Having a horse who turns round to bite you can shake your confidence, so we asked confidence coach, rider and instructor Amanda Kirtland-Page how best to deal with it.Read More
Helping your partner to feel a little braver at the yard can be done in a few simple steps.Read More
Michael Dooley, a consultant gynaecologist and former Director of Sport Medicine and Science to the British Equestrian Team, gives his advice for riding and being around horses during pregnancy.Read More
Feeling nervous ahead of your cross-country competition? Eventing legend Karen Dixon explains what you can do to ensure your day is stress-free and fun.Read More
Riding in balance is essential for safe, effective riding and jumping. Event rider Paul Tapner shares his simple steps to a balanced jumping position.Read More
Even if you don’t own a horse, there are still plenty of ways you can get involved.
Equestrian events can’t run without an army of volunteers and it’s the perfect way to experience all the excitement of a competition and you get to watch horses all day – what could be better?
Although you may not get paid, you’ll receive training – plus refreshments throughout the day.
Many yards and stables run competitions, if you’re keen to get involved and offer your services as a volunteer here are a few of the jobs you could be asked to do:
You’ll sit alongside a dressage judge, writing their comments and scores as each competitor rides their test.
This is a great opportunity to learn more about what the judge is looking for.
The ability to listen and stay focussed will help, as well as being able to write quickly and neatly.
This role can be quite varied and may include directing show riders to their class or marshalling the warm-up area making sure it all runs smoothly.
Staying calm under pressure and the ability to organise others will make this job easy.
As the title says, you’ll be sat by a cross-country fence and you’ll record refusals or falls on a scoresheet for each competitor.
A great way to get up close to all the action, it's based outside, so be prepared and take plenty of clothing and a chair to sit on, or you can sit in your car.
We all know that hacking on the roads isn’t without risk and with some simple planning and some road-safety know-how you’ll be far safer when you venture out. Read on for some hacking safety tips!
While it’s not mandatory, wearing hi-vis should be considered an absolute must when riding on the roads. Being bright and visible will help motorists to see you earlier and that is reason enough.
There’s now plenty of choice when it comes to hi-vis products and we’re no longer restricted to the unflattering hi-vis tabards of old…not that it matters! A little hi-vis goes a long way so be sure to slap some on and the more the merrier. Available in the shops are coats, tabbards, hat bands, breeches, leg and tail bands, breast plates and exercise sheets. So, if you don’t have any hi-vi, use our advice as an excuse to go shopping. It doesn’t cost the earth and it could save your life – it’s a simple as that. If you’re currently hacking without hi-vis please make a change today – hi-vis matters.
Don’t risk injury
Wear a body protector and/or air jacket and ALWAYS wear a properly fastening riding hat – there’s no excuse. You’ve only got one head!
Inform a friend
Always tell someone where you’re going and give an estimated time of return. If something happens, you can be confident they’ll come looking for you. Just remember to let that person know if you’re running late so they don’t worry.
You could even get some added peace of mind by installing an app like the Horse Rider SOS’ app on your phone. This app monitors your movements as you ride and, in the event of a fall the app will enter “Alert mode’ and kick off a rescue process. Download it at www.horseridersos.com
If your horse is new, green or simply inexperienced on the roads be sure you’re ready to hit the roads before you do. Have a lesson and ensure all the basics are in place. Can you maintain control of your horse and do you know what to do in the event of a spook? If not, ask your trainer for some advice to ensure the basics are in place before you hack out – it will give you and your horse confidence.
Always be alert
It’s lovely to hack out with friends but being alert as you ride on the roads is vital so take care not to be distracted as you ride. Save chit-chat for off-road tracks and be sure to thank motorists who slow down to pass you.
Report incidents on the road
If nobody knows about incidents involving horses and riders on the road, nothing can be done to combat the. This is why the BHS urges riders to report an accident or incident on the roads. With the information, it’s easier for them to lobby those in power to make a change. So, if you’ve had an accident on the road with your horse be sure to report it to Horse Accidents – it’s never too late.
Take the BHS Riding & Road Safety Test
More than 4,000 take the BHS Riding and Road Safety test each year and while it’s not essential, it is sensible! To find out more, visit the BHS website.
Perhaps your thinking of returning to riding after a few years or fancy picking up the reins for the first time, then the next step is to find the right horse riding centre to learn or brush up on your skills. Here we explain what to look for when choosing the right place.Read More
Whether you’re keen to work with others or you’d like to try some simple techniques on your own, here, confidence coach Ian Banyard gives us three easy exercises to help you work on your confidence, whether your fear stems from a memory of an accident or something you just can’t pinpoint.Read More
Boost your confidence by building trust with your horse. International coach and confidence enthusiast Charlotte Dennis tells you how in five simple steps.Read More
The Expert: Justine Davies - Justine is a doctor, rider and journalist, who understands jugling a busy working life with caring for horses.
