How to become a good rider--The care of a horse--Saddles

So many branches of outdoor sport depend on a knowledge of

horsemanship that every boy or girl who has the opportunity should

learn to ride horseback. When once acquired, we shall never forget it.

The first few lessons will make us feel discouraged, because the

jolting and jarring every one receives in learning to ride almost make

it appear that we can never acquire the knack, but remember that even

the cowboy has had to go through the same experience. A beginner

should only ride a gentle horse. In case we do take a tumble, it is

well to take our first lesson on soft ground or in a tanbark ring.

There are three types of saddles generally used: The English saddle is

simply a leather seat with stirrups, and while it is the most refined

type and the one used for fox hunting and all expert riding in

England, it is not the best kind to learn on. The army saddle and the

Mexican or cowboy saddle with a pommel or box-stirrups are far safer

and less expensive. If you know of a dealer in second-hand army

equipments you can buy a saddle and bridle of excellent material at

less than half the retail price of the stores.

[Illustration: Mexican saddle, Army saddle, English saddle]

Before mounting your horse always examine carefully your saddle and

bridle to see that the girths are tight, that the bridle is properly

buckled, and the stirrups are the proper length. The latter is

sometimes determined by placing the stirrup under the armpits and

touching the saddle with the finger tips. A more accurate way is to

have the straps adjusted after you are in the saddle. A beginner will

prefer a short stirrup, but it is a bad habit to acquire. In mounting,

stand on the left side and place the left foot in the stirrup. Swing

the right leg over the horse and find the right stirrup with the toe

just as quickly as possible. Do not jerk a restless horse or otherwise

betray your excitement if he starts. Let him see by your calmness that

he too should be calm.

So much depends on the kind of horse you are riding that it will be

difficult to say just how to handle him. A horse that is "bridle wise"

is not guided in the customary way; that is, by pulling on the rein on

the side you wish him to turn as one does in driving. A bridle-wise

horse is guided by pressing the opposite rein against his neck. Such a

horse is much easier to handle on horseback and we should try to teach

our horse this method as soon as possible.

There is very close understanding between a horse and rider that does

not exist when a horse is driven to a carriage. A horse can be guided

simply by the leg pressure or spur. The proper seat is well back in

the saddle with the toe pointing almost straight ahead. In order to

learn to ride quickly we must overcome any strain or tension of our

muscles and try to be flexible above the waist. In this way we soon

accommodate our own motion to that of the horse. The most difficult

gait to ride is the trot. There are two distinct styles of riding--to

trot in English style of treading the stirrups, which necessitates

rising from the saddle at every step of the horse, and the army style

of simply sitting back in the saddle and taking the jouncing. Either

method will prove very difficult for the beginner. A partial treading

or easing up but not as extreme as the English style will probably be

the best to acquire. So much depends upon the gait of a horse that we

learn to ride some horses in a very few days, and would be several

times as long with some others.

[Illustration: The wrong way to mount a horse--facing forward]

A horse that habitually stumbles is very dangerous. We must be sure

our saddle horse is sure footed. In using English stirrups never

permit the foot to go through the stirrup and rest on the ball. The

toes should be in such a position that the stirrups can be kicked off

at an instant's notice in case the horse falls with us.

[Illustration: The right way to mount--facing toward his tail]

In tying a saddle horse in the stable for feeding or rest always

loosen the girth and throw the stirrups over the saddle.

A saddle horse should always be spoken to gently but firmly. The horse

can tell by your voice when you are afraid of him.

The canter is the ideal gait. After we once learn it, the motion of a

good saddle horse is almost like a rocking chair and riding becomes

one of the most delightful of outdoor pastimes. The boy who expects to

go on an extended trip in the saddle should learn to care for a horse

himself. A horse should never be fed or watered when he is warm unless

we continue to drive him immediately afterward. Neglect of this

precaution may cause "foundering," which has ruined many a fine horse.

The art of packing a horse is one which every one in mountain

countries away from railroads should understand. Packing a horse

simply means tying a load over his back. There are a great many

hitches used for this purpose by Western mountaineers, but the

celebrated diamond hitch will answer most purposes.

Hunting and steeplechasing, leaping fences and ditches, are the

highest art of horsemanship. It is difficult to teach an old horse to

be a hunter, but with a young one you can soon get him to take a low

obstacle or narrow ditch, and by gradually increasing the distance

make a jumper of him.

[Illustration: Jumping fences is the highest art of horsemanship]

The popularity of automobiles has caused the present generation

partially to lose interest in horseflesh, but no automobile ever made

will furnish the real bond of friendship which exists between a boy

and his horse, or will be a substitute for the pleasure that comes

from a stiff canter on the back of our friend and companion.

We do not really need an expensive horse. A typical Western or polo

pony is just the thing for a boy or girl provided that it has no

vicious or undesirable traits such as kicking, bucking, or stumbling,

or is unsound or lame. It is always better if possible to buy a horse

from a reliable dealer or a private owner. There is a great deal of

dishonesty in horse trading and an honest seller who has nothing to

conceal should be willing to grant a fair trial of a week or more.

To enjoy our horse to the fullest extent we should take entire care of

him ourselves. He should be fed and watered regularly and groomed

every morning until his coat shines. If we neglect a horse and allow

his coat to become rough it is almost as bad as to neglect feeding

him. Never trust the care of your horse too much to another. Even if

you keep him in a public stable or have a man of your own to care for

him, it is well to let them see that you are interested in giving your

horse close personal attention.

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