Growing up in the 90s was a fun time, especially as a horse-crazy kid. When I think back, I remember summers in jean shorts and full-chaps, with colorful polos and popped collars. I’m nostalgic for loud saddle pads and matching tights, like zebra and cheetah print.
Riding horses in this era also lent itself to some creative teaching practices, both in and out of the saddle. My childhood horse friends and I still laugh over some of these, now over a Very Adult glass of wine, when we get together to reminisce. Do these make you nostalgic or what?
The Whip Behind the Back
Anyone who tended to hunch too much, or had “loosey-goosey” flapping arms while riding, was an eventual victim of this trick. My trainer would have us run a long whip between our elbows and against our back to encourage us to sit up straight in the saddle, and to keep those wild arms from flapping all over the place.
The Whip Across Your Hands
In a fun (or evil) modification of the above, my trainer would also have us run our whip across our hands, held in place by our thumbs, to encourage us to ride with even, balanced hands over the horse’s withers. There was no way to drag a hand out to the horse’s shoulder, or to let one dip too low when you were stuck holding the whip in this way.
Another fun one. My trainer would use a bit of bailing twine to tie the stirrups to the girth, which made it impossible for your lower leg to slip too far back, or too far forward. This sounds like a smart fix, but it was always extremely uncomfortable to ride, and it made you painfully aware of just how unbalanced you are with a weak lower leg. Maybe that was the point!
Knots In The Reins
This was before reins with dedicated “stoppers” really became all the rage, so my trainer would tie physical knots in our laced reins to remind us to close our fingers HERE. It was ugly and awkward, but it got the job done.
I’m not sure where this blow-up device came from, but for a while, my trainer would have us wear a soft, air pillow around our necks to encourage us to keep our eyes up and looking forward. It always reminded me of an airport pillow, though the exercise obviously had the opposite effect!
Bit In The Elbow
It was always during summer camp where my trainer and her volunteers (the older kids) had to get creative on how to keep our attention all day, especially in the hours after we got to ride. There was always a bit of U.S. Pony Club-inspired groundwork and horsemanship to learn. One of these tricks I often remember was putting a cold bit between the flesh of my arm at the elbow, to describe how a bit feels and moves inside a horse’s mouth. (Yes, I always licked it afterwards to attempt to get the full effect.)
Wrap A Leg
Another on-the-ground training method was to practice wrapping a leg with standing wraps. But we had to graduate from wrapping our friends’ legs – the two-legger human kind – before we were allowed to give it a whirl on a real horse leg. There was nothing more fun though, than running around and kicking the shins of a friend with a terribly-wrapped leg.