Most Requested Pleasure Tips by Laura Kidder



First-time horse buyers love advice, and the following is a list I've compiled over the years.  Although I have been riding Tennessee Walking Horses for years, I came from a Quarter/Horse and Arabian background and these tips will certainly work for any breed!  Please feel free to email me if you have a helpful tip and I would love to include it!  Scroll down for links.


1.         Do not tie your horse with a long lead.  I see this all the time where “considerate” owners tie their horses on a long line to the side of their trailer or a fence so that their horses can graze.  Your horse should not be able to lower its head to a position where it can get a foot over the rope.  I personally saw a horse which was tied this way get his foot around and over the rope, panic, and literally “saw” his foot into such an injury that he was rendered lame for life.  Each time anyone would approach him to untangle him, he would panic again, causing deeper cuts.


2.         Not in a trailer, either!  You will do your horse a favor to tie him short enough so that he cannot turn his head more than ninety degrees either way.  If he gets his head down and a foot over his lead, he can tear your trailer up while inflicting damage to himself, not to mention the difficulty in helping a panicking horse inside a trailer.


3.         Do not leave halters on in the pasture or the stall.   You wouldn’t believe what a horse can get its halter hung on, including its own foot (while scratching its face).  Worst case scenario is death from a broken neck.


4.         Breast straps are functional They’re not just for decoration.  Flopping, loose breast straps are not holding the saddle in place, so adjust the straps where the breast strap fits snugly so the saddle will not slide back.


5.         Do not feed horses in a group.  No matter how much you think you know your horse, or how much you think your horse loves you, feed does to horses what money does to humans:  brings out the Neanderthal!  When you walk into a group (more than one) of horses with a feed bucket, a primeval instinct of survival kicks in, creating intense competition and when kicking at another horse to climb to the top of the hierarchy, a horse never checks to see that you’re not in his line of fire before declaring war.  I personally saw a friend of mine get her arm broken this way, moments after I warned her, even though she was sure her horses would never hurt her.  She was lucky it was just her arm and not her head!


6.            Pasture horses are happier, easier to enjoy.  Horses don’t cause as much trouble and set up as many bad habits if they’re allowed to “be horses”.  If you want your horse to stay pretty all year, stall him out of the damaging rays of the sun during the daytime and allow him to graze at night.  He’ll stay glossy and dark, but mentally healthier and happier.


7.         Stay out of the horse’s mouth.  When jumping obstacles, riders frequently unintentionally snatch their horse’s mouth for balance as they land.  You can avoid this if you will take the hand you are holding the reins in (both hands if applicable) and right before the horse jumps, grab a firm handful of his mane about halfway up his neck (toward his ears) with the reins locked in with his mane.  Release after you land, and there is absolutely no way you can hurt him if you follow this procedure.


8.            Compromise.  Forward motion avoids trouble.  Try to control your panic if your horse is edgy and trying to move around against your will.  If he’s that agitated, you don’t want to set up a confrontation with him, but you don’t want to let him get away with disobedience either, so simply let him walk, but control where he is walking.  As long as you are moving forward, your horse is least likely to rear or throw a fit and fall down on you.  Make no mistake – a horse will hurt himself while throwing a fit, and in the process, you may be injured.  Horses are not intelligent enough to realize that their tantrums may result in their suffering.  Both you and your horse come to a compromise – he wants to move and you want him to stand still.  Let him move, but you control where he moves.


9.         Check and release.  Try not to hang on his mouth to slow or stop him.  This will develop a hard, unresponsive mouth.  Pull quickly and firmly (check) until you feel at least a change in speed, then immediately release.  He might not stop, but don’t stay in his mouth until he does.  He needs to receive a reward for responding, even though it wasn’t the exact response you were looking for.  The release is his reward.  Then check again and repeat until he slows to the speed you want or until he halts, if you want a halt.


10.       Never say “whoa” unless you mean it.  To slow down, talk to him in soothing tones and use a different verbal command than your command for halting, such as “easy” or “walk”.  When you do say “whoa”, MAKE HIM WHOA!!


11.       Don’t dismount immediately after riding.  When you return to the barn (or trailer) after a ride, spend time just sitting on your horse to discipline him in patience, which will actually help prevent him from becoming barnsour.


12.       Don’t take off immediately after mounting.  Practice sitting still, or if he’s too frisky to stand completely still, practice moving but not going anywhere.  He will soon learn that your mounting him does not mean you’re going to take off immediately, and he will eventually learn to stand completely still while you mount.


13.       Cross ditches at an angle to avoid jumping.  Slow down before you get to your obstacle and check, release to avoid getting up momentum to jump.  In competitive riding, you are penalized if your horse rushes down or up an incline because a true pleasure horse works relaxed and on a loose rein.  Practice stopping and standing in the middle of an obstacle, such as a ditch, to dissuade jumping in the long term.


