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Basic Horsemanship Skills

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Introduction to Extreme Mountain Trail Coaching Clinic

Equestrian sports and activities are considered one of the top three extreme, dangerous sports. Mountain Trail / Extreme Mountain Trail is a challenging discipline that requires your ability to understand and demonstrate Basic Horsemanship Skills (Skills). These Skills provide you the fundamentals required to build a bold, confident, and safe partnership with your horse, and empower you to succeed in any discipline. The Skills are not complicated and with coaching and instruction anyone can learn these Skills and begin to apply them in a short amount of time — even the most novice rider/handler.

Due to a basic lack of knowledge and experience, many recreational riders and even some competitive riders/handlers are not able to accurately evaluate their own horsemanship skills, or the training level and temperament of their horses. This is a dangerous blind spot because many inexperienced riders/handlers do not know what they do not know about the instinctual herd-based behaviors of horses, and how their behavior, as a rider/handler, plays a significant role in shaping the temperament with their horse. By learning and mastering Basic Horsemanship Skills, riders/handlers are better equipped to develop a bold, confident, and safe partnership with their equine partner.

As an equestrian coach and trainer for more than 60 years, Barbara H. Callihan’s objective has been to educate, coach, and inspire riders/handlers to look into their blind spots to discover and develop the Skills that will keep them safe, and provide them access to unlimited possibilities with their equine partners. Barbara knows that it’s possible for ANYONE to master Basic Horsemanship Skills and she encourages anyone who wants to discover the next level of their equestrian journey to seek them out and bridle them.

Making an accurate initial self-assessment and mastering the Skills is the key to safely discovering the joy of the Extreme Mountain Trail discipline.

The Introduction to Mountain Trail Coaching Clinic is not a “Horsemanship 101” course. Riders/handlers will have the opportunity to lead and/or ride their equine partners over more than 20 challenging trail obstacles of varying degrees of difficulty. Therefore, before any rider/handler and their equine partner is allowed on the Mountain Trail course at HHB Equestrian Trail Park, they must successfully demonstrate their knowledge of Basic Horseman Skills (Skills). These demonstrations generally happen during each morning of the two-day introductory clinic after the Skills have been introduced and practiced by each Participant. On day one, the skills are demonstrated in-hand, and on day two the skill are demonstrated under saddle.

Please note that riders/handlers are NOT REQUIRED to demonstrate these Skills with precision, perfection, or finesse. The intention is for the rider/handler to be aware of when their horse is ‘trying’, or when the horse needs further direction or is telling them ‘NO,’’ and then the rider/handler demonstrates their leadership, ability, and confidence to redirect their horse safely.

By ensuring each rider/handler can safely demonstrate their knowledge of required Skills we can be more certain to create a safe and rich learning environment during the clinics, where riders/handlers get more personalized attention to build on their existing skills, develop new skills, and enjoy more time on the course.

Experienced Riders/Handlers with Calm or Finished Horses

More experienced riders/handlers who are partnered with a calm and/or more finished horse, are encourage to sign up immediately for any Introduction to Mountain Trail Coaching Clinic.

Less Experienced Riders/Handlers and/or Green or Temperamental Horses

Before attempting to complete an Introductory Mountain Trail Clinic, riders/handlers who are less experienced and/or who are riding a green or temperamental horse are strongly encouraged to begin to develop the Skills needed by working with their current equestrian trainer/coach.

Riders/handers are also invited to book private or semi private lesson(s) with their horses at Happy Hoof Beats Equestrian Center. At the end of the Basic Horsemanship Skills lesson a determination will be made regarding participation in a future Introduction to Mountain Trail Coaching Clinic.

