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Source: Outdoor Sports and Games

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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