14.       Before returning to the barn, head back out.  If you ride your horse at home, he will frequently develop a habit of “barn-sourness”, which is quite unpleasant.  Instead of returning from a ride and going straight to the barn to unsaddle, make a 180 and head back out again, or completely bypass the entrance to your property two or three times.  Then, when you do get back to the barn, sit on him for awhile before dismounting.


15.       Safety tip:  Wait until everyone is mounted before taking off.  Horses are naturally herd-bound creatures, and it’s a rare creature that will stand perfectly still and wait for you to get completely in the saddle while all his buddies are leaving him.


16.       Let your horse move naturally.  Once again, don’t hang onto the reins.  You are riding a gaited horse, which moves faster than stock breeds, so let him move out freely in his flat or running walk at the beginning of a ride.  If he’s of a more spirited nature, he will resent being suppressed to a “dog walk” and trying to suppress him at the start of a ride may cause him to be fractious.  Let him wear off some steam before you start demanding precision.


17.       Safety tip regarding child riders:  If your horse is inclined to toss his nose and a child is going to be riding him, put a tie-down on him.  If a horse is allowed to toss his nose, he can sometimes flip his bit, and should he decide to run with the bit upside down, a child cannot stop him.  An adult friend of mine recently experienced this and now walks with a steel rod in his leg.  Some people erroneously believe Walking Horses aren’t supposed to wear tie-downs.  (Some also believe Walking Horses aren’t supposed to canter!)  Check your old Voice Magazine copies – they had an excellent article on how to use tie-downs awhile back.


18.       Check tack before riding.  Be sure nothing is flopping to alarm your horse, and please make sure your bit is not hanging halfway out of your horse’s mouth or clanging against his teeth, my personal pet peeve.  Most bits should be fitted with a wrinkle or two in the corners of your horse’s mouth.  If you use a cotton girth, be sure it is clean or it will hold sand and work very much like sandpaper, causing girth galls.


19.            Inspect “boogers”.  If your horse shies at an obstacle, be patient and insist that he walk completely up to the offending obstacle (i.e., trash cans, mailboxes, signs, etc.).  It may take many minutes to finally convince him to touch it with his nose, and you may actually have to lead him up to it, but it will pay off eventually.  I had a mare once that would automatically proceed toward whatever spooked her because she knew she would be asked, and eventually she quit shying altogether because she learned to trust me. 


20.       Be trustworthy.  Never, ever make your horse inspect anything that will hurt or reasonably scare him.  Also, never expose him to dangerous situations and you will earn his trust.  This policy will pay great dividends, because as he learns to trust you, he will not have a reason to refuse anything you ask of him, and eventually, he won’t!


21.       Never completely trust a stallion!  While a lot of Tennessee Walking Horse stallions are remarkably docile and even quite loveable, they are driven (and ruled) by a hormonal urge to reproduce, and their instinct to be territorial can be dangerous if you should lower your guard and get caught in the crossfire!  I used to ride a stallion which was exceptionally quiet and docile, but every once in a while, a certain gelding would set his temper off, and he would charge them, even with me in the saddle.  Always err on the side of caution and never drop your guard with a stallion, no matter how well you think you know him.


22.        Wear safety gear!  Although I frequently don't practice what I preach (I've been known to ride barefooted and bareback quite often!), I do believe boots are mandatory around horses.  I have had horses with shoes on step on my bare foot and then twist and turn on it.  Also, a bare foot will go right through a stirrup and if your horse should ever get spooked and catch you off guard, bolting and running, you might be dragged from the stirrup.  A young girl in East Texas died this way in 2002, so it does happen.  When placing your foot in the stirrup, be sure to have the ball of your feet ONLY on the stirrup.  Don't have your arches in the stirrup -- that's too far in.  An approved safety helmet is a good idea, too.  These precautions are recommendations just as seat belts are in a car.


23.        Never tie yourself to your horse.  This may sound funny, but I have seen people lead their horse through their suburban neighborhood for exercise, and they are tempted to tie the lead rope around their waist or wrap it a couple of times around their shoulder.  A friend of mine did this while she was lunging her colt.  She wrapped the excess line around her shoulder a couple of times, and when the neighbor cranked a loud engine, the colt bolted, which jerked the owner down, dislocated her shoulder and broke her collar bone. 


24.    Arena Riding:  When you ride in the arena, try not to stop your horse at the gate, or even at the same place each time you finish riding and dismount.  Riders who make it a habit to dismount at the same place each time give their horse an opportunity to set up 'sour' behavior, and your horse may begin to exhibit 'ring sourness', where he misbehaves, dances around or throws a fit each time he reaches the gate, or the "finish line", in his mind.  Try dismounting in the center of the ring, getting off and leading your horse out, then the next time, on the south side, next time, north side, etc.


