Tag Archives: teach

  • How to Teach a New Rider the Basics of Riding

    Written By Randi Thompson, founder of the Horse and Rider Awareness Educational Programs

    We all love sharing the joy of horses with those around us. But, what should you be do, when guests arrive, who may never have ridden a horse before, but would like to try?    In this article, we will explore how to introduce new riders to the fundamental concept of having fun safely, as they learn how to control a horse.

    Preparing for the Ride.
    Start by choosing a safe horse that you know. A new rider needs a horse that is safe in any situation and one that will allow them to make a lot of mistakes. We call this horse an “Equine Saint.”   Absolutely avoid horses new to training, those that move quickly, tend to be nervous, spooky or very sensitive to what a rider is doing.

    Introducing the Rider to the Horse
    By the time you get your new rider close to the horse they will be jumping out of their boots with excitement.  It is your job to protect them, as they do not know the risks associated with horses.  Keep the rider close to you, and out of harm’s way, as you saddle and bridle the horse.

    Now You are Ready to Show the Rider How to Mount and Dismount
    • Start by showing the rider how you mount and dismount that so they can see what they will be doing.  A mounting block will make everything easier.
    •  Begin by putting your hand on the pommel or saddle horn.   Tell the rider that this will help them get into the saddle easier.
    • Next, you step into the iron/stirrup.  Tell them it is important to press their leg against the saddle so that they can balance better.  Let the see how you can use your other hand on the back or middle of the saddle to also help them mount.
    • Show the rider how to gently swing their right leg over the back of the saddle without kicking the horse’s rump.
    • Finally, you will show them how to gently sink into the saddle and find their other stirrup/iron.

    When you dismount, repeat the process in reverse. For older riders, show them the “step down dismount” where they get off the horse without stepping into the stirrup/iron. Show them how to push away from the saddle and how to land on the ground with both knees bent.

    It’s Time to Put the Rider on the Horse
    • First, make sure you have control of the horse.
    • Let your rider know that you are going to keep your hand on their legs or body to help them balance as they get on and off the horse.   Show them how you are going to place a hand on the top of their leg to give them the support they may need.
    • Slowly guide them through the steps you showed them. If you feel that your rider is afraid at any level, slow down the mounting to as many steps as you can until they feel confident.

    When it is time for the dismount, put your hand on the rider’s leg to help stabilize them as they get off.  Most of them will not have the control of their body that you do and need that help.   If it is a very young rider you will simply lift them off the horse.  Practice mounting and dismounting the rider several times to make sure they are comfortable. This may seem boring to you, but they are having fun!

    Showing Your Rider How to Stop, Start and Steer the Horse.
    Now you are ready to show your rider how to stop the horse, start the horse, and turn it in both directions at the walk. By now they are even more excited and will not be thinking clearly.  With this in mind it is up to you to make sure that the rider practices how to control your horse.  They need to show you that they can control the horse.  First with the horse on a leadline, and later, if they have control, without it.

    Stopping.  Putting the brakes on.
    Stopping a horse is very important.  This lets the rider know that they have control.  With new riders, we show them how to use the reins to stop the horse.   Make sure you have a leadline on the horse so that you have control before you begin.  During this time you can let them know that they can balance their body any time they need to be resting their hands on the horse’s neck while they are riding.  This will help prevent them from pulling on the reins to balance.
    • Tell your rider that you are going to practice how to stop the horse first at the halt, than at the walk.
    • Show the rider how you stop the horse by shortening the length of the reins at the horse’s neck until the horse stops.
    • Next, show them how to do it with their hands.
    •  Then, show them how to let the reins go looser so they understand the difference between stopping a horse with the reins and releasing the reins to initiate movement.  Have them shorten and lengthen the reins several times.  Have fun with this and praise them when they begin to understand what you are asking them to do.
    • Once the rider is able to adjust their reins, you are ready to ask them to stop the horse from the walk.   To do this you will position yourself near the horse’s shoulder, where you can easily reach the rider at any time, and lead the horse forward.
    • Ask the rider to show you how they can stop the horse by shortening the reins until it stops.  It might take them a few attempts before they are able to really do it, so take your time and make sure that they can really do it on their own.  To do this, make it a game of sorts, ask the rider to count the horse’s steps and walk 5 steps and stop.  Give the rider lots of praise as they do this.  Think of this as a way to teach them with a game.  Next, walk 10 steps and stop.  Practice halting at least 10 times.

    Start your engines!
    Now we are ready to show the rider how to get the horse to move forward.  Once again, you will be leading the horse near the rider.
    • Explain that a horse moves from their leg much like a bike does when we use the pedals.  Show the rider how much leg is needed to get the horse to move by putting your hand on their leg and pressing or tapping the horse’s side until the horse responds.  Take your time and make sure the rider knows that the horse is moving forward because of them.
    • Combine the Start with the Stops and practice both together 10 times.

    Which way do you want to go?  Steering.
    Place cones or any type of safe objects on the ground in a pattern that will require that the rider turn in both directions.
    • Tell the rider that riding a horse is a like riding a bike. Instead of using the bike handles to turn the front wheel, they will be using the reins to point the horse’s nose in the direction they want to go.  Practice this first at the halt.
    • Find an object for them to look at and ask them to point the horse’s nose at it.  Show them how to bring the horse’s nose over by putting your hand on their hand.  Once they can turn the horses head, you are ready to ask them to do this at the walk. Again, you will want to be walking near the horses shoulder with the horse on a lead line.
    • Check that the rider can go in both directions while starting and stopping. As their steering improves you can choose other points of focus and ask them to ride the horse to that spot and stop them.

