In my history with horses I have made some mistakes and learned from them. Here are five things that I believe are important habits for an amateur rider to develop.
Get the right horse for where you are now in your riding.
If you are an amateur with a small budget think carefully about how you will spend your money. Will you buy a youngster, with little training, because it is within your budget? Do you have a trainer that you can work with on a daily basis? Is the trainer someone who is willing to get on a young horse and work with them ? Are you willing to work for several years to bring the youngster along before it will be able to get to a higher level? If you hesitate on any of these questions it may mean a youngster is not for you. Youngsters are a tall order for most amateurs and a bad experience can lead to increasing difficulty and you may lose confidence. Maybe you could find an older horse that is trained and you could learn on. These horses can teach you a lot and they will give you confidence not take it away. If you have a big budget you may get stars in your eyes when you shop for horses. That big beautiful fancy mover may not be the best horse for you. If you are a dressage rider don’t kid yourself that you will be able to sit that big trot once you get to know the horse better. Some of the big fancy horses have big fancy temperaments as well .That is what makes them so flashy. This may not be ideal for an amateur rider and again, a loss of confidence is a likely result.
Spend money on training
This is advice from the Master, Carl Hester. Good training can make an average horse special. It will make riding your horse a much more enjoyable experience for you. If problems develop as you progress up the levels a good trainer can help you and your horse to overcome them. Money spent on training is a good investment in your horse.
Keep fit enough to ride effectively
Every time you ride, every minute you are in the saddle, you are training your horse. If you get tired when you are schooling your horse you cannot just stop and say :”Whew!I need to stop!” If you stop then the horse will assume this is a well deserved break and a reward. But was he doing the right thing just before you stopped? No? Then you cannot stop and reward with a break. But now you are tired. You may start to give ineffective aids, your horse will be confused, and things will go rapidly downhill. So keep fit!
Don’t blame your horse
I know that sometimes our horses may behave badly. But is there something bothering them physically? Are you being clear with your aids? Has there been a change in your routine? Horses are not always easy to ride and have bad days just like we do but I have learned that it is best not to blame the horse first . Look for a reason for his behavior first.
Set boundaries for your horse
Certain behaviors under saddle are not acceptable and can be dangerous. This is where your trainer can help you. On the ground you must also set boundaries. It is just not acceptable to be barged into or pulled around. Teaching your horse to respect boundaries will make him a better horse not only for you but for the other people who have to work with him; farriers, barn staff and vets.When your horse respects you and responds well under saddle or on the ground let him know. A pat, a rub on the withers or a ” good boy” will go a long way.
I think that is enough from me and trust me when I tell you that I know from my own experience that these are five habits for good horsemanship. These habits will lead you toward enjoying your horse and your riding.
-- by Anne Leueen
Anne Leueen calls herself a "vintage" dressage rider. Initially she rode in the jumper and eventing world, but stopped while at university. She did not ride for thirty years, other than occasional trail riding, when she was living in England and took up dressage at age 50. Anne's equine partner is Biasini, a Hanoverian gelding who is a dressage expert and often wonders why Anne doesn’t just let him make all the decisions about what to do and where to go.