Riding during pregnancy is a personal choice - it probably doesn't have any effect on a healthy pregnancy but there's always a risk of an injury.
Whether or not to ride during pregnancy really comes down to personal choice. Many riders, including Sylvia Loch, think it's too risky. However, in his report for the Hong Kond Jockey Club, Professor Michael Rogers - an obstetrician at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Hong Kong - writes: "In a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, horse riding per se does not cause any obstetric problems unless an accident occurs."
You can imagine the scene - you put your horse in the field and he gleefully trots over to his companion, mane flowing, tail raised. His friend asks why he's so happy and gets the reply: "My rider is pregnant - no work for me for at least nine months."
You, meanwhile, will probably not be so keen on giving up one of your favourite pastimes.
There are three main reasons why women are cautious about riding during pregnancy. The first reason is that horse riding is exercise and women are often confused about how much exercise to do during pregnancy. For at least 150 years, women have been advised that they should only do light, stretching exercise during their pregnancies and up until fairly recently, women were also advised to have a month of 'laying in' after giving birth to recuperate.
Nowadays, continuing to exercise during pregnancy is recognised as a good thing for both mother and the baby - but still, the majority of doctors are cautious and will only recomment that pregnant women walk, swin or do yoga.
Despite this, many women do quite vigorous exercise such as running and aerobics during pregnancy and doctors have found that, unless the woman has a history of early labour or miscarriage, more vigorous exercise probably doesn't do them any harm. So, from the point of view of horse riding being an exercise, it shouldn't cause you too much harm during pregnancy.
The second thing that concerns pregnant women is the percussive, or jurky nature, of horse riding - they worry that this and the open pelvis position that they sit in may cause miscarriage. No one has compared the rate of miscarrage in women who ride throughout their pregnancy with those who don't ride, so it's difficult to say whether or not horse riding can cause a miscarrage. But, if you do have a previous history of miscarrage, it's probably better not to ride during your pregnancy.
The third and probably most important concern of women who are thinking of riding while pregnant, is the risk of injury. There's no doubt that horse riding can cause injury and falling from a horse or being on the receiving end ofa kick may well put both you and baby at risk.
Fact - If you decide to ride while pregnant, but experience swelling of the hands, feet or face, seek medical help
Be kind to yourself
Although riding is part of our lives, we need to recognise that our horses are usually going to be skipping with joy if we have to take some time off riding.
For a horse, being ridden is like riding a bike and once taught they don't forget - although they may pretend to forget every now and again!
For this reason, if you do have to stop riding for a while, don't worry - you and your horse will soon get back into it.
The most important thing is that when you do ride, you make sure you're as fit as you can be so that both you and your horse have a great time and enjoy yourselves, whatever you're doing.
When it comes to hacking, feeling confident is vital if you’re going to enjoy your rides out and relish every sight and sound. Here's how to put the confidence back into your riding!Read More
Keeping control of your horse in an open space such as a field or out on a hack can be challenging, particularly if he spots his friends in the next field or the freedom goes to his head.
The aim of the game is to make him think that open spaces are pretty ordinary and nothing to get over excited about, so spend as much time as you can with your horse relaxing away from the arena.
-Ride him calmly in a new field
-Lunge him in an open space or long-line him down a quiet lane
The more time he spends outside with you in a calm and controlled environment, the more relaxed he’ll become when you take him to new places and ride new routes out of your arena.
Rosie’s top tip
If you’re particularly nervous about venturing out of the arena alone, enlist the help of an experienced friend to either walk alongside you on foot or ride with you at first – but make sure their horse is a sensible, confident type who will happily take the lead.
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Whether your bête noire is bucking or jumping, don’t let fear limit your riding activities. Follow confidence coach Ian Banyard’s four easy steps to help you control your fear and become a happy, confident rider.Read More
If your horse is particularly spooky around traffic and you’re worried about taking him out on the roads at all you can begin the desensitisation process in the comfort of the yard. Trainer Melanie Watson tells you how...Read More
To ensure you’re brimming with confidence every time you jump, rider and trainer, Karen Dixon is on-hand to offer some handy tips.
Leaving the ground on top of a four-legged beast with a mind of his own is a frightening prospect and it’s bound to send you into a bit of a spin. “I know that jumping is a daunting prospect for a lot of riders, particularly the under confident ones,” says Karen. “But it’s easy to bring the fun-factor back into jumping with some simple exercises.”
