MULE CROSSING: Owning an Equine Is Serious Business, Part 4
By Meredith Hodges
In the final part of this article, the ins and outs of riding precautions and safety will be pinpointed, along with many other crucial details and tips that will help you become not only a better rider, but a better, more understanding equine owner.
As previously discussed, it is human nature to want to just get in the saddle and ride and do all of the glamorous, exciting things with a newly purchased equine that we see others do. The good riders make riding look so easy, and there’s a reason for that—they’re good equine owners. They make sure that their equine is comfortable in what he is learning, they painstakingly go through the training processes for as long as it takes, and caution, safety and courtesy are always top priorities.
Here is a checklist to go through each time BEFORE you ride:
- When you mount your equine, do it in an open area away from buildings, fences and other animals.
- Mount with deliberate grace and don’t just plop yourself onto his back.
- After riding, take the reins over your equine’s head, always being careful to clear his ears.
- Run up your stirrup irons on English saddles when you dismount.
- If your equine is energetic, lunge him before riding.
- Know the proper use of spurs and crops and don’t use them until you’re sure that you really need them.
- Keep small animals under control around your equine.
- Wear protective gear when riding and if you ride at night make sure to have the proper reflectors and keep to the walk.
- Never ride off until ALL riders are mounted and, when mounted, never rush past other equines. If you need to pass, keep it to the walk.
- When riding in a group in an open area, you can ride abreast, but when you are riding single file, always keep an equine’s-length between you and the animal ahead of you.
- While riding, maintain a secure seat and stay in control of your equine at all times.
- Don’t ride in the open until you are familiar with the equine you are riding.
- If your equine becomes frightened, use your voice first to try to calm him. If necessary, dismount and politely introduce him to whatever is spooking him. When he calms down, you can remount.
- When riding, always watch for small children and animals.
- Hold your equine to a walk going up and down inclines, and NEVER fool around while riding.
(NOTE: I don’t recommend riding along paved roads at all these days. Although you and your equine may be in control, motorists don’t always pay attention while they are driving—which can lead to disaster.)
If you must ride along a road:
- Do not ride bareback, use good judgment, ride single file and ALWAYS use a bridle.
- If there are two or more riders, be sure to maintain sufficient space between equines.
- Avoid heavy traffic, but if you must be in heavy traffic, dismount and lead your animal.
- When riding on the shoulder of a road, remain alert for debris.
- Always obey ALL traffic laws and ride with the traffic, not against it.
When trail riding, here are some important tips to remember:
- If you are an unskilled equestrian, be sure you are riding an equine that is well trained.
- Do not engage in practical jokes or horseplay along the trail.
- Stay alert and think ahead while you ride, and avoid dangerous situations whenever possible.
- Be courteous when riding on a trail. If you meet someone on a narrow incline and cannot pass safely, the one who is coming down the trail should back up the trail to a wider spot when possible.
- Ride a balanced seat and don’t just let your equine wander along or graze while on the trail.
- If you ride alone, tell someone where you will be and bring a cell phone in your pocket—but ALWAYS keep it turned off while riding your equine—any cell phone noise could easily frighten him, possibly causing a major disaster.
- If you are going for an overnight ride, bring a halter and lead, hobbles, clean saddle blankets, horseshoe nails and matches, and make sure your equipment is all in good repair.
- Don’t offer water to your equine while he is hot and sweaty. Let him cool down first and then offer a few sips of water at a time.
- Always tie your equine in a safe place, using a halter and lead rope tied in a safety knot.
- Be very careful with cigarettes, matches and fires.
- Get to know the terrain ahead of time and bring maps with you.
- Know the laws, rules and fire regulations on government trails.
- Be sure your equine is in proper condition for the ride and is adequately trimmed or shod.
- Use extreme caution in wet or boggy areas and always ride at the safest gait.
- Avoid overhanging tree limbs and be sure to warn other riders behind you about any upcoming obstacles on the trail.
Good habits are built through repetition and reward with regard to consideration for your equine. Eventually, the good habits that are being taught will become the normal way that your animal will move and react to you and to his environment. The details outlined in this article can help contribute to the behavior shaping of your animal, which will determine, as he ages, how willing and obedient he will be in all situations.
Owning an equine is serious business! It is as serious as raising children. With the increase of the human population, there are a lot of metropolitan ideas and products being sold with incredibly creative marketing techniques, but choosing which ones are actually beneficial and not just a sales pitch can often be quite daunting and the wrong choice could get you in trouble with your equine. What kinds of feed work best? Does your equine need supplements or does he do better on a more basic nutrient approach? Has your veterinarian done a baseline test on your equine to determine what supplements are needed if any? What should you use for rewards? What training techniques work best? It is best to consult with rural equine professionals and people who have actually successfully worked with equines during their lives to help you make these determinations. Knowing the right things to do with your equine may seem confusing, but it is really only a matter of learning the “rules of the road.” You would need to do the same in order to be able to drive and properly maintain a car. Once you have learned the routine, it’s easy. Even with all the new and improved ways of doing things, one thing always rings true…KISS…keep it super simple!
It’s so important to have as much knowledge, information and trusted advice as you can get, so that you can make sound, informed choices for both you and your equine partner. Take things slowly and in small steps that you both can easily manage—then you will reach your goals because you’ve developed a firm foundation. When you do your homework up-front, there’s nothing to be afraid of and you’ll be graced with years of unconditional love and pleasure from your equine friend and companion.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
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