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CHOOSING A MENTOR

adapted from  Horse for Sale, How to Buy a Horse or Sell the One You Have
  1995 Cherry Hill
www.horsekeeping.com

How To Think Like A Horse
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When you are in the market to buy a horse, the type of horse you look for will depend on your level of experience and the purpose for the horse. If you need to learn how to ride, you should look for a well-trained, experienced horse. You'll need a patient horse that knows more about riding than you do. Horses of all breeds and types can be suitable as mentors. Most really good teachers are geldings between the ages of 8 and 20. But that doesn't mean all older horses make good mentors. If a horse has not been properly trained to the specifics of riding, even if he is "sweet and gentle" in nature, he would not be a suitable mentor.

Young horses are usually not suitable for teachers because a young horse's responses are not consistent, a young horse has not experienced enough of the world to be unflappable, and a young horse is not usually physically developed enough to counteract the imbalances and mistakes of an unskilled rider.

A school horse must be patient, willing, cooperative and alert yet calm. He must be physically responsive to the aids and balanced and rhythmic in all of his gaits. A very thin-skinned hot-blooded horse would probably be disastrous for a learning rider so look for a more tolerant (moderately cold-blooded, thicker-skinned) horse that will put up with mistakes as you develop your rhythm and balance. A tolerant horse tends to go on in spite of the awkward movements of a learning rider.

Choose a horse that is not downhill (lower in the withers than the hips) in its conformation. A downhill conformation would make it more difficult for you to sit in balance and keep your legs under your seat. On a downhill horse, you will either tend to pop forward with your upper body and have a loose seat or brace your back and jam your feet forward in the stirrups, all of which are undesirable riding habits. A horse with withers higher than his hips will carry you in the center of his back and allow you to develop good balanced riding habits with your shoulders over your hips and your heels under your hips.

Pay attention to the spring of rib because horses with very round barrels will make it difficult or painful for you to ride and slab-sided horses may make it impossible for you to attain effective leg contact.

A good mentor has no bad habits such as bucking, rearing, shying, running away, balking, biting, or kicking. Furthermore, he should not resist by running through the aids, speeding up, tossing his head above the bit, or diving down behind the bit. Learn all you can about these riding concepts before you go horse shopping.

Although a good school horse does not have to be beautiful and fancy, he does need to be sound, relaxed, cooperative, and well-trained. So, if learning to ride is your top priority, don't discriminate against a horse because of such things as its age, color, short tail, Roman nose, or blemishes.  Cherry Hill

 

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