Tag Archives: training

Keep him supple with our schooling tips for hacking

Varying your riding environment is an important part of keeping your horse happy and interested in his work – you don’t want to stay at home doing the same things every day and neither would he. Using your hacking time to occupy his mind and work on any schooling issues in a fun, pressure-free environment is really beneficial, particularly if you don’t have easy access to an arena. Here are some tips to get you started

Long and low

Asking your horse to take up the contact and stretch into a long-and-low outline can be an effective warm up. Not only does it encourage him to relax into the contact, he’ll also raise and engage his back, working the muscles that support a correct ridden frame. Be sure to work him gradually down so that contact is maintained – if you just drop your reins, you’ll loose your connection.

Time to flex

Keeping your horse’s body straight and his gait forward, use your rein to ask him to flex from one side, then to the centre, then to the other side. This exercise will warm him up while testing his suppleness and obedience. It’ll also free up his neck, preparing him for any more complex questions you’ll ask of him later.

Side to side

The flat, stable surface of a quiet path is a perfect setting for asking your horse to leg-yield. This movement requires him to use his whole body and reinforces the idea that your leg aid doesn’t just mean go, but can also mean move away. This exercise requires straightness and engagement, so is a good indicator of how well he’s working. It’ll also reveal any corrections you need to make in your riding or his way of going. Make sure you check the path is clear of pedestrians both ways before attempting a leg-yield.

Shoulder showdown

Now he’s warmed up through his neck and back, you can start asking your horse to engage through his whole body by asking for shoulder-fore, Make use of hedges and fence lines to help guide your horse as you ask his front end to bend slightly away while keeping him travelling forwards. However, be sure not to allow him to over-bend.

Going in circles

Coming across an open field out on a hack is a huge bonus because you can use it as a giant school. Take the opportunity to play with the space, performing transitions, circles and changes of bend through serpentine work to encourage suppleness. Be vigilant to falling out, though, as there won’t be any fences to help prop your horse up!

Don’t forget visibility for you and your horse when you’re out and about. For high-viz and everything you’ll need out on a hack, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

The secrets of effective lunging

There’s much more to lunging than making your horse go round and round in circles. It’s a useful tool for training youngsters, settling an excitable horse before you get on, as part of a rehabilitation programme, or simply as a form of exercise when you haven’t got time to ride. However, in order for it to be effective, it needs to be done properly.

What to wear

For a successful lunging session, the correct kit is essential. Your horse can wear his usual bridle with a snaffle bit, but you’ll need to remove the noseband if you’re going to fit him with a lunge cavesson – this should go on top of the bridle. If you don’t want to remove his reins, twist them under his neck and run the throatlash through one of the loops. Side reins and a roller are also useful for encouraging your horse to work correctly, or you can lunge him in his saddle with the stirrups securely run up or removed. Brushing and over reach boots will protect his legs. You should also wear a correctly fitting riding hat, gloves and sturdy boots that are comfortable to walk in, and you’ll need a lunge whip, too.

The process

Start without the side reins on a large circle, particularly if you’re lunging a young horse. Spend a few minutes working him on each rein in walk until he’s loose and moving forwards freely. If you’re using side reins, these can now be attached – start with them loose and gradually tighten them until your horse can feel a gentle contact when he engages his quarters. Side reins should never be used to pull him into a particular shape. Finish your session with a few minutes of walk on both reins, again without the side reins, so that your horse can stretch and cool down. The length of your session will depend on his fitness, but be careful not to overdo things – 20 minutes is plenty if your horse is fit.

Double the fun

Double lunging is great for teaching your horse the importance of a sympathetic, consistent contact, because using two lunge reins mimics reins but they aren’t fixed like side reins. You also have more control because the outside rein makes it harder for your horse to spin towards the center. To have a go at double lunging, you’ll need a roller and two lunge reins. One is clipped onto the inside ring of your snaffle bit and the second runs from the outside bit ring, through the rings of the roller and then either over your horse’s withers or, once you’ve become more experienced, around his quarters. Lunge your horse as you normally would, with the end of the second lunge rein in the hand that’s also holding your lunge whip.

Browse the Bridleway lunging kit and find a stockist here. 

The Benefits of Horse Riding

If you’re looking to get fitter in 2016 here at Bridleway we don’t think there’s any better hobby to improve fitness than horse riding. Not that you’ll need a reason to hop in the saddle in the New Year, but from strengthening your muscles to keeping your heart healthy and lowering stress levels, horse riding really is great for mind, body and soul. Here are just some of the benefits you can enjoy as a horse rider:

Improved fitness

A study by the British Horse Foundation (BHF) and Bournemouth University has reported that horse riding and taking part in associated activities, such as mucking out, use up enough energy to be officially classed as moderate intensity exercise.

So there’s no need to join the crowds at the gym in January if you’re looking to improve your fitness. As a rider, simply increasing the amount or intensity of riding you do and adding a few extra chores to your list around the yard can make a big difference. Did you know that just an hour of horse riding can burn up to 650 calories*?