Here are Karen’s key jumping confidence exercises:
Perfect your position
In order to feel as confident as possible when jumping you must first ensure you have a secure, balanced seat and jumping position. To achieve this, stand up out of your saddle and shift your weight into your heels - remember not to grip with your knees. When you come to a fence, tip your shoulders forwards in front of the vertical and be sure not to let your legs slip back as this will unbalance you. It’s a good idea to practise this on the flat before you start over fences. A few circuits in walk, trot and canter in the jumping position during every ride is a great way to perfect it. Riding over poles will help to replicate the feeling of jumping without actually having to do it, which allows you to concentrate more on the quality of your position rather than the fence, which can be a real confidence booster.
Desensitise him to prevent spooks
Rider frighteners and bright, spooky fillers are part and parcel of most cross-country and show jumping courses, so you need to ensure your horse is desensitised to all possibilities before you hit the track. Getting your horse out hacking or riding him around spooky objects in his arena or schooling area is a fantastic way to get him used to things and ensure he’s prepared for every eventuality. Scatter your fillers around your arena and warm your horse up around them. The more he sees different spooky objects in random places, the less reactive he’ll be to them.
Build confidence over solid fences
Fear and apprehension around fixed fences isn’t uncommon, but cross-country can be one of the most fun and exhilarating rides of your life if you’re able to conquer it. I always recommend going along to a training session or hiring out a cross-country course with an experienced friend. Following a more confident rider over a fence is the ideal way to build your confidence. Start small at first before working you way up to the larger rider frightener fences. You can even have your instructor on hand to offer guidance and support from the ground.
Using a neck strap will give you added security and prevent you from sending nervous signals to your horse down the reins. Consider investing in one today and use it until you feel more confident.
More about our expert
Karen Dixon is a four-time Olympic event rider who competes, trains, rides and produces young horses. She also retrains ex-racers from her yard in County Durham.
We've all experienced that out of control feeling, either on board or from the ground, but, as our behaviour expert, Rosie Jones, explains feeling out of control is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about....Read More
If, like many riders, you’re a bag of nerves come competition day, your horse will feel those nerves too. As he senses your anxiety, it’s possible he’ll start to mirror what’s going on inside your head so, for some simple advice from our expert Caroline Putus, to help you maintain calm throughout your competition day, read on.
“When nerves take hold the most important thing to do is to ensure you ground yourself before you even start handling your horse,” says Caroline. “If you start to get anxious while handling, move away from your horse and calm yourself before going back. As soon as you start to feel uncomfortable, take a few calming breaths.”
Here are three simple tips to help:
1) Calm your breathing
- Make your breathing as slow and rhythmical as you can
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
- Take twice as long to breathe out as you did to breathe in. This is the key. An easy way to do this is to count (e.g. breathe in to the count of three and out to the count of six)
2) Just relax
- Relax your stomach and abdominal muscles - this will make you feel more relaxed and more grounded and your horse will respond to this
3) Use homoeopathy
- The homoeopathic remedy Gelsemium is fantastic for performance nerves. Take one tablet on the day (only take this remedy as and when you need it)
- Finally, Bach Flower Remedies may also help.
For more information visit www.carolineputus.co.uk
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Your limbs can only be as strong, effective and independent as your core tone allows. Your core is not just your tummy – it’s your whole trunk –and controls the position of your hips, seat bones, shoulders and posture. So you can see why it’s essential to balanced riding.
Here's how to test and build your core strength.
Pilates is one of the most widely recognised core training systems and is used by elite riders. Classes are available in gyms and village halls around the country, and there’s a wide choice of yoga or pilates DVDs you can rent or buy.
Once you’ve got an idea of the basic posture adjustments you need to make, you must work at improving them. Workout time isn’t limited to 20 minutes a couple of times a week if you want to re-educate and realign your body for the good of your horse. But that doesn’t mean you have to slave away at the gym –spend time driving, shopping or mucking out working on your body alignment.
Have a go at balancing on an exercise ball in a riding position while working or watching TV. This technique is advocated by biomechanics specialist Mary Wanless, as it aids coordination and balance, improves core tone and will give you valuable feedback about your possible riding faults. For example, which way do you always roll – to the front, back or side? Which side? Which muscles do you consciously have to activate in order tostabilise yourself?
What is your horse telling you? Many apparent schooling problems in the horse, such as head throwing, not going forward, a trot that’s hard to sit to, a canter that breaks or a horse who won’t stretch to the bit, are actually down to the rider blocking the horse. Of course, there may be other health-related issues causing these problems, so do examine them first. If there are no underlying issues and you’ve been using gadgets to correct these problems, your horse may need body work such as massage and groundwork to release all of the bracing you’ve put in and give him time to recover.
One of the simplest ridden exercises you can do to develop your balance is simply stand in your stirrups – not hover in a jumping position or lean forward, but stand – straight up as if there were no horse beneath you, and maintain your balance. Start at halt and progress to walk, trot and canter.