• Theo

Confidence under the saddle - Neens Carrie

Updated: May 3, 2021

Working with Carrie this past year or so, I started to understand her issues with being ridden. Many people had labelled her a problem horse and trainers hadn’t yet managed to get her easily rideable but it turns out, it’s a confidence thing! Before getting on to ride, I was determined to get her confident with a saddle on her back.

Step 1: Make sure she is happy without the saddle.

This may sound obvious but one of the big struggles I had was teaching her to canter. All the technical stuff, I did first without a saddle on her back. I wanted to be sure that she could figure it out without too much else going on. Once it was clear that she understood what she needed to do, it was a case of moving to the next step.

Step 2: Walking

Ok, so I know this seems obvious but what I mean is that we only need walk to start with. It gave her a chance to understand that the saddle is just a part of a relaxing routine rather than her thinking that the saddle means hard work or scary work. It’s a boring step, but it’s crucial in order for her to get used to the concept of the saddle just being an extra tool.

Step 3: Trotting

Naturally, when she was comfortable with walking, I added in trotting. To start with, it’d just be a few strides and then we built the time up from there. In the early phases, her trot was almost slower than a walk. Carrie was incredibly careful not to make the saddle move a lot or not to lose balance. For the time being that was ok. As long as she was doing some form of trot.

Step 4: Trotting poles

When Carrie’s trot became consistent, it was time to introduce poles! Polework is great for encouraging the right stride, keeping their mind busy and generally making the session more fun. Trotting over poles causes the saddle to move more but because Carrie knew that she’s supposed to go over a set of poles, she pushed through it, thus becoming more confident to move in the saddle.

Step 5: Canter

This is something we are still working on… Cantering causes the saddle to move in a different way and the saddle movement when she is trotting properly causes quite the distraction for her. Some days, she can manage a canter under the saddle, but other times, she’s more focused on what the saddle is doing. Once she’s happy with the canter, we should be good to go on with ridden work as it means she’s comfortable with the movement of something on her back and she should have the muscles needed to carry me.

It’s impossible to tell how long these five steps will take as every horse is different and it depends how long you can spend with your horse each day. Having really long sessions probably isn’t the best idea but practicing every day is a good way to get the fastest and most reliable outcome. The thing is, for me, I don’t want to bother riding her until she is happy with something on her back. In an ideal world, Carrie will be able to focus on what I’m asking rather than the movement on her back. I already fell off once trying to skip a step and that spooked her even more, which is why building a solid foundation is so important.

You can see our latest video which covers a few of the above steps and shows our progress:


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