Ultralearning Project - Horse Riding

I have started an ultralearning project for this month - to ride a horse without the help of a trainer/groom. The timeline for this will be a bit more than one month (20th Nov - 21st Dec 2021), excluding Mondays and rainy days.

Context:

  • I have never seen a horse in real life.
  • I have enrolled in a horse-riding class. The trainer is kind enough to allow me to train in both morning and evening sessions.

Day 1

Horse riding requires special gear. At the minimum, it requires:

  1. Helmet - to protect your head if you fall down
  2. Breeches - comfortable pants that reach till your ankle
  3. Boots
  4. Chaps - to have grip while riding the horse

One could use riding boots / Jodhpurs as an alternative - whichever works fine for the rider.

Rule #1: Never stand behind a horse

Day 2

I got introduced to a thoroughbred horse (gelded).

There are tons of vocabulary involved in horse riding. Here are some things I learned:

Word Meaning
Equestrian Fancy term to say horse rider
Stallion Male horse (that’s not gelded)
Mare Female horse
Gelding Castrated male horse
Bridle Equipment used to direct the horse. Bridal = Headstall (with bit) + Reins.
Noseband Similar to a bridle but without bit. Useful when grooming horse and taking the horse to roll over.

Parts of a horse:

/ultralearning/horse-riding/horse-body-parts.gif
Parts of a horse. Copyright: https://horsewise.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/body-parts-of-a-horse/

Parts of the bridal:

/ultralearning/horse-riding/parts-of-bridle.jpg
Parts of bridle. Copyright: https://schleese.com/its-all-in-your-head-or-your-horses-head-fitting-a-bridle-properly-part-i/

The horse riding routine:

  1. Put on the noseband to your horse. Hold the rope’s end and start grooming it—both sides, near the stomach, etc. Keep talking to the horse when you groom.
  2. Once done with grooming, remove the noseband and put on the horse bridle. First the reins, then the noseband and snaffle bit, finally, throatlatch. Reins help to control the horse if it moves back.
  3. Put on the saddle pad and then the saddle. Fasten the girth and make sure its not too loose or too tight.
  4. Use the cheekpieces/reins to move the horse to the ground and start training.
  5. When done with training - get the horse to the stable. Remove bridle and put on the noseband. Get the horse to roll over and finally get the horse to the stable.

Making the horse rollover is mandatory after every ride/walk. The trainer mentioned that it helps loosen the horse’s muscles, removes sweat, and helps dry the horse’s skin.

Day 3

I got introduced to a new horse today. It’s again a gelded thoroughbred horse.

One interesting thing I learned with the initial horse is that it bites. A groom told me it had bitten a few members in the past as well. So gelding doesn’t mean a horse becomes domesticated.

With the exercises on the horse’s back, I felt a bit uncomfortable. The first reason is the fear of falling, and the second is that my hip bones don’t seem to allow stretching wide.

An interesting YouTube channel I found for horse-related content is JSHorsemanship.

Things to research:

  1. How to stand up without moving feet and calf muscles? Exercises for that?
  2. How to create a bond with a horse?

Day 4

Lots of exercises today and a bit of trotting.

I have slightly improved in walking the horse without much effort.

If you want to pat a horse, don’t raise your hand (as the horse might think you will hurt him). Touch it from its throat and then gently move towards the side.

The biggest misconception I had was ponies are young horses. Turns out ponies are not baby horses. Ponies don’t grow with age. Baby horses are called foals.

Foals (when taken care from birth) become very human friendly. They are very cute and you can see “curiosity” in their eyes.

Horses love carrots and jaggery.

Things I failed at and need to improve:

  • Going up and down when trotting

Day 5

Only thing improved was to wear chaps with less help. Didn’t do well with trotting.

Some interesting resources I found online:

Day 6

Practiced trotting.

I learned that horses can kick you when you are running along with them. This is called bucking and can be due to multiple reasons. I guess today, he bucked because he was afraid of me running with him to put on his noseband.

Some new vocabulary:

  • Paddock - a small field or enclosure where horses are kept or exercised
  • Canter - a pace of a horse or other quadruped between a trot and a gallop
  • Gallop - the fastest pace of a horse or other quadruped, with all the feet off the ground together in each stride
  • Buck - when a horse or pony lowers its head and kicks out its hind legs

Day 7

Practiced as usual.


*Took a break for vacation*

Day 8

Practiced as usual.

Day 9

Practiced as usual.

Day 10

Today I practiced on a different horse (thoroghbred gelding) but the experience wasn’t smooth. The horse stepped my foot with it’s hind leg. Thank God, it didn’t buck or leave its full weight on my foot. No injuries.

This horse was pretty smooth. It understood walking and trotting.

Day 11

It’s been quite a few classes and I still haven’t learnt how to trot.

Trotting requires the rider to do the following all at once:

  • heals down
  • toes up and inside
  • sit in center of the saddle
  • grip with the calf muscles
  • don’t tight knees
  • get up and down with the frequency of the trot
  • finally, don’t sit hard on the back

I get tired and miss out some parts when all this at once.

Things I learnt new:

YouTube videos:

Day 12

Practiced today as usual - getting better at balancing and trotting.

One important thing I learned today: If you stirrups are the same length as your leg, it becomes hard to go up and down when trotting. The ideal way is when the stirrups are just above your ankle.

This helps in two ways:

  • Makes sure your feet is always pointed top and the heels bottom
  • Makes it easier to get up and down when trotting

Day 13

Today I rode an American Paint horse for the first time. It was a bit lazy in the beginning and didn’t listen to my gestures for active walk/trot. After some time it listened to what I was saying but not perfectly.

The horse was against using whip and would hallop/shake its body everytime it sees the whip.

Today I learnt:

  • There are different types of whips
    /ultralearning/horse-riding/whips.jpg
    Copyright: https://girlshorseclub.com/blog/spurs-whips-tools-or-torture/2009/02/14/
  • Horses can become lame for a variety of reasons. Prolonged lameness can make the horse not useable for walks/trots/dressages.
  • Horses can have colic - a painful problem in the horse’s abdomen. When horses get old, they are prone to colic frequently and it’s a great concern for horse owners.

Weird things I found so far

  1. It’s common for a horse to eat it’s own manure. It’s done “because a horse is trying to raise the microbial population in their hindgut.”
  2. Horses sweats (like humans) and there’s a distinct smell with horses.
  3. Horses look very beautiful but they can bite and buck you to defend themselves.