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Sindri
07-13-2011, 02:39 PM
To any experienced horse riders out there, what mistakes do you see less experienced riders make?

I posted this question before and got some awesome detailed responses, but what with the forums being rolled back the original thread has vanished into the aether. And, of course, I can't remember everything that was said.


I'm writing a medieval fantasy focused on a group of lightly armored knights and squires and my MC who is really just a message runner. My MC has been taught how to ride (just the basics really), he just hasn't had to do it since learning several years ago. Now he is in a scene where a much more experienced rider is picking out his faults (rather scornfully) and is meant to be telling him how to correct them.

Any help is much appreciated.

HistoryLvr
07-13-2011, 08:45 PM
I am an inexperienced writer and just recently road a broken but not smooth horse. If he ever started galloping, basically anything more than a trot, it would just about throw me off because it was so bouncy/jerky. I am a fairly fit person, so it's not like I just couldn't hold on. Whenever that happened, I would drop one of the reins and grab onto the horn thing right in the front of the saddle. Also, I got chastised for not "showing the horse who's boss." Basically means I wasn't firm enough, didn't pull hard enough on the reins to get him to do what I want. He would just walk, eat, or run whenever he felt like it. I couldn't get him to go where I wanted, even when I got more firm, because I wasn't firm in the beginning and he could tell that I was inexperienced. At least according to his owner.

Robin K
07-14-2011, 03:47 AM
Hi,
I've ridden all my life and my mom's a riding teacher. I'm not an expert on medieval riding, but I would think any of the following might be universal:

Not 'following the horse's mouth'--this means letting your hands move slightly with the horse's mouth as the horse moves naturally. You want to maintain contact, but it shouldn't increase or decrease unless it's a purposeful message to the horse. Less experienced riders sometimes get rigid, which means that when the horse moves its head and neck naturally their mouth hits the bit, which causes most horses that aren't school horses to stop or slow down, to the rider's surprise. On the flip side, some riders let their reins get too loose and 'flop' without noticing. Horses sometimes take advantage of that to go where they want, as the previous poster noted.

Only using the reins to stop, not their seat. When experienced riders halt a horse, it really begins by applying gentle pressure with the upper leg and sitting up so that their seat stops following the horse's stride. Then the reins come in if necessary. Less experienced riders over-use horses' mouths by only using their hands. This also often causes them to 'fall forward' with their upper body as they ask the horse to stop, which then unbalances them when the horse does stop.

Some inexperienced riders start to steer with very big arm motions rather than shorten their reins. They might also take their arm sideways rather than back to steer (the motion should be back unless you're steering a very young/inexperienced horse).

Staying with quick changes in gate takes practice-- this rider might have their upper body thrown back when the horse trots/canters/gallops and or thrown forward when the horse stops. A canter or gallop to a halt would cause a lot of beginners/early intermediates to fall off the front of the horse.

I'm sure other people will chime in too, but that's a starting list for you. Good luck!

ChristyM
07-14-2011, 04:51 AM
Walking behind a horse without letting the horse know you are there by touching the flanks. Big no no.

thothguard51
07-14-2011, 05:30 AM
Mounting from the wrong side...

A knights horse will be guided by what is called neck reining instead of plow reining.

Plow reining is where a rider has one reign in each hand and guides the horse by applying pressure on the bit.

Neck reining is when both reins are in one hand and the rider guides the horse by laying the reins along the neck instead of at the bit. You only want to apply pressure to the bit when it is absolutely necessary.

When I wanted my horse to rear, I would sit back in the saddle and pull the reins in an upward position instead of pulling them back. If I wanted the horse to backup, I used my feet and gave small jerks on the reins.

There are many universal ways to train a horse, but with knights, some trained there horses differently so others could not ride them. Horses, especially heavy war horses used by knights in armor would have been very expensive.

Lehcarjt
07-14-2011, 08:07 AM
Slouching - particularly in the shoulders and waist.

Putting the weight of their body in the butt (so in the saddle) rather than balancing it out on through the legs and balls of the feet.

Pushing the feet too far into the irons/stirrups.

Excessive pulling on the horses mouth with the reins. (often ineffectively)

Looking down at the horses head or the ground in front of the horse's feet rather than keeping the head straight and the eyes soft (seeing the bigger picture).

Ineffective use of the legs (or feet) to cue the horse forward (from a stop to a walk or a walk to a trot, etc.)

Inability to control the horse (because of much of the above). So horse does as they please - which is usually drop their head and graze. New riders have a really hard time getting a horse to pick up their head once it is down and attached to grass. This gets particularly bad if the grass is lush and green.

New riders also tend to grab the saddle with both hands when things go wrong.

Bounce on the horses back during the trot / canter rather than ride the gait smoothly. I don't know if knights would post or not though (the rhythmic up and down motion of an English riders body during a trot). I'd think it would be hard in all that metal.

blacbird
07-14-2011, 10:09 AM
Biggest mistake I ever made in horse riding was getting on the horse.

caw

shaldna
07-14-2011, 02:59 PM
To any experienced horse riders out there, what mistakes do you see less experienced riders make?


