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Riding Basics with Samantha Harvey
     

Samantha Harvey's opinion is that all disciplines require the same basics, from jumpers to gaming horses, from trail riders to dressage competitors.  An ideal ride would be on an enthusiastic, attentive mount that responds when asked and performs as asked.

Key words and questions Sam Harvey uses to start off a ride:

     Where: Where is your horse’s mind today? Is he physically next to you but mentally somewhere else?

     How: How effective is your physical communication with your horse?

     Why: Why do you use the tack and equipment you are using?  Is it necessary?  

     When: When does your horse respond to you?  When do you use one aid versus another?

     Can: Can you see the whole picture - or do you get distracted and focus on small details?

     What: What are your riding goals?  For:  

                    Each ride?      
                    Short term?    Long term?
                    What can you do to achieve them?
                    Are they realistic?

Sam has found that a great way to answer these questions is to ASSESS.

       What, who, when and where, and why do we ASSESS?

What: This is a combination of evaluating, measuring, considering, and attempting to gauge the mental and physical status of each the horse and rider.

What can your assessment tell you about your ride? 
Your assessment will help you understand that although you may have certain expectations or goals for your ride that day, your horse may have other ideas. 

Who:    You  --  Attitude    Attention   Emotion   Physical condition

Are you distracted with:  the bills you have to pay, being on time to pick up the kids from school or extra curricular activities, the errands you still have to run, deciding what to cook for dinner, stress from work, or ??? 

If the rider is not 100% present mentally, it is unfair to ask the horse to be.  We are supposed to be their leaders, but if we are distracted or have other things on our minds, they know. 

Horses are constantly assessing and reacting -- this is their instinct for survival.  We humans have to concentrate to do it.  As soon as the horse is caught in the field or stable, he is evaluating and assessing us.  He knows when we’re not paying attention.  So by the time we get on, he has already made the decision whether or not to respect us and respond to our aids.

  Your Horse  --  Where is his mind?
                         How is he physically today?
                         Is he emotionally present?

Is his brain with his buddies? Is he stiff or sore from age, health or earlier exertion?  Has he recently been vaccinated or received other medication? Is it feeding or breeding time?

When and where should the assessment begin?

     For me the assessment begins when I catch my horse.  Did he come up and “happily” greet me?  Did he turn his tail to me, but tolerate my catching him?  Did he run away? 

     As I closed the gate, was his attention with me or was his head on the ground looking for grass? As I moved away from the enclosure, did he follow promptly or was his focus elsewhere?

     When I led him to the grooming area, did he walk along happily and pay attention to where I was?  Or was he distracted by the other horses or events?  Did he bump into me?  Did he stand still when I tacked him up or was he fidgeting constantly?

By the time you get to where you’re ready to get on, your horse will have told you a lot about the upcoming ride -- did you listen?  This ground assessment can help you decide what expectations to have for your horse that day. 

Why do we assess?

We assess because we view the rider and horse as a partnership rather than a dictatorship.  We need to have the patience and understanding to recognize realistically what can be achieved in a ride and what might not.  This is not to say that your horse is permitted to decide what you will and won’t do, but rather a way to better educate yourself about your horse’s feelings, mood, mind set, and physical state -- and how it will affect the quality and enjoyment of the ride for both the horse and you.

When we get on…

What basics should our horses have so that we can accomplish our goals?

     Lightness- carrying themselves so they are not hanging on the bit dragging you around

     Suppleness- relaxation while carrying himself with the ability to bend and give any part of his body   

     Bending- starting at the ribcage flowing in two directions: towards the neck and the tail- causing the haunches and the shoulders to operate independently of one another   

     Flexion- starting at the spine, a stretching of the neck while staying relaxed, light and balanced   

     Balance- ability to go in any direction and carry his own weight equally

     Relaxed- no tension in any part of his body no matter what is asked of him   

     Engaged- lifting of the back so that the hindquarters can come underneath the spine to shift his weight from the front end to the haunches, causing the power to come from the rear so that the horse’s shoulders and neck are free and light to bend, flex, be supple and maintain balance    

     Responsiveness- reaction time to an aid

     Creation of a smile:  the look on our face when the above is achieved :) and you experience a fabulous ride and have a great time

how to create clear communication with the horse and have a quality ride

     Efficient- doing as little as necessary to achieve as large a result as possible  

     Effective- promptly getting the reaction you asked for    

     Sensitive- feeling, seeing and sensing what is happening underneath you   

     Aware- not just seeing the “now,” but being ready for what might come next        

     Evaluation- constant checking of results --  self and horse -- to make future decisions    

     Preparing- always expect the unexpected        

     Planning Ahead- if something were to happen what would/could you do to resolve, fix, or isolate the issue and make it a positive experience?

     “Taking” the horse- are you telling the horse where to go or is he “taking” you   

     Establishing Respect- does he really believe you i.e. that what you ask is what you mean

     Feeling what is happening- not just seeing and focusing on the obvious, but maintaining sensitivity to feel your horse

By teaching ourselves to become this aware and focused every time we play with our horses, their respect and desire to please increases.  We also become improved riders because we are now open-minded about communicating with the horse rather than just making demands of him.

A natural horsemanship equestrian center offering alternative horsemanship, riding lessons and training in ground work, jumping, dressage, cross country, endurance, trail, western horsemanship & riding plus much more.  Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey offers training with a focus on colt starting, refinement and finishing. Horses learn respect at TEC's charm school. Instruction offered by Sam Harvey, whose background includes 3 Day Eventing, Jumpers, Western Horsemanship, Dressage and more.  Sam is also an alumna of The United States Pony Club Youth Congress. Have your young children come join our Pony Pals Program (also Pony Rides and Party Ponies) with Jennifer Harvey. We offer facility membership and rentals for use of:  round pens, dressage arenas, conditioning tracks, beginner trails, jumping & gaming arenas and more! Gorgeous, scenic location with easy access on Selle Road in Sandpoint, Idaho available for recreational and recognized shows with overnight camping and overnight corrals, even for overnight travelers. We winter in Yuma, Arizona and offer lessons, training and clinics.  Samantha offers clinics throughout the United States along with Spring and Summer Full Immersion Camp Clinics in ID, private horsemanship and responses online to Ask the Trainer.. 

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