At White Fox safety is our number one priority. Horseback riding can be a dangerous activity, and it is the trainer’s responsibility to consider the safety of both the student and the horse. One aspect of safety we feel strongly about is a student’s comfort zone. Each student has certain aspects of riding that they feel absolutely safe and comfortable with, aspects they may be nervous about yet willing to try, and aspects that they do not feel comfortable doing at all. It is important to know what these things are for each individual student and to take them into consideration when teaching. If a student is allowed to constantly stay in their comfort zone than there is no room for advancement, yet if a student is pushed too quickly to do things they are not comfortable with it can be very dangerous. Students should be challenged to move slowly outside their comfort zone, and should never be asked to do something they are completely uncomfortable with.
Progression of Rider
Each rider progresses at a different pace. At White Fox, we take this into account when teaching, as discussed above. This is a very general list of what the new rider will learn; in this order
- grooming, tacking, leading, and horse safety
- basic position and steering at the walk
- trot on the lunge line
- trot off the lunge practicing position and steering through patterns
- different positions at trot such as sitting and two-point
- work over trot poles
- work without stirrups on the lunge line
- work without stirrups off the lunge line
- canter on the lunge line
- canter off the lunge line
- beginning jumping
Pairing of Horse and Rider
Another aspect of riding that we feel strongly about at White Fox is learning to ride a variety of horses. Each horse has different advantages and challenges, and each horse has something to teach the rider. Being a talented and effective rider means being able to understand the needs of each horse and using one’s skills to bring out the best in that horse. Students in our lesson program will be carefully matched with a horse or pony based on their skill level, and what they can learn from that particular equine. Students will be asked to ride a variety of horses as they progress to help create a well-rounded rider.
Working in Harmony with Horses
Riding a horse is not a one-sided arrangement. We cannot expect from our horse what we are not willing to put forth ourselves. Riding a horse is a privilege, and riders must never take this for granted. As good horsemen we must always be aware of the needs of our horses. This includes their physical needs such as proper feed and water, proper warm up and cool down, attention to injuries and illness, appropriate amount of exercise, and work based on the horse’s abilities. Understanding your horse’s needs also includes understanding a bit of their psychology. It is important to learn when certain responses from the horse are due to rider error or horse disobedience. In most cases, when a horse does not give the desired response, it is because the rider has given an incorrect or confusing cue to the horse. In these cases it is not appropriate to punish the horse. A horse that is physically sound and understanding the rider’s aids is a happy and willing horse.