Stirrups too long - unstable flapping legs
Stirrups too short - run the risk of being propelled out of the saddel because you are 'perched' on it'
Leaning too far back
Leaning/crouching forward when nervous - to a horse this means 'go'
Jerking at the reins
Reins too long - no control
Reins too short - winds the horse up, and can hurt it
Being too tense - again, winds horse up
holding the hands too high or low
just bouncing around - no rising trot or no ability to sit correctly in sitting trot
standing to canter / inability to sit to canter

WriteKnight
07-14-2011, 09:13 PM
A beginner is basically 'behind' the horse. This means that they are reacting to what the horse does, not thinking ahead, anticipating the reaction the horse has to the commands the rider gives it.

This leads to all of the problems described above. Poor seat, bad balance, improper instructions to the mount.

This leads to frustration in the mount, and a very very uncomfortable ride for the rider.

shaldna
07-15-2011, 01:38 PM
The biggest mistake I see from novice riders is the tilting/crouching forward. Usually they seem to feel that this gives them a more secure feeling, but in reality they are more likely to fall off if the horse stops suddenly or falls. also, leaning forward lifts your weight of the horses back and repositions it in a way that the horse is trained to mean 'go faster' - there is a reason jockeys are up and forward, it helps the horse to work better and run faster. in novice riders who crouch forward in a moment of panic this almost always ends badly. It's why you constantly hear riding instructors yelling 'sit up! sit up!' when a horse takes off or a rider is panicking.

the other big mistake I used to see a lot was from the people who thought they knew ti all. They had watched too many John Wayne movies and thought they knew everything. They didn't need me to teach them, after all, you just get on and kick, and if the horse misbehaves you give it a smack with a stick, right? I have a mean old horse that I like to put those sort of people on. :) I always help them up off the ground afterwards though, cause I'm not totally mean.

ColoradoGuy
07-17-2011, 06:25 AM
I agree with what everybody's been saying, although there are some differences in riding styles. My own horses are trained as Western (US) cow and trail horses, for which you use very little rein at all -- it's mostly legs and seat.

If you want all the problems your character has with riding to be quickly evident to the party he's with, put them into a trot. That gait is often the one used to cover large distances by wild horses because it is the most energy efficient for the ground covered. An accomplished rider can trot comfortably for a long, long time. After about 10 minutes at the trot your character's inexperience would become obvious -- he'd bounce all over the place and probably annoy his horse greatly by leaning on the reins. After 20 minutes he'd be crying for mercy and to drop the horses back to a walk.

C. K. Casner
07-18-2011, 06:26 AM
My first horse was an Arabian and she had a bad habit of 'moongazing'. My biggest mistake was not paying attention and of course, I was dumped in a pond as a result. Needless to say I bought a cricket bit for the little brat and everything was hunky-dorey.

Moral of the story: When the previous owner who never rode the horse says to use a racing bit, don't believe them.

Buffysquirrel
07-18-2011, 03:13 PM
One that's caught me out is the horse judging a gap by whether a horse can get through it, not a horse + rider. Ouch my poor knee!

L.C. Blackwell
07-19-2011, 11:57 AM
Something else I see is the rider being rigid in the saddle, thinking "sit up straight" means sit like a ramrod. You actually need to relax your lower back enough to let your hips move with the horse while keeping your upper body fairly steady--not motionless, but steady.

Also, most inexperienced riders aren't cued in to what the horse is telling them--can't tell the difference between frightened, angry, stubborn, sore foot, want to go back to the barn now, bugs are bad, etc. There's a whole litany of expressions, some no more than a twitch, that a horseman reads almost instinctively, but that someone unfamiliar may not even pick up on.

Deb Kinnard
07-22-2011, 03:31 AM
One of my big early mistakes (and I rode English, not Western, so I can't comment on any of that) was the placement of my foot in the stirrup. The ball of the foot didn't "feel right" to me (yeah, know-it-all-newbie) so I tended to let the stirrup slip back to just in front of the heel of my boot. Big mistake. Big. The first time I took a serious fall (the horse tripped and went down on her knees), my foot caught in the stirrup. Fortunately the horse fell one way and I fell the other and my foot didn't stay caught long enough for serious injury.

Bear in mind if you're talking medieval saddles, the pommel and cantle were generally fashioned quite high to keep the warrior secure in case of sudden movement or being struck. It was tougher to fall out of a medieval saddle than a modern one. If this works for your character, you might have him start with bad habits simply because of the false sense of security such a saddle might give him.

AiryBri
07-22-2011, 04:22 AM
I dunno if anyone has mentioned this, but the beginners mistake I made was not pushing my ankles down at an angle at all times (which is why horseback riders develop a muscle other people don't have there) my feet slipped and got stuck in the stirrups. When my horse got spooked, and I fell off, my feet stayed on and I was dragged. Very dangerous and scary!

shaldna
07-22-2011, 02:31 PM
I dunno if anyone has mentioned this, but the beginners mistake I made was not pushing my ankles down at an angle at all times (which is why horseback riders develop a muscle other people don't have there) my feet slipped and got stuck in the stirrups. When my horse got spooked, and I fell off, my feet stayed on and I was dragged. Very dangerous and scary!