    Bringing it all together.
    Test the riders control by asking them to stop, start and steer the horse on their own while you step further away, maybe only 6 feet at first, while still keeping control of the horse with the loose lead line.  Check to see if the horse is really listening to them or following you.  When you are sure the rider is in control, and not before, you can remove the lead line and repeat the process.  Stay close to the horse until you are certain that control has been established, and finally, step away
    Some people also think it is fun for a new rider to trot or canter. Usually it is because they are getting bored.  The new rider is not.  This is where most accidents happen. These gaits are not comfortable to new riders and they will also not be able to control the horse.
    By following these steps, you will be able to share your love of horses with new riders, while keeping them safe.  Have fun!

    Now you can experience Randi's simple, yet amazing Horse and Rider Awareness techniques that have been tested and proven to work on 1000s of riding instructors, horse trainers, students and horses.  Go to Horse and Rider Awareness.

    Randi Thompson © 2013 Horse and Rider Awareness

  • Show Me the Way:Adventures in Tracking Training

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    The task was to teach each dog to touch a glove held in my hand, then to touch the glove on the floor, then to cross the room and touch the glove on the floor. The idea was to teach the dog to indicate when s/he had found the glove (or “article”) when out tracking in the great outdoors. In tracking practice or competition, another person would have left a track with articles (gloves, socks, bandannas, or similar) with their scent for the dog to find along the way. I would be following the dog on a long line, but in a test I wouldn’t know the locations of the articles, so the dog would have to sniff out each article and clearly indicate it to me without backtracking.

    I collected a glove, some treats, and a clicker and started the training with Bandit. First a note about clicker training, which is misunderstood by many. A clicker can be held in one hand and pressed to make a loud, distinct “click”. The point of using it for operative conditioning is to mark the exact time the dog does what you want. A clicker is very useful when the dog is working away from you, and in other situations when you want to mark the exact moment that the correct behavior is offered, even when you’re not able to give the dog a treat immediately. I had already done the groundwork needed for my dogs to associate the clicker with the reward that would soon follow. All three of them know very well that the “click” means a treat is on the way.

    Bandit, who is the oldest of my three dogs and has had the most training in different areas, had the biggest challenge. He needed to unlearn previous habits engrained in his bag of tricks, and he has a great imagination. Surely just going to the glove and touching it wasn’t all that I wanted. I remembered that when we trained in obedience utility exercises years ago, Bandit had learned to retrieve a glove. So he didn’t want to just touch the glove, he wanted to bring it back to me. But out on a track, I wouldn’t want him to turn around, I would want him to indicate the article to me, but continue facing in the right direction to keep following the track. So I decided to click Bandit just as he was about to touch the glove. Huh? He paused to think, and I rewarded him just as he touched the glove. Bingo! Marking the desired behavior at just the right time worked!


    Part of the exercise involved placing the glove on the floor across the room from me and having the dog go over to touch (“indicate”) it. Bandit went over to the glove, touched it, then turned around and sat down. While sitting or lying down to indicate the glove would be good, turning around was a problem that could move Bandit off the track. I realized that now he was offering behavior that he had been trained to do for a “go out”, another utility exercise that he learned a few years ago. So although I will eventually want him to indicate the article properly with me farther away, I moved up behind him and treated him before he had a chance to turn around. Then he was consistently going to the glove, with me quick to follow. Once he touched the glove, I was right there to reward him, to prevent him from turning. We’ll continue working on Bandit indicating the article without turning around as I begin to maintain the distance again.

    Chase got the simple touch part correct before the others because he had just enough experience without too much extraneous training to confuse him. He’s also very intuitive; I think that when I have the right picture in my mind, he reads it. First he reminded me that I hadn’t picked up my dirty socks. He touched the glove and was rewarded, then went over and touched my sock on the floor! He soon realized that he wouldn’t get rewarded for touching just anything on the floor and he went back to consistently touching the glove.


    Cayenne has always seemed developmentally delayed, especially socially. Cay and her littermates were rescued as small pups in the Tennessee wilderness and she didn’t learn all that she needed from her mother. I couldn’t even touch her when she first came here, but she has come a long way in the past few years. Now when I work one-on-one with Cay and minimize distractions, she learns very well and is amazingly bright. She was familiar with the clicker, but hadn’t had as much training as the other two dogs. Still, she responded well. At first I had to put a treat in the glove to get her interested. I sort of tricked her into offering the desired behavior: when she “accidentally” touched the glove, I clicked immediately to reinforce the behavior. She caught on immediately, and being the food-motivated child that she is, she quickly learned to touch the glove for the reward.

    Cay actually achieved the ultimate desired behavior on accident, before the other two dogs. I hadn’t attempted to train it yet, but she did it naturally and I rewarded her. Once she became obsessed with touching the glove, she would lie down next to it. When she did this, I clicked her right away because the next step in teaching article indication was to have the dog sit or lie down by the glove after touching it. Cay responded well and began consistently touching the glove and lying down. I would not have predicted that she would achieve this behavior first, but I know that all three dogs will achieve it with more training.
    Those are some of our adventures in tracking so far. Yes, we’ve done some tracking outside, but as I’m writing this it’s mid-April and we just had another snow and ice storm here in Minnesota. Over the coming months we’ll continue tracking outdoors, and I’ll continue feeding my dogs Omega Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets to keep them healthy and happy and support their endurance. I just hope I can keep up!

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