Strong muscles

You might take it for granted that you can remain balanced in the saddle, but this engages and strengthens all your core muscles. The faster you ride the more balance is required and the more you will rely on your core strength to stay in position. The inner thigh and pelvic muscles are also working hard every time you ride out, but don’t forget the shoulders and arms, they are focusing on telling the horse what to do and remain engaged for the entire ride – giving you an almost total body workout!

Keep your heart healthy

As well as toning your muscles, riding improves aerobic fitness too. This does depend on the type of riding you prefer – a slow canter that doesn’t put you out of breath won’t be improving your heart’s health. However, increase the speed and agility involved and you’ll be working all those important muscles and your heart too.

Relax your mind

Horse riding, or even just spending time around your horse, is a great way to de-stress. Petting an animal can actually bring down blood pressure, relaxing the body and mind, so what better excuse do you need to give your horse more affection than usual? For many people, simply being outdoors and feeling close to nature can also add to a happy and relaxed mood.


Off On Holiday? Keep Calm and Gallop On!

Whether heading off on holiday or taking part in a show, visiting a new place can be stressful if you’re worried about keeping your horse calm when venturing away from home. If your horse struggles to adapt to new places or is simply not used to traveling, don’t panic – with our simple tips you could soon be calm and relaxed no matter what adventures lie ahead: –

Stick to your everyday routine
Horses like routine, so avoid breaking it where possible even if you are on holiday or competing. If you do have to make changes, plan in advance and tweak your day-to-day routine while at home to give your horse time to adjust.

Safety in numbers
Why not bring a friend or companion for you and your horse? Having a friend to support you will help you to stay calm and allow you to maintain control if your horse becomes anxious. The same can be said for your horse; a companion horse can work wonders to ease their nerves.

Practice the situation
If you are entering a competition, take your horse to a practice show beforehand so you can learn how your horse reacts in that particular situation and adapt the care you provide. If you’re planning a horse-friendly holiday, why not ask a fellow horse-loving friend if your horses can swap stables for the night. This will give your horse the opportunity to get used to being in a new environment and you will be able to gauge how they feel.

Stay confident
Horses can be spooked if they feel a lack of confidence from their rider. If you are feeling at all nervous, remember the days and weeks of training you have put in with your horse and the strong relationship you have. Simply by taking some deep breaths and walking your horse in figures of eight can calm both of you down and focus any nervous energy on the activity in hand.

Create a distraction with stable toys
Stable toys are a relatively new phenomenon but a great way to maintain your horse’s attention with something recognisable from their home environment. Most involve food and encourage natural foraging behaviour. Footballs are also great toys and some racehorse trainers simply use empty containers filled with nuts to hold their horse’s attention. Generally horses only focus on one thing at a time, so if you can maintain their attention with a toy they recognise any worries over their new environment should soon be forgotten.


Top 5 Tips For Training Your Horse

You and your horse are a team, working together and looking after one another to achieve your goals and dreams. However, training can be a long, tiring and frustrating process, full of ups and downs, good days and bad days. Bear these five simple training tips in mind though, and you and your partner will be well on the way to equestrian success.

1)     Always start from the ground up.

Don’t just jump straight on and expect your horse to know exactly what you want right away. Be sure to take your time and be patient, spend time on the ground with your horse, building up a bond and establishing trust through simple daily tasks like grooming and feeding. Rushing this stage will only lead to disappointment and a good relationship on the ground will definitely lead to a much happier riding experience for both of you.

2)    Never mount your horse with a rigid training plan in mind.

Having an area of focus for your training session is important, but it’s also necessary to gauge the mood of your horse. If your horse is struggling with a certain exercise, being adaptable with your schooling schedule will work wonders. Instead of forcing a task, change it. Have a back-up plan in mind and different exercises that are aimed at achieving the same goal, such as straightness or suppleness.

3)    Add variety to your weekly riding.

Horses, especially green youngsters, can get easily bored when faced with repetitive training tasks. Having a schedule is essential and many horses respond well to routine but adding subtle changes, such as trotting poles, are a great way to engage your horse in what you’re doing without intimidating and overwhelming them. Hacking out is also vital when trying to familiarise your horse with unusual surroundings and sounds, making them calmer when faced with the excitement of a competition, for example.

4)    Get an outsider’s opinion.

Sometimes when training a horse it can be hard to work out what’s going wrong and why. Bringing in a friendly but honest outsider, such as your trainer or another rider at the yard, and asking them to observe one of your sessions could be just what you need. From down on the ground they might notice things you don’t and offer you constructive criticism to help you improve.

5)    Finish all rides on a positive.

Finally, riding can be frustrating and tiring for both you and your horse and some sessions won’t go as well as others. When training, it is really important to remember the positives from a session, as well as how to improve on the negatives. Maybe your horse didn’t ace their flying changes, but how was their trot to canter transition? Did they feel confident? Taking pros and cons from each ride is a really handy way to work out where to focus your attention in a stress-free way.