It's still a beginner mistake then.

You're heels should never be 'down' they should be level with your toes, creating a balanced foot. By pushing all the weight down into you ankles you push your lower leg forward, unbalancing you as a rider, seting your leg in position and rendering it effectively useless.

Correct:
http://image.yaymicro.com/rz_512x512/0/996/horse-riding-boot-in-stirrup-99611f.jpg

Incorrect:
http://www.horsemart.co.uk/img/articles/verysmall_427.jpg

Horserider
07-22-2011, 11:05 PM
- Heels not down
- Reins too loose
- Reins too tight
- Grabbing at the reins for balance
- Gripping with your knees (doing this pushes your seat up out of the saddle)
- Tense muscles (when you're tensed up, you can't follow the motion of the horse and you'll bounce around a lot. This happens a lot at the trot or canter)
- Slouching in the saddle
- Sitting pushed back with your knees up like you're sitting in a chair
- Accidentally bumping the horse with your heels (especially if he's wearing spurs)

L.C. Blackwell
07-24-2011, 07:52 AM
It's still a beginner mistake then.

You're heels should never be 'down' they should be level with your toes, creating a balanced foot.

Even in dressage competition, there seems to be some debate as to whether a level heel or an angled heel is correct. I suspect the 'heel down' is a bit more old-school. So it may be one of those things that's a changing fashion. I know I was always taught 'heel down' but not exaggeratedly so.

shaldna
07-24-2011, 01:56 PM
Even in dressage competition, there seems to be some debate as to whether a level heel or an angled heel is correct. I suspect the 'heel down' is a bit more old-school. So it may be one of those things that's a changing fashion. I know I was always taught 'heel down' but not exaggeratedly so.

I find that older riders, or those taught by older instructors usually have the 'heel down' things, but it's been proven over and over that it's not effective. People think it helps stabilise them, but instead it throws them off balance, setting the leg in place and meaning that they can't use it as effectively as they need to. It also means that the set in the leg makes them more rigid in the saddle and less able to absorb the movements, so they tend to jolt around a lot more.

In terms of the dressage competition issue, I was taught by two Olympic riders who both said the same thing - heels level, not down, so that's all I have to go on.

L.C. Blackwell
07-25-2011, 03:18 AM
I think we're derailing here. :D

But if you're interested....

If you google images for dressage, you'll see that most of the riders are going level-heel, as you suggested. However, there are still a few current pictures, some taken at quite a high level of competition, where the heel is distinctly angled down. That's what makes me think it's a changing style.

What's even more interesting is that for the medieval style (related to the OP's question) at least some riders appear to have gone toe down, with the weight on the heel.

http://www.britannica.com/bps/media-view/101954/1/0/0

emmyshimmy
07-25-2011, 04:41 AM
Keep your heels down! I see a lot of first time riders forget this and their feet leave the stirrups or the kids put their whole foot through the stirrup.

L.C. Blackwell
07-25-2011, 05:00 AM
Um, Emmy?

Is that an emphatic vote for the old-school, or did you just miss our little derail? :)

Faith and Heresy
07-26-2011, 08:04 AM
All of this is really good. However, I thought I might mention that if your character was taught how to ride and was accomplished with it, he would still know a lot of this stuff years later when he went back. Take it from someone who has ridden on and off a lot. The knowledge doesn't change. What does, is the muscle. Horseback riding builds muscle that nothing else can.

Everything, from keeping the heel and leg where it is supposed to be, to keeping with the horse, requires a great deal of muscle. This can especially prove a challenge if the horse is strong-willed. You're never going to win a battle of strength with a horse, though you can win a battle of wills. However, if you don't have the strength to stick through that hard and sometimes long battle, you're done for.

So perhaps your rider knows all this, but he's drastically out of shape, which is where his faults come from.

shaldna
07-26-2011, 01:24 PM
All of this is really good. However, I thought I might mention that if your character was taught how to ride and was accomplished with it, he would still know a lot of this stuff years later when he went back. Take it from someone who has ridden on and off a lot. The knowledge doesn't change. What does, is the muscle. Horseback riding builds muscle that nothing else can.

Everything, from keeping the heel and leg where it is supposed to be, to keeping with the horse, requires a great deal of muscle. This can especially prove a challenge if the horse is strong-willed. You're never going to win a battle of strength with a horse, though you can win a battle of wills. However, if you don't have the strength to stick through that hard and sometimes long battle, you're done for.

So perhaps your rider knows all this, but he's drastically out of shape, which is where his faults come from.


I agree with most of this - I know that after I came back to riding following pregnancy I just couldn't get my body to do what it was supposed to.

But I would say that I can always tell who has ridden before and who hasn't, even if it's been years in between. I get a lot of adults who rode as kids and maybe haven't sat on a horse for 30 years, they are the hardes to teach because they are usually more nervous becuase they know what to expect, and over time even the basics can get muddled and you find that you have to unpick their riding before you can start to teach them again. That said, it's usually the most rewarding seeing an adult rider make great advances as it's harder for an adult to pick it up than it is for a child - like just about everything else. :)