Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Question for the Readers: fallacies and guest post

A friend of mine in the UK was talking on her facebook wall about how she had put up a video of her riding her horse over his first jump after doing lots of practice up to 2.5-3 ft free-jumping. This first jump she rode him over (after practicing over a few ground poles) was a very low crossrail (6" perhaps?). He refused, and she realized she wasn't riding him right, and then fixed her problem and he jumped it confidently the second time. The horse is a greenie, give him a break right?

Anyway, her problem was a person commented on the video saying "You should always freejump a horse first if you want to jump something new so they know they can do it, no wonder it didn't do it properly."

To which my first thought was: good luck doing that on a cross country course or hunt field that you're trucking across! "Oh, hold on, he's scared of this stone wall with bushes at the base! Let me jump off quickly and try to freejump him over it!"

(My second thought was, "Did you just call her horse 'it'?!")

What would have been better advice, had said rider in the video not realized her mistake, would have been "Check how you're riding him up the fence. Were not riding confidently? Did you stop riding before the fence? Were you riding too defensively? Not enough leg? etc."

That's what my trainer would have told me. And that's what I have heard multiple times from multiple different people. Or even better, don't come across as "I know everything" but make it sound more suggestive, like you might have SOME humility and are open to other thoughts :)

So now I get to my point: I've heard some strange, and sometimes dangerous, advice as far as horse training and horse care goes. Some of them come with good intentions, others misinformation, other just plain cruelty or just plain stupid.

The most infamous one in my book?

"Put you heels down and shoulders back."

I see so many hunter riders (and many others, but it's more prevalent in that style to me) with their heels jammed down so much in the stirrups that their riding is seriously compromised. From what I understand, "heels down" often creates a stiff leg and braced feet against the stirrup, so their leg is swinging and DEFINITELY not tight and solid on the horse, and often causes a leg that slips too far back instead of being a strong support, thus throwing the rider forward and both horse and rider off balance, yada yada yada. "Shoulders back" often creates a braced back and tilted pelvis, causing discomfort for both horse and rider and almost always NO flow between the two. I watch and think, "hmmm, I wonder if I took their stirrups and saddle away, if they would be able to be in that same frame?"

And then I answer myself, "No, they'd fall flat on their arse because they're so stiff and in such an artificial frame that their legs and seat aren't used to actually BEING on the horse."

They're noble and accurate points, really, and are the result of proper equitation. Not a means to the end. A more correct verbiage would be "Toes up and/or sink your weight into your heels. Push your ribcage out and up and keep your back erect." There's a lot more that could be added there, like "soften your back and slightly tilt the pelvis up and grip with your legs like a wet rag," but that can STILL lead to even MORE confusion haha!

So now I ask you, what are some iffy things you've heard from "fellow horsepersons" and trainers? No names please, just the advice. Also, feel free to give some GOOD advice you've heard before!

And a second question, I have the opportunity to have a guest post from Equine Clearance out of the UK on any variety of horse-related topics. I'm not entirely sure myself of what I would like to have put up, so what blanket, tack, clothing, industry, etc. topic would you like to hear about?


  1. Like any instructions, heels-down-chest-out can be taken to extremes. In some arenas (i.e. H/J) that is "the look" that the judges want to see. A good rider needs to have good equitation to be effective, but also needs to be able to move and adjust aids and position depending on situations. That H/J frame wouldn't get you very far on a cross-country course, I assure you!

    As for your friend's problem with people giving unsolicited advice: welcome to the world of the interwebs. If you put it out there for the world to see, the haters are gonna hate. People always have advice to give (I mean, just look at what I'm writing, lol!) whether you want it or not. Either be prepared to get into an ugly flame war with someone who doesn't know you and your situation, learn to let it roll off your back, or just don't publish. Sorry, that's probably an unpopular view, but when you make your life public on the internet, you gotta expect all kinds.

    I know several bloggers who no longer blog for just this reason...

  2. That's why I'm so glad I didn't get into hunters. From what I've seen, it's a nasty world. It's great for getting the solid basics of good equitation, but beyond that it's sillier and sillier and dirtier the higher up you go. It would probably be a laugh-fest to see these "hunters" out on an actual hunt. It's a stylized look, but not practical to me. When I watch a rider, I always ask myself "If I took away everything but the bridle and the horse was in a mild bit, could they still put on the same performance?"

    As for my friend: I like to think she was fully prepared for critique, it was just the silly advice that gave us all a laugh! It was how "I know everything and you don't" the person sounded and then she went on about how she's trained horses to GP showjumping for people and basically dug herself into a hole. However, she didn't quite let it roll off her back. I certainly would have. You can't argue with those people: too much wasted time and effort ;)

    It definitely gets back to what you were saying: if you're going to put it out for the world to see, be prepared for someone to backfire, especially if you're coming across as arrogant lol.

  3. I hate when people worry too much about their equitation instead of just riding. While good equitation is of course important, it shouldn't be the only focus. I have NEVER had good heels, and even though I work on them constantly, I have realized that if I pay too much attention to my heels, something else in my position will suffer. Instead, I have just learned how to be tight and effective... and you know what? I've noticed that when I do that, my heels usually are better. :)

    As for the greenie baby, what a rude thing for the commenter to say. 99.9% of refusals are rider error, greenie or not. And you are exactly correct about XC, but sadly I've seen people trying to free jump them. I can assure you, Rio has never been free jumped in his life, and of course he made green mistakes in both stadium and XC , but they were never something free jumping could fix. Only a confident, supporting leg and time to figure things out fixes that.

    Equestrian Clearance is my favorite horse store! Goodness, what I'd give to live in the UK.

  4. Worst piece of horsey advice I have ever gotten: I had a two year old filly that had a bit of an attitude problem. I was told to break her in and put her in work 5 day a week schooling under saddle sessions. I was told that would knock the snot out of her.

    Yeah, and knock about 15 useful riding years out of her too. Idiot.

  5. Correct, Sterling!

    And Lisa: I've met trainers like that. They freak me out!


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