly if the horse has not been encouraged to be soft in the mouth at an early stage. It’s important to find a bit that your horse is comfortable with, but what is more important is the way the rider uses that bit. My tendency is always to go for something simple – usually a fairly thin, loose-ring snaffle. I find that the majority of horses prefer not to have something too bulky in their mouths. It may be that a lozenge in the centre of the bit’s mouthpiece suits your horse better than the nutcracker action of a singlejointed snaffle, but you also need to look at what you’re doing in your schooling. Transitions, for example, will help teach your horse to carry more weight on his hocks rather than leaning on the bit, but look at the way these are carried out. My suggestion is to go back to a
basic stopping exercise that I teach newly backed horses.
Using a neckstrap When a horse first has a bit in his mouth, he has no idea that pressure on it can mean ‘stop’. In fact, his natural reaction is to resist that pressure and stiffen his mouth, which is why so many horses end up strong. When I first teach a horse to make downward transitions, I use a loose neckstrap with my other aids to help teach the horse to submit to the bit, rather than resist it. Hold your reins normally, then loop at least two fingers of each hand under the neckstrap. For a downward transition, move your shoulders back slightly and take in the neckstrap, so that it presses into the underside of the horse’s neck. When the horse responds (by slowing down), drop your hands so the neckstrap becomes loose. This is the horse’s reward for slowing down.
A horse’s natural reaction to feeling pressure from the bit for the first time would be to resist, which is why many horses end up strong 14
a responsive ride
Only use these aids to begin with and forget about closing your leg as you would in a â€˜matureâ€™ transition, because it will confuse him. You will find that although your horse may try bracing his mouth a few times, he will soon give up, because the majority of the pressure will
be occurring on his neck, not in his mouth. You can start to add in a little closing of the hand as he starts to get the idea. And when he responds easily and willingly to the downward transition, you can include the closing of the leg for the end of the transition.
Try using a neckstrap during downward transitions
Too hot to handle? is it your horse’s management, or possibly your own tension, that’s causing the problems, asks Tina? if you get tense out hacking, so will your horse!
check your fuel levels If your horse is excitable, consider how much feed and exercise he gets. Often a horse’s bad behaviour is exacerbated by too much or too powerful feed and not enough exercise. So if your horse easily gets lit up, it is worth considering changing his diet to something that provides less energy. Consult your instructor, yard owner or a feed company helpline if you need some advice on this. You can also take the edge off his freshness by giving your horse plenty of work in the school the day before you go out on a hack, or lungeing or schooling him before you go out. Once the horse has got the idea that he behaves on a hack, you can experiment with reducing his workload and seeing if he maintains his good behaviour.
Learning how to breathe steadily and deeply, and employing the technique whenever you feel tense, will really help you and your horse relax 26
your mental state If your horse gets worked up, you also need to consider your own mental state. If you are getting tense before hacking, you will transmit that to the horse, and he will react accordingly. There are many techniques you can use to get yourself into a better mental state, so you have a calming influence over your horse and are more equipped to deal with any situations. One of my favourites is ‘conscious breathing’. Before hacking, go into your arena and see how many walk strides it takes for you to breathe in, and how many to breathe out. If you are taking fewer than three strides for the in-breath, and four or fewer for the exhale, you are only ‘sipping’ tight breaths. See if you can breathe in for four strides, and exhale for five or more. Don’t force your breath, let your rib cage expand as you inhale and then sigh quietly as it goes out. Try the same in trot and canter. When you can breathe in this more expansive way in the school, go out on a hack and try it. After a while, you can forget about it, but check in with yourself before you get home from your hacking and see if your breathing has changed.
If you’re preparing for competition, especially horse trials and endurance, hacking and fittening work are an integral part of a horse’s training Reduce the energy in his feed to reduce his energy!
Top Tip If your horse is disobedient on hacks, use half-halts and transitions to make him listen 27