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Putting The Horse First Every Ride

Putting The Horse First Every Ride

Editor’s Note: Heels Down Mag asked riders to tell us what three things they think everyone should do every ride. Our editorial team selected five finalists’ essays, which are being published this month. One winner will receive an EIS COOL shirt  ($92 value).


By Amy Malinoski

Riding is my luxury activity to handle a busy life as a married, working mother. My time at the barn is typically not as much as I would like due to the demands outside of riding, but there are a few things that are part of my routine every time I get on a horse. We all know how important routine is to horses.

Safety check

Prior even to tacking up, I always check the horse’s legs and clean out their feet. I want to know if there is any noticeable swelling or heat when feeling their legs. I own a young horse who has a propensity for getting into things. Luckily for me, he swells very easily so that is always a good indicator. He seems to somehow always be sound, but I certainly want to check before I jump on his back. Cleaning out horse’s feet is critical to make sure there are no rocks or pebbles or other festering issues.

Slow to cinch up

When I tack the horse, I am always very careful and slow to cinch up the girth. When initially tacking up, I always start with the girth relatively loose. I’ve ridden my share of horses who are cold backed or generally react negatively to the girth. I will take at least another two-or-three times to tighten the girth to where I’m sure it is tight enough. I always walk several steps in between each time I tighten the girth to give the horse a chance to get used to it.

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Value the walk

After tacking up and mounting, I always walk the horse for several minutes before starting to work. I start with a free walk so that the horse has a chance to get used to the weight on its back and for the circulation to its legs to increase. I typically then like to work on some lengthening and shortening so that the horse starts to warm up to contact, and I can get a sense of how the horse is feeling that day. It has taken me many years of riding to learn the value of the walk, but after rehabbing a few horses, I have learned how much you can accomplish at the walk without causing a lot of undue stress physically on the horse.

And overall the most important thing I always do every ride is remind myself how truly lucky I am to be on the back of a horse doing what I love.

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