As the winter nights start to draw in, many of the Horse Insurance Team here at SEIB have been talking about riding in the dreaded dark and windy conditions.
Now, we speak about it being ‘dreaded’ due to the fact as horse riders we know what comes with dark, windy and rainy rides – spooking!
The lucky few seem to get away with unscathed rides, however the thought of a flapping banner or creaky tree can leave many riders quaking in their riding boots.
But, don’t worry as you’re not alone. That’s why we wanted to share some of our top tips from the riders here at SEIB Insurance Brokers.
As prey animals, all horses have the tendency to spook – it’s what could have potentially saved their life in the wild. So, don’t beat yourself up – it’s natural.
Before heading to the tack room, we suggest ‘evaluating’ your horse. Does he or she look spooked or startled? Due to the lack of winter turnout, it’s normal for horses to become more aggravated.
If your horse is acting startled or jumpy in the stable, why not lunge him ahead of riding?
Lunging your horse will help reduce energy before you get on. It’s also a good idea to get him/her used to the surroundings and a great way to warm you both up before you jump on.
Plan your ride
We know this may sound stupid, but it’s important to plan your ride beforehand.
If you’re schooling, make a mental note of what you want to achieve out of your session. Whether it be quicker transitions, suppleness, collection or perhaps running through a dressage test.
By planning your session, you’ll have a clearer idea of what you want to achieve and therefore ride with a more positive mental attitude. Having a plan in mind also helps you to ride with more determination and confidence - wanting to achieve what you’ve already planned in your mind.
Now, if your horse does have a tendency to spook, it’s paramount to always keep you and your horse’s safety at the forefront.
If you have an area of the ménage your horse tends to spook at, why not try avoiding that area and focus on your ‘plan’ at a different location of the school. Once your horse has started to work correctly and listen to you, then try to gradually work back up to the area once again. It’s important to keep your horse busy and thinking, there’s no point riding with loose reins or without your horse going forward.
Top tip: If you have a spooky corner, make sure you always maintain an inside bend. This will help the horse look away from the super scary area. Try to also do this yourself, don’t make a deal out of the particular area and concentrate on a fence post down the other side, remembering you’re riding confidently towards this.
It’s important to keep that forward momentum when riding, even more so if your horse has the tendency to spook.
We’re not talking about pushing your horse out of its natural gait or rhythm, but it’s important your horse is over tracking or at least tracking up and working correctly. Keeping him/or her moving forward and correctly into your hand will push you as a rider to ride more confidently and not be waiting for that sudden jolt or spook.
Tip: Perhaps ask one of your friends you’re riding with to see if your horse is moving forward. Many of us think our horses are tracking up and moving correctly - but really, they are sluggish and off the aids. The more responsive your horse comes to you, the more likely he or she will be listening to your movements and not worrying about the leaf on the floor or the bird in the bush!
Keep calm and carry on
We know the worst thing to do is to start getting angry, we’re all guilty of it so don’t feel bad. But, by getting rough this will only alert your horse that there is a problem and make the situation 100 times worse.
Keep calm at all times and continue to ride with confidence. If you’re riding calmly but with reassuring aids your horse should pick up on these signals.
Lots of reassuring aids include, scratching on the withers and pats. This will help build confidence for both you as a rider and your horse.
Don’t forget to make lots of fuss for him or her after you’ve passed that spooky corner, and once you’ve cracked it repeat, repeat and repeat once more until your horse becomes totally bored with the whole scenario.
Tip: Why not talk or even sing whilst riding? We hear Adele’s new song could be pretty good, perhaps don’t try to attempt the high pitch lyrics when riding though.
SEIB have been arranging horse insurance for over 50 years. This experience allows us to tailor policies to suit your circumstances and ensure that you and your horses are covered should the worst happen.