There are three possible outcomes based on an evaluation of a demonstration of Skills, and an assessment of potential safety issues:

1. Successful Demonstration of Skills:

  • Rider/Handler and equine partner have improved enough to safely continue and are cleared to register for a future Introduction to Mountain Trail Coaching Clinic

 

2. Insufficient Demonstration of Skills: Skills need more work and/or there is a safety issue

  • Rider/Handler is encouraged to seek out additional coaching to gain the knowledge and confidence to demonstrate the required Skills; if a rider/handler is already associated with a trainer or a barn they are encouraged to seek coaching from them first; or rider/handled is invited to book a series of lessons on an HHB trained school horse

 

3. Unsatisfactory Demonstration of Skills: Horse requires corrective training and/or there is a serious safety issue

  • Rider/Handler is encouraged to seek out additional coaching to gain the knowledge and confidence to demonstrate the required Skills; if a rider/handler is already associated with a trainer or a barn they are encouraged to seek coaching from them first; or rider/handled is invited to book a series of lessons on an HHB trained school horse; and
  • Rider/Handler is advised to seek out corrective* training for their horse; note: Happy Hoof Beats Equestrian Center no longer offers a corrective training program

 

Demonstrating Your Skills During the Introduction to Mountain Trail Clinic

During Introduction to Mountain Trail Coaching Clinic, rider/handlers will be able to review and demonstrate the Skills during the first two hours of the coaching clinic on each day. In-hand skills are introduced, practiced and demonstrated on the first day. Riding Skills are introduced, practiced, and demonstrated on the second day. Before lunch break on each day a determination will be made by the clinician regarding each rider/handler and equine partner pair.

There are three possible outcomes, on each day, based on an evaluation of a demonstration of Skills, and an assessment of any potential safety issues:

1. Successful Demonstration of Skills:

  • Rider/Handler and Equine Partner are qualified to continue to participate in the Introduction To Mountain Trail Clinic.

 

2. Unsatisfactory Demonstration of Skills: Rider/Handler and equine partner Skills need more work and/or there are minor safety issues:

  • If this occurs on the first day, rider/handler and equine partner will be invited to complete the coaching clinic as an Auditor; or
  • If this occurs on the second day, rider/handler and equine partner will be invited to complete the clinic in-hand instead of under-saddle; and
  • If either scenario occurs, rider/handler and equine partner will be invited to book a private or semi-private coaching session at no additional charge to do an in-depth assessment and coaching of themselves and their equine partner, in order to improve their Skills and to craft a program for them to qualify to access the trail park and other programs

 

3. Unsatisfactory Demonstration of Skills: Horse requires corrective training and/or there are serious safety issues:

  • Rider/Handler is invited to complete the coaching clinic as an Auditor; and
  • Rider/Handler is encouraged to seek out additional coaching to gain the knowledge and confidence to demonstrate the required Skills; if a rider/handler is already associated with a trainer or a barn they are encouraged to seek coaching from them first; or rider/handled is invited to book lesson(s) on an HHB trained school horse
  • Rider/Handler is advised to seek out corrective* training for the horse; note: Happy Hoof Beats Equestrian Center no longer offers a corrective training program

 

*Corrective Training

Barbara H. Callihan is available to work with rider/handler and horse pairs when the horse does not require serious corrective training. If it is determined serious corrective training is needed for the horse, you will need to work with another trainer, as Barbara no longer offers a corrective training progam.

 

Basic In-Hand Skills

Handlers are not required to demonstrate these Skills with precision or perfection. The intention is for the rider/handler to be aware of when their horse is ‘trying’, or when the horse needs further direction or is telling them ‘NO,’ and then the handler demonstrates their leadership, ability, and confidence to redirect their horse safely. These Skills are key to Mountain Trail success.

Equipment

  • Rope Halter
  • Minimum 12’ - 15’ lead line
  • No whip, crop, or flag

 

Methodology

  • Skills occur at the walk
  • Handler shows no aggravation, temper, loss of patience; all corrections and adjustments executed without emotion; humor goes a long way
  • Handler does not attempt to dominate the horse
  • No constant and incessant pulling, dragging, clucking, kissing, jerking, arm waving, and elbowing; these techniques can be used in moderation to help direct the horse
  • Horse moves forward willingly
  • Horse does not bolt/run away from handler

 

Skills

Personal Safety Bubble

  • Handler will explain and describe the importance of having a ‘Personal Safety Bubble’
  • Handler will create and maintain a ‘Personal Safety Bubble’ while demonstrating the exercises
  • When horse does not move out of handler’s ‘Personal Safety Bubble’ when asked, the handler will demonstrate his/her ability to be the leader and direct the horse appropriately

 

Leading

  • The horse will maintain a position behind or alongside the handler, whichever is asked

 

Backing Up

  • With handler facing the same direction as the horse and standing in front of their head, the handler will move backwards and the horse will back up.

