Are you finding that horseback riding isn’t as much fun as it used to be and that you’re actually starting to look for reasons to not ride anymore? Believe it or not, this is more common than you think and is normally because the horse you’re riding is simply too much for you. As a riding instructor, this is something that I come across all of the time but don’t worry, it’s often a temporary problem that can easily be overcome.
The important thing though is to recognize when things aren’t right which is why I decided to write this article. If you know what to look out for then you can recognize when something is wrong and do something about it.
Why is it a problem if a horse is too much for you?
Riding a horse that is too much for you will naturally take the pleasure and fun out of riding but if you continue to ride an unsuitable horse then, in the long run, it can lead to all sorts of problems. To start with it will affect your confidence but it could also lead to serious injury if you’re not able to control the horse in a dangerous situation.
Not every horse is right for every person and some horses are just too highly strung for all but the most experienced of riders. This is perfectly normal and you shouldn’t feel bad or blame yourself if you’re having trouble controlling your horse. The important thing is recognizing that and addressing the problem before it gets out of hand and becomes dangerous.
How to tell if your horse is too much for you
You might think that you can’t tell if your horse is too much for you but there are a few tell-tell signs that this might be the case. While any one of these signs on their own may be easy to overlook, if you find yourself agreeing with most, if not all of them, then it’s safe to say your horse is just too much for you.
1) You’re scared and anxious when you ride
Fear and anxiety aren’t always a bad thing, in some circumstances they can actually be a good thing but if you feel scared every time you ride (and for the entire duration of your lesson) there’s something wrong. Horses can sense how we feel so being scared and anxious as soon as you approach them will only make things worse.
Ignoring these feelings and getting on with the lesson thinking you’ll eventually get better is a bad idea. Instead, speak to your riding instructor about how you’re feeling. It might be that a bad experience has shaken your confidence or it could be that the horse you’re riding is too much for you. Whatever the reason your instructor will be able to help you to overcome this and enjoy riding again.
2) You’re not enjoying riding anymore
Horseback riding is supposed to be a pleasurable, fun pastime but if the horse you’re riding is too much for you then you’ll understandably start to find riding a chore rather than enjoyable. Riding a horse that’s difficult or problematic for you can be very challenging and stressful as you’re constantly on edge.
Riding in an enclosed arena to build up your confidence can help with this but having a few lessons on a lunge line will also help. Tell your instructor you’re not enjoying riding anymore and together you’ll be able to work towards changing this.
3) You regularly fall off
Falling off from time to time is a natural part of horseback riding but if you find yourself falling off a lot then it can be a good indicator that your horse is too much for you to handle. After all, falling off can be dangerous and can cause serious injury so you don’t want to put yourself at risk any more than you need to.
It’s important to understand exactly why you’re falling, are you so tense that you can’t relax in the saddle and are therefore not moving with the horse, or are you using falling off as an excuse to get out of the lesson (believe me it does happen)? Whatever the reason you need to work with your instructor to stop this happening. It might be that changing to a different horse will fix the problem or it could be your instructor will take you back to basics and work to improve your skill and confidence in the saddle.
4) You’re too nervous to try anything new
Are you frightened to try anything new, such as riding without stirrups, riding in open spaces, or jumping? If this is the case then it could be a sign that your horse is too much for you and that you’re worried about what will happen. While this is perfectly normal for new riders, it can be a cause for concern for those that are more experienced.
If you just don’t feel safe and are too nervous to try anything then ask your instructor if you can ride a different horse. That way you can work to improve your confidence and ability before possibly moving back to that horse again.
5) You don’t feel in control
Feeling out of control will undoubtedly happen to practically every horseback rider at some point in their life but regularly or constantly feeling that you’re not in control is a clear sign that the horse you’re riding isn’t right for you. Not feeling in control is a vicious circle that reduces your confidence and makes you more anxious, this anxiety in turn makes you feel less in control.
If you don’t feel in control of your horse then it’s important you speak to your instructor about this as being in control is vital for your safety as well as for the safety of others around you.
6) You don’t know how to handle your horse
Are you constantly finding that you don’t know how to handle your horse in any given situation? This can be bad for your confidence but it can also be bad for the horse as you could be unwittingly letting them get away with bad habits.
If this is the case for you, work with your horse on the ground before you get into the saddle. I know that might sound daft to say but groundwork is often the basis for a good riding experience as it’ll teach your horse to trust and respect you while also helping you to not be so fearful of them.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.
- Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
- Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
- TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
- Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
- Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
- Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.
I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