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Basic Horse Handling Tips for Beginners

Many people have a passion for horses but lack experience. Because horses are large flight animals, caution and education are essential to a successful horse/human interaction. So where does a greenhorn begin? Horse Trainer and Clinician, Cody Keller of Keller Horsemanship in Seymour, Iowa offered advice for people just starting their journey into horse ownership. He shared five essential horse handling tips that will assist any beginner.

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1. Buy Smart

When purchasing a horse, enlist the help of an experienced horse person. Cody said, “I’ve seen a lot of kids with horses too young for them.” There are horses for every rider, from inexperienced to professional, and what you buy should be appropriate for your riding level. Have a veterinarian perform an exam or ‘vet check’ on the equine before purchase to ensure the health and soundness of the animal.

2. Safe Equipment

Cody said, “Make sure the horse’s tack is good quality, properly fitted and appropriate to both the needs of the rider and the horse.” The tack should be cleaned regularly, including the saddle pad and the cinch. For protection, the rider or handler should wear long pants and boots with a smooth sole, as heavy tread can get caught in the stirrups. A helmet is also advised.

3. Do Your Homework

Learn as much as you can about horses and their habits. Cody said, “Knowledge is a bigger safety net than a riding helmet. It’s knowing what to do when your horse rears, bucks, or spooks.” Time spent around your horse and in the saddle will give you a strong foundation of ‘horse sense’. Experience and a good instructor are key elements to horse/human success. Cody laughed and said, “I still recommend a helmet though.”

4. Rider’s Responsibility

During his clinics, Cody always talks to the rider about understanding their role in the horse/human relationship. He instructs them to be fair to their animal and to have an understanding of what they are doing wrong, as well as what their horse is doing wrong. Cody also makes sure his students have a working knowledge of the riding basics: walk, trot, and canter. Cody said, “The rider is responsible for knowing the proper signals needed to get and keep the horse in the desired gait.” The rider is also liable for confidence in themselves, trust in the horse, and a positive attitude about the learning experience.

5. Horse’s Responsiblity

Once the rider is aware of their role, they learn the role of their horse. Cody said, “If you ask your horse to choose a gait, the horse should automatically go into that gait and stay in that gait.” A higher level of horsemanship derives from understanding the basics of a horse. When the rider and the horse connect through shared experience, time with one another is enjoyable for both man and steed.

Horseback riding is a fun and enjoyable activity. When these five basic horse handling elements are implemented, both the rider and the horse benefit; taking the activity to another level. “You took care of your horse, and your horse took care of you.” ~Elton Gallegly

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Read more of Johi’s writing at Confessions of a Corn Fed Girl.

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