25.    Always lead with a lead rope:  When moving your horse around, even if it is just across the hall from one stall to another, always use a lead rope.  Anything could happen, and for example, if your horse were to get spooked, he could lunge back and cause injury (such as dislocated shoulders, rope burns or in one case that I heard of, amputated fingers!).


26.    Make your horse face you:  When you get ready to turn your horse loose, always make him turn and face you, unsnap the lead rope or take off the halter, and be prepared to get back out of the way FAST, because he may be feeling really good and happy to be free, anticipating his run around the pasture.  A lot of times, a horse will kick up with his hind feet as he runs off, and he can inadvertently kick you in the process.


27.    No excess protein!!!!:  (I don't know if I can emphasize this strongly enough.)  Protein can turn your kitten of a horse into a mountain lion!  Most pleasure horses are only ridden once or twice weekly, and they just don't require 14% or 16% feed.  In fact, with a good pasture, they really don't require feed at all -- that's what God made grass for, and it's the healthiest diet for them, but who can resist giving them a scoop now and then?  If your horse does not have access to free exercise and roughage, then put him on a good 10% (no more than 12%) protein feed and all the good grass hay you care to afford him.  (Limit his alfalfa hay -- it's 18% and above in protein.) 


28.    Avoid smooching your horse!:  So many people try to treat horses like dogs, and they want their horses to LOVE them.  That's a natural way to feel, but nature's balance requires Love and Fear.  Proper balance is called "Respect", and a horse who does not respect a person can never truly love them.  When a horse has proper respect, then he loves his owner properly.  Horses who are allowed to nuzzle are likely to graduate to nibbling, then nipping, and ultimately feeling the freedom and power to bite.  This can be dangerous, and no matter how much you believe your horse "loves" you, remember that he may not be aware of how much stronger he is than you are, and you can be hurt accidentally.  





Riding horses several hours a day dries my hands out and makes callouses.  I try to wear gloves, but frequently I don't.  My hands are beginning to look like a farmer's hands!  lol  I found this fantastic solution that makes my hands feel like a new baby's!  It is a 4-step process (with a relaxing exfoliation in the middle).  No, I'm not making any money off this endorsement -- I just love the stuff and thought I'd pass this tip along to my fellow horse lovers!  Click on the set below to see more information.







Hock: Financial condition of all horse owners.

Stall: What your rig does at rush hour in an unfamiliar city on the way to a big horse show

A Bit: What you have left in your pocket after you've been to your favorite tack shop.

Fence: Decorative structure built to provide your horse with something to chew on.

Horse Auction: What you think of having after your horse bucks you off.

Pinto: Green coat pattern found on freshly washed light colored horses left unattended for 2 minutes.

Well Mannered: Hasn't stepped on, bitten, or kicked anyone for a week.

Rasp: Abrasive metal tool used to remove excess skin from ones knuckles.

Lunging: Popular training method in which a horse exercises their owner by spinning them in circles until dizzy.

Gallop: Customary gait a horse chooses when returning back to the barn.

Nicely Started: Lunges, but not enough health insurance to even think about riding him.

Colic: Gastrointestinal result of eating at horse fair food stands.

Colt: What your mare gives you when you want a filly.

Easy to Load: Only takes 3 hours, 4 men, a 50lb bag of oats, and a tractor with loader.

Easy to Catch: In a 10x10 stall.

Easy Rider: Rides good in a trailer; not to be confused with "ride-able".

Endurance Ride: End result when your horse spooks and runs away with you.

Hives: What you get when receive the vet bill for your 6 horses, 3 dogs, 4 cats, and 1 donkey.

Hobbles: Walking gait of a horse owner after their foot has been stepped on by their horse.

Feed: Expensive substance used to manufacture manure.

Dog House: What you are in when you spend too much money on grooming supplies and pretty halters.

Light Cribber: We can't afford to build anymore fencing or box stalls for this buzz saw on four legs.

Three Gaited Horse: A horse that. 1) trips, 2)stumbles, 3) falls.


-To induce labor in a mare? Take a nap.

-To cure equine constipation? Load them in a clean trailer.

-To cure equine insomnia? Take them in a halter class.

-To get a horse to stay very calm and laid back? Enter them in a liberty class.

-To get a horse to wash their own feet? Clean the water trough and fill it with fresh water.

-To get a mare to come in heat? Take her to a show.

-To get a mare in foal the first cover? Let the wrong stallion get out of his stall.

-To make sure that a mare has that beautiful, perfectly marked foal you always wanted?  Sell her before she foals.

-To get a show horse to set up perfect and really stretch? Get him out late at night or anytime no one is around to see him.

-To induce a cold snap in the weather?  Clip a horse.

-To make it rain? Mow a field of hay.

-To make a small fortune in the horse business?  Start with a large one.







P. O. Box 878
Hardin, Texas 77561

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