Working from above: essential preparation for riding

Horses are large animals, and not many other creatures look down on them, so having someone above them can be unsettling and give them an uncomfortable feeling, particularly when something moves above their eye level.

Before riding, we should make sure the horse is used to this and accepts it, and teach the horse to stand quietly next to us when we are at a raised level. This helps the horse to accept the idea of the rider on its back and not be alarmed by it.

Photo © ARTECAST 2010

First stand on a mounting block or raised surface and just let the horse look at you for a few seconds.

Then draw gently on the rope and ask the horse to approach and stand parallel to the fence.

Release the pressure with each step forwards until the horse is standing in front of you, parallel to the fence. Make this comfortable, stroking the horse her all over to make this a place it will want to come back to.

If the horse goes on past you, use the hindquarters yield to turn it round and the “waltz” exercise to reposition it so you can try again.

Never try to get on a young horse for the first time until it is completely happy and relaxed standing next to you with you above its eye. You should also be able to lean across it, stroke it all over and even do some of the other groundwork exercises from above, like desensitizing and switching eyes – and don’t forget to do everything from both sides.

In Action: Working from above