The Horse Back Riding Checklist

Would you fly in a plane with a pilot who you know would not do a preflight checklist?

You never thought of horse training and airplanes would belong in the same sentence would you. Me neither.

Well lets hope that they don’t. When you board your horse and find out that he has a problem and you forgot your boarding pass.

Well lets just say that they won’t let you board.

There are lots of things to check in a plane before flying. The checklist helps ensure nothing was missed.

Does it mean the plane definitely won’t have a problem.


But if there is a problem, at least it’s caught “on the ground.”

And that brings me to my point.

Notice that last part of the sentence I just wrote – “on the ground.”

When we get on a horse to go riding, I like to do a checklist of things and do my best to look for any potential problems with my horse.

Here’s a sample checklist you can do.

First, I spend a few moments with the horse and buddy up with him.

Horse’s like being rubbed over the eyes so I’ll do that and whatever else he likes.

Why do this?

Because to pull him out of the field and quickly saddle up and go is too fast. I like to spend time and build a bond.

Next, I’ll place my hand on the other side of his nose and pull his head around to me. (Do both sides)

I want to look for an nice, smooth arch in his neck. If I see a kind of flat stiffness in his neck, I may suspect neck pain.

And if I do, I’ll make the choice of either not riding and getting him help and/or being careful when I ride.

Next, I’ll check his spine and look for pain.

The reason I do this is horses often buck because they’re in pain – not because they do it just to do it.

Just like we’d want to get rid of a rock in our shoe, the horse is simply trying to curb the pain.

Although their pain tolerance is amazing, they can still try to rid themselves of pain.

I know of a horse that reared and bucked after years of nearly perfect behavior because he had a tumor in his withers.

Fortunately, the owners suspected pain instead of an illtempered horse – they got him fixed.

Anyway, if the horse has back pain, it’s very important to know. You’ll have to make the choice of not riding or being careful when you do.

Plus, if you can tell where the pain is then you can judge whether or not the saddle is going to exacerbate it.

As long as all checks out from here, I can put on the saddle.

When I put on the saddle, I walk ’em around and watch for any adverse reactions to it. If there are any, I try to solve them.

Next, I check his spook meter. Just like humans, he can have an off day and he may be more spooky than normal.

Using the ol’ stick with a plastic bag is a good way to check him. Carefully intro- duce it (as you hopefully have before) and desensitize.

If he’s okay with it, then go to the next step.

Here you can move him around with the lead rope.

It’s like lungeing only I don’t run ’em around – it’s more of a relaxed walk.

I just like to move them in a circle and often change the direction.


Because when you get a horse to move his feet you establish yourself as the leader.

That in turn creates respect.

You want respect from the ground be- cause it transfers to the saddle…where you need it most.

Anyway, that’s a brief look at a pretty good checklist.

If you don’t ride your horse much, I’d certainly suggest you do this for your own safety.

After all, it’s not easy benefiting from having a horse if your safety is jeapordized.

Thank you for your visit.

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