 

Shoulder Yield - Turn on Haunches

  • Handler stands on the left side the horse, faces the same direction as the horse, and moves to his right; the horse moves its shoulders and hooves to the right, while turning on the haunches, and haunches remain relatively stationary
  • Handler stands on the right side the horse, faces the same direction as the horse, and moves to his left; the horse moves its shoulders and hooves to the left, while turning on the haunches, and haunches remain relatively stationary

 

Haunches Yield - Turn on the Forehand

  • Facing the horse, the handler stands in front of the horse, with a slightly loose or a soft restraint on lead line, steps to the right and then slightly forward towards their horse's haunches; he horse moves its haunches to the left, while the forehand remains relatively stationary
  • Facing the horse, the handler stands in front of the horse, with a slightly loose or a soft restraint on the lead line, steps to the left and then slightly forward towards their horse’s haunches; the horse moves its haunches to its right, while the forehand remains relatively stationary

 

Half Lunge

  • Beginning with the Leading Skill, the handler will come to a stop and direct the horse to move from the following positions — behind the handler — at the side of the handler---to the front of the handler, or side of the handler and then the handler will direct the horse to return to the original following position. Handlers feet do not move and uses minimal movement to direct the horse. This is demonstrated in both directions.

 

Fence Yield or Rail Side Pass

  • With the horse positioned facing the fence or rail, the handler will direct the horse to fence yield away from them or side pass down the fence away from them, while moving, following quietly down the fence or rail with the horse. This will be demonstrated in both directions. May be demonstrated off of the fence or rail.

 

Lunge

  • The handler will demonstrate a lunge in both directions, including a change of direction using minimum foot movements.

 

Basic Riding Skills

Riders are NOT required to demonstrate these Skills with precision or perfection. The intention is for the rider/handler to be aware of when their horse is ‘trying’, or when the horse needs further direction or is telling them ‘NO,’ and then the rider demonstrates their leadership, ability, and confidence to redirect their horse safely. These Skills are key to Mountain Trail success.

Equipment

  • No whip, crop, or flag
  • Spurs ok; when used responsibly and conservatively
  • Any style saddle from any discipline
  • Bridle
  • No hackamore bits
  • Bitless bridles are allowed; a bitless bridle is not a halter with reins; bitless bridles are a specific type of equipment available for sale
  • No riding bareback
  • No riding with a bareback pad

 

Methodology

  • Rider will have a clear concept of what they are asking when demonstrating the Skills
  • Rider exhibits control of direction and speed of their horse at all times, with safe and appropriate correction if needed
  • Riders demonstrates standing up in their stirrups at a walk, stop, turn
  • Riders demonstrate staying balanced in their saddle at all times
  • Rider does not hold onto horn to stay balance or in the saddle
  • Rider's feet to stay in stirrups at all times
  • Horse does not exhibit out of control behavior
  • Horse does not throw its head, fight the bit, or pull aggressively against rider’s hands
  • Horse does not run away
  • Horse does not bolt
  • Horse does no rubberneck
  • Horse does not rear

 

Skills — Required

  • Horse and Rider walk on fence/rails in both directions
  • Horse and Rider circle to the right at a walk
  • Horse and Rider circle to the left at a walk
  • Horses and Rider circle to the right at a trot
  • Horses and Rider circle to the left at a trot
  • Horse and Rider will stop from a walk
  • Horse and Rider will stop from trot
  • Horse and Rider will back up
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a fence yield or side-pass to the right
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a fence yield or side-pass to the left
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a ‘turn-on-the-forehand’ to the left
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a ‘turn-on-the-forehand’ to the right
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a ‘turn-on-the-haunches’ to the right
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a ‘turn-on-the-haunches’ to the left
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a figure eight at a walk
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a figure eight at a trot

 

Skills — Extra Credit

  • Horse and Rider demonstrate the canter or lope (cantelope) in both directions
  • Horse and Rider demonstrating correct lead in each direction when canteloping
  • Horse and Rider demonstrate a posting trot
  • Rider demonstrates correct diagonals at the posting trot in both directions