How do you teach beginners to post, two point and do their first cross rails?
I've always been an advocate of either a neck strap, grabbing mane, or a grab strap (the 'Oh Sh*t!' strap!) on the saddle. When kids or adults are just beginning to ride, in my opinion most don't have the base of support in their legs, let alone the control they need over their bodies to not slam back into the saddle as they post. I feel that is first and foremost to move forward.
In order to teach them to post, two point, or do their first 'jump', I think the more effective way would be to encourage them to grab mane or a neck strap, as opposed to trying to learn to post or do cross rails with hands held high... effectively balancing on their horses mouths and telling them "WhoaGoWhoaGo" every stride.
But, I recently came across someone who really argued against using a neck strap, grabbing mane, etc, saying they needed to learn how to do it without additional aids. Thus, she has everyone posting with hands high as they take their first trot steps (no matter the effect on the horses mouths). And, her thinking for cross rails is hands need to be high and floating over the neck so riders are sinking back in their heels. We're talking rank, real beginners here, who I'd think need to 'wean' off the neck strap, etc as they became more balanced and secure in their seat and leg. And, no... of course they're jumping too soon if they don't have a good base, but her rationale is she needs to keep them interested.
But, hey, maybe I'm wrong. And, I'm ok with that! So, opinions welcome. Grab strap, mane, neck straps for beginners... yes or no? It's been 40 years since I learned to ride, and most of that constituted torturing and being repeatedly dumped off a Shetland pony on my parents farm. That's not an option for a lot of people today... think once-a-week lessons.
OK, I'll go first. I find the neck strap makes them lean too far forward. They end up flopping all over the lower half of the neck and no one can post there. I also do not like the grab strap tied between the 2 D rings on the front of a saddle, because one in my barn failed to let go as she came off....spiral fracture of the arm! Here is what I DO like: Use a big square pad and put it quite far forward. Then put the saddle on top of that. I have the rider hold onto the edge of the saddle pad where it sticks out in front of the saddle. It's not nearly as far forward as the neck strap and gives a hand-hold position that is much closer to where their hands will be when they have the courage and balance to let go of it.
I teach the grab mane/neck strap/keep hands down and forward method. For one, it is far better to drop forward in front of the motion than to fall back behind the motion (and grab the face), especially over jumps. Plus, keeping the hands down and forward encourages the upper body to stay in front of the vertical which greatly reduces the likelihood of developing a chair seat. It also encourages them to sit a little softer- especially on the down of the posting trot.
I gradually wean them off the neck when they have balance and slowly teach them to take up contact. Horses are happy, kids learn proper position and become empathetic riders who are soft on the horse's mouth.
ETA: I actually prefer teaching them to press their knuckles into the neck for a bit of support (like 5ish pounds of pressure, not their whole upper body weight). When they are first learning to jump or canter I let them grab mane if needed.
Though I'm not a trainer, I do remember learning how to trot years ago. My trainer had me on a lunge line, and then she'd tie the reins. I'd hold a crop in each hand, just to have something vaguely rein sized because I never knew what to do with my hands without reins in them. I'd have to hold a bit of mane with my pinkies or have a certain part of the crop touching the pony's neck. This helped with hand positioning, and she didn't have to worry about me catching the pony's mouth when I got off-balance.
Jumping I was always told to grab mane at a certain point, and let my body "follow", which is really hard to do over little cavaletti
I think using mane for balance was pretty helpful, because I was able to adjust as needed, plus it put my hands in a more correct spot that something like a grab strap would, and having hands/arms in the right position does a lot for balance!!
Last edited by Electrikk; Oct. 16, 2012 at 05:13 PM.
Reason: misspelling mane...
I like mares. They remind me of myself: stubborn know it alls who only acknowledge you if you have food.
Hannah B. Nana: 50% horse, 50% hippo
Fiona: can't decide between jumpers or napping
I teach a total beginner the basics (ie, posting) at the walk and trot with me leading the horse on a lead line and running beside. I take the reins away and lead the horse myself so that using the reins for balance never becomes a habit.
If they have trouble catching the rhythm I have them post the walk, or even the halt, as I gradually increase the count of my up! down! up! down!
Many times people just post too slow to catch up with the rhythm. If you have them post too fast at the halt or walk they can then catch it at the trot and go from there.
I think I was taught with a neck strap, but the would probably suggest lunge line lessons first and foremost, but of course that only really works in private lessons. I've never actually ridden on the lunge, ever(!) But think it's a great training tool. My current trainer uses lunge lines for all of her new beginners.
I teach them to be strong and balanced first before we start jumping...We start with poles and raise them in increments over months of time...It takes time....lots of strength building exercises to promote that balance.