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Are You And Your Horse Prepared?
Richard Winters Horsemanship

Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing your mount for a successful ride. With Richard Winters

Diligent people prepare for the future. You might keep a blanket in your car this winter in case of a breakdown on the lonely stretch of highway. I have watched people in Florida board up windows in preparation for an oncoming hurricane. Good students take time to study and prepare for an up coming test. Here is my question for you: Are you and your horse prepared?

I ask this question because of two short video clips I recently watched on Facebook. Both of them involved a rider mounting their horse. Both of them ended in disaster. The first rider was seen quietly lunging his saddled horse around in a round pen. He then walked up to the horse, stepped on and was immediately, violently, bucked off. The second rider attempted to climb on his horse in a very small-enclosed area. This consisted of three panels put together in a triangle. There was barely enough room for the horse to turn around. However, there was still plenty of room to buck his rider off while crashing through the panels.

Were these riders on "outlaw" horses? Was it simply their unlucky day? No. As I watched both videos, it was evident to me Photo by Paul  Mutchthat neither of these riders had their horses prepared properly. It is true that you cannot prepare for everything with horses. There is an inherent risk in dealing with these animals. However, 90% of the wrecks that I've seen, or have been involved in, could have been avoided if there had been better preparation. What was the cause of crash? "Pilot error."

Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing your mount for a successful ride.

1. Ask yourself: When was the last time this horse was ridden.
 There are some horses that you can leave out in the pasture for weeks. You can pull them out and get on and it's like you’ve never missed a day. These kinds of horses are the exception and not the rule. The longer it has been since the horse was ridden, the more diligent you should be in taking the time to warm them up properly before mounting.

2. Do the majority of your groundwork and warming up with your horse saddled.
I see people make the mistake of spending a lot of time lunging their horse on the ground unsaddled. Then they saddle the horse, step on and get bucked off. If you need to work your horse on the ground before saddling, that's fine. But you must continue to work your horse with the saddle on to truly have them prepared.

3. Whether you are lunging your horse on a line, or free lunging them in the round pen, they must go through the full range of motion.

That means you need to send your horse out at the walk, trot and lope. They also need to change directions with some energy and impulsion. The saddle on their back feels different at the trot than it does at the walk. It also feels different at the lope compared to trotting. And when your horse turns, pushes off and goes in another direction, it’s an entirely different sensation.
Photo by Paul  Mutch

4. Is your horse traveling efficiently? As he moves through the full range of motion, is he putting 50-pounds of energy into a 30-pound job?
If so, your horse is not prepared or ready for mounting. I want to observe my horse transitioning through all the gaits and directional changes relaxed and soft. As one horseman put it, "When their tail is in the air, keep your feet on the ground.” Whether it takes five minutes or twenty-five minutes, you need to take the time it takes to have your horse warmed up and thoroughly prepared.

5. Consider your environment and conditions.
When I conduct clinics I have had people tell me, "My horse doesn't act like this at home." I am convinced that is true. He's not at home! Horses are creatures of habit and being outside of their familiar surroundings can be enough to in the least distract them, and at most have them buck you off. Also know that if it's 40 and the wind is blowing twenty miles per hour, there is a chance your horse is not going to act as nice and gentle as he did on that warm quiet summer afternoon.

This is only a partial list. It's up to you to read your horses and know what it takes to have them prepared. Don't let your mounting experience be the next to go viral on YouTube!

Richard Winters Biography

 For over 35 years Richard has dedicated himself to honing his horsemanship skills and to passing this knowledge on to others. Richard's credentials extend from the rodeo arena and high desert ranches of the west to being a highly sought after horse trainer and horsemanship clinician.

Richard Winters horsemanship journey has earned him Colt Starting and Horse Showing Championship titles. Obtaining his goal of a World Championship in the National Reined Cow Horse Association became a reality in 2005. He is an AA rated judge. Another of Richard's horsemanship goals was realized with his 2009 Road to the Horse Colt Starting Championship. Winters’ was also a Top Five Finalist at the Cowboy Dressage World Finals.
International travels include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Mexico, Scotland, Sweden and Poland where he earned the European International Colt Starting Championship Title. Richard is a "Masterful Communicator" with horses and humans alike.
We are happy to announce the 2016 release of Richard’s brand new book, “From Rider to Horseman” that was published by Western Horseman Magazine.
Richard and his wife Cheryl currently reside in Reno, Nevada, and invite you to "Connect" with Richard Winters Horsemanship on Facebook and YouTube. You can also read Winters’ horse training articles, published monthly, in many horse magazines.

     For more information about Richard Winters Horsemanship please go to wintersranch.com.

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