Horseback riding wasn’t my choice of sport. This is something that happens to children of people who are crazy about horses and choose horseback riding as their professional career. Me and my sister grew up in an environment where everything was about horses. If you enter to my parent’s flat you can experience yourself. Pictures and sculptures of horses are everywhere; shelves are packed with books and videos on horse riding and probably you will find my parents watching a big show jumping tournament on EuroSport. There is not much in common between my parents, but the only thing that connects them is their passion for horses. Actually, I’m convinced my Mum married to my Dad because she was so impressed by his horse riding.

After that, it is not surprising I started to ride on horses at a very early age. I was doing equestrian vaulting which is most often described as gymnastics and dance on horseback, before I went to school.  I got my license to compete on show jumping tournaments when I was fourteen and after finishing high school I was already a paid horse rider. I worked under my parents in the family business. We trained horses and teach horse riders together. My Dad worked with the most difficult horses and gave jumping lessons to advance riders.  My Mum gave lessons to intermediate people and I gave horse riding lessons to children and beginners and trained the easiest horses, usually mares and geldings. Young horses need to be taught to understand the riders’ signals and how to perform under riders. Young mares and gelding are more manageable and less dangerous than stallions. The rider has to prove his superiority over the horse in order to play the controlling role. It can be more difficult on stallions because they are naturally wishing to be the alpha male in the herd. Once a horse acknowledges you as his leader, you can start train him.

Once I found a book, The Horse and Horsemanship, among my parents’ books, the author, Tamas Flandorffer, wrote “ The primary goal of training is that the rider should be able to reach the predetermined goal on his mount  should be amenable to control. The horse has an excellent memory and powers of orientation. In order for the rider to handle his horse properly he must know its nature. It is an inherently timid animal, its only defence being escape. It retains to this day a strong sense of the ancient herd instinct. If treated well, the horse is affectionate, loyal, obedient and mild, therefore it should always be rewarded after performing its tasks. The basis of the teamwork is the rider’s trust in his horse, and the horse’s trust in its rider. One should never demand performances that exceed the strength of one’s horse.” (152-153) Horse riding is a very gentle sport, where there is a purpose of every movement on the horse. These little movements are all signals to the horse what you expect him to do. These motions are so gently and often invisible for not riders. I experienced during my one year when I taught horse-riding, people assume horse-riding is an easy sport to learn. “Horse does everything and you just have to sit on the back” – they think. And when I put them on a horse and start teaching them how to do it properly they realize it is much more complicated than it looks like.  Blokhuis and Aronsson state in their article Assessing the Rider’s Seat and Horse’s Behavior” Difficulties and Perspectives. “The correct seat of the rider is difficult to learn and also difficult to teach and to improve.”  They continue on: “An effective seat is upright, balanced, elastic, solid, and interactive – it follows the horse movements. A vertical line between the rider’s shoulder-hip-heel and straight line between the elbow-forearm reins and horse’s mouth are essential for a correct seat.” (192) Every inexperienced rider should start acquiring a good and stable seat and learning how to trot during the lunging exercise. This exercise is based on the teacher keeps the horse on a big circle around him or her with a long lunge. In that way the teacher controls the horse and the rider can focus his undivided attention on his balance and movements. When the rider doesn’t seem gawky any longer, and seems more confident on the horse, the teacher can let him to grab the reins and try to control the horse without keeping him on the long leash. It can be very difficult at the first to do the well-practiced motions and plus take attention to the horse but after time, motions on the horse will be natural. When the rider acquires how to trot, canter (short gallop) and gallop he can start learning how to jump with the horse. Tamas Flandorffer says on jumping “Only riders who have mastered the ability to sit loosely at a gallop should attempt jumping. The rider in order to reach his goal in the field despite possible obstacles has to learn how to make the horse jump and the horse must learn to jump. For the horse’s part, a jump is really an extended gallop during which its body “floats” over the obstacle. Approaching an obstacle is one of the most important maneuvers. Calf and body weight aids should be used when approaching, and there should be constant flexible contact with the horse’s mouth. During the jump the horse should have complete freedom. The stretch of its neck should be followed with hands, to make sure that there is a straight line between the elbow and the knees. On reaching the ground the rider should take the jolt with his own knees and ankles, this avoiding the horse’s back having to take all his weight.” (The horse and horsemanship, 166-171)  Tamas Flandorffer uses the expression: “… learn how to make the horse jump”. This opposes with Shalley Campf who is the writer of the article, “Get in The Zone For Better Jumping”. She says “The reality is, your horse doesn’t jump because you make him. He jumps because there’s a stationary object in front of him. If he is concentrating on jumping and not what you are telling him to do when he is preparing for his takeoff, he’ll jump much better. So remember that you are just a passenger, and the less you interfere with his balance and rhythm, the better he can do his job, which is to jump.” (46) – I, personally strongly disagree with this statement and hate she uses the word “passenger”. We, riders do not travel on horses, we ride on horses.

After one year of teaching horse-riding and train horses, I quite from the family business and decided to go back to school. Even though I’m not a professional horse rider any longer, I am a fencer now, fencing for St. John’s University, I will never forget this one year that I spent around horses. Horse riding is a part of me, it is my family heritage. It is so nice to be back to Hungary and go on horse riding trips with my family. I never feel closer to the nature when I am on a horse, galloping in the middle of a forest or the bank of the Danube. That is what I miss the most when I am in New York.

 

 

 

Work cited

Campf, Shelley. “GET “IN THE ZONE” FOR BETTER JUMPING..” Practical Horseman. 40.2 (2012): 42. Print.

Zetterqvist Blokhuis,, Mari, and Agneta Aronsson. “Assessing the Rider’s Seat and Horse’s Behavior: Difficulties and Perspectives.” JOURNAL OF APPLIED ANIMAL WELFARE SCIENCE,. 1088-8705 print/1532-7604 online (2008): 191-203. Print.

Flandorffer, Tamas. The Horse and Horsemanship. 1st. 1. Budapest: Corvin Kiado, 1979. 152-171. Print.

 

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