HORSELOGS.COM - Feature Article from Lindsay Grice...
Feature Article from Lindsay Grice, May 2006

Q. At our barn there is a "tongue in cheek" policy that anyone who falls off during a lesson has to buy their instructor a Coke. Is falling off to be taken so lightly? As a novice rider can I expect to fall off regularly?

A. Falling off hurts! It can shake a rider's confidence so much that many choose to abandon riding altogether and can scare their horse, too. I hate to see a student fall off, I hate to fall off myself, and so I do everything I can to minimize risks and lay a strong foundation.

Part of the stretching and growing process is in taking risks. What a sense of accomplishment to successfully face our fears and go for it! But it is the instructor's or trainer's job to determine which risks are appropriate.

In my program, we lay a solid foundation of understanding and build upon that like a flight of stairs, by challenging the rider or horse with a new skill as they master the step before. For example, we wouldn't go on to a skill at the canter until it was going well at the trot. Also, as an airplane has all it's controls tested before it is allowed to take off, I make sure students have an understanding of the "three P's" before we fly up to the next level.


Pace is the rhythm that the rider decides his horse should move to. The key is that the rider picks the pace and has the skills to adjust his horse, matching it exactly. If a rider is having trouble achieving a slow, sitting trot, he'll be out of control at the canter. If a horse is just understanding a skill at the walk, our eagerness to try it out at a faster pace adds anxiety and risk.

Path If each section of the horse's body is compared to a train car, path is the track, and lateral control describes a rider's ability, through use of different aids, to keep each car on the track. Without mastering this control how can you direct your horse to the center of a jump? Horses that "bulge" toward the gate or pick up the wrong lead can be corrected if the rider understands lateral control. Keeping the horse's body aligned during a spook or buck will prevent the situation from getting completely out of control.

Position is my term, referring to having your horse on the bit, in a frame, similar to a coiled spring, which increases maneuverability and responsiveness. All smooth transitions such as stepping into a canter (without the racing trot beforehand), and accurate turns all require a measure of collection. The horse is much more focussed, elastic, and comfortable to ride when he's in a frame, minimizing your chances of falling off. Position also points us to the rider's position on the horse. A rider who isn't firmly anchored on the horse with independent control of her hands and legs is heading for a fall . The principles of centrifugal force and inertia we learned about in science class come to life when riders try to eliminate important steps !


If a fall does happen, the old saying is to get right back on. I can go along with this principle ONLY after taking some time to analyze what went wrong. What were the steps that led to the incident? How can it be prevented? Do I need to drop down some steps to rebuild the skills and confidence of my horse and myself?. Becoming an accomplished rider skill by skill may not appeal to thrill seekers, but, like the Tortoise and the Hare, slower is faster in the long run!

Q. I want to compete in western riding with my horse. How do I go about introducing my horse to flying changes?

A. Western riding is one of my favorite events. Those smooth flying changes without any visible cueing is a real accomplishment and a lot of fun to work towards. Some building blocks should be in place before you teach lead changes.

1. Knowledge of leads. Many horses are taught leads in relation to direction of travel (always picking up the inside lead as you travel around the rail) Instead I want my horses to know their leads in relation to the way I position their bodies. I should be able to pick up either lead, on a straight line anywhere in the arena.

2. Counter canter. My horse should stay balanced and comfortable cantering on the outside lead. I don't want him to relate a change of lead to a change of direction. This is the cause of anticipation. I will change from the counter lead to the true lead and back again at any spot in the arena. The horse never predicts where it's going to happen.

3. Leg yield at the canter. To prepare for a flying change, initially I leg yield away from the side I want to change to. To avoid anticipation in response to this preparatory step, I may leg yield and not ask for a change at all. For example, on the right lead, I may canter the horse over away from my left leg and then back again. We're not ready to begin lead changes until he's calm and organized traveling back and forth on either lead. With these steps in place you are ready to introduce a flying change.

Who Is
Lindsay Grice?
Lindsay Grice is a member of the American Quarter Horse Association's Professional Horseman Association and an Equine Canada Certified Level 2 Coach. She teaches horsemanship clinics in the United States and Canada and writes articles for several equine publications. She has made appearances on television and radio, speaking about horse related issues.

Lindsay has often been Ontario's top ranked Jr. Hunter Under Saddle rider, and in recent years has ridden several horses to AQHA's national high point year end status. Lindsay has a reputation for successfully training clients horses for new events - including Western Riding, Horsemanship, Equitation and classes over fences. She strives to create thinking horseman of her students by clearly communicating the how's and why's of riding.