Let’s Discuss: Sharing the Saddle

I’ve always had pretty strong opinions about who rides my horses. Maybe I failed sharing in kindergarten, maybe I didn’t. But when it comes to who gets on my horse, not everyone makes the cut.

Partially this is because I do so much training myself, and I subscribe to the theory that every minute you are in the saddle, you are training the horse. Not that mistakes can’t be made, but that the horse learns by its experiences. Lots of good experiences create a positive and relaxed horse that does its job happily and correctly, but unfortunately it seems one very bad experience can have just as lasting repercussions. So in my opinion, it’s better to have a rider that will take care to leave your horse a happier, fitter horse ride in your absence, than someone you have less confidence in get on at all.

Bette riding Ivan when I was recovering from the fractured ankle

Bette riding Ivan when I was recovering from the fractured ankle

It doesn’t help that my horses have never been the easy sort to ride. Merry could be a hot sensitive mess if you upset her. Ivan was sweet until he wasn’t, and then good luck to you, sir. And Foster is just, I don’t know.. tricky. I would not describe Foster as vindictive in any way ever; he will try his heart out for you until you insult him, in which case recently he’s been fairly glad to give a little kick out or buck. Fair enough to me.

Which makes me flattered when others ask me to hot on their horses- here with the lovely Eros

Which makes me flattered when others ask me to hop on their horses- here with the lovely Eros

But Foster is also kind of a funny guy in that he’s fairly hard to get round. Obviously I have figured him out, and describe his as a somewhat ‘reactive’ ride- I’m constantly communicating with his mouth, softening, insisting, waiting, being quiet even, but it’s a fairly ongoing discussion. Others who get on him may not quite understand his language, and get frustrated when he doesn’t get round for them. The riders that seem to get along with him best are those that have ridden different types of sensitive, tricky horses as they tend to have the most understanding hands and know when to be pliable with their elbows/seat/etc and when to insist.

I let my sister on him once because, well, sisters

My sister has sat on him a couple times because, well, sisters.

I guess my horse isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I suppose that’s alright with me. Maybe it’s a good thing that he’s a fussy horse, since I’m a fussy owner when it comes to sharing him. I know everyone is different though, and want to hear what you guys think!

Do you let other people ride your horse? If so, how do you decide who gets on? How does your horse react to different riders?

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16 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Sharing the Saddle

  1. I’m pretty finicky here, too. Pig is a (how did you put it?) sensitive hot mess when he gets upset, and any changes are likely to upset him. He actually has a great brain, though, and doesn’t seem to care if I put rank beginners on him. He can differentiate between someone asking for something in a blunt way, and someone not knowing what the hell they are doing. So, my young cousins and my husband have been on him. As well as friends. Just for quick little turns in the arena.

    When it comes to people who know what they are doing? My trainer has ridden him once, just to get a feel for him. He did great with her, and was soft and relaxed after her ride. That isn’t my usual experience. I’ve had a few people hop on him when I’m having a problem and need to figure out if it’s me or him. If someone else gets on him and has the same problem, that’s usually an indication. Still, I only ever put people on him while I’m around and can sort out problems. And only EVER when I have the time between their ride and a show to sort things out again. He tends to backtrack in his training pretty severely after someone else has been on him.

    He’s a one person horse. There aren’t too many of those truly out there, but he’s definitely one.

  2. I definitely understand this. With Estella, I have been the only one to sit on her. For one, it is a pride thing. I could have had my instructor start her for me, but there is something so special about doing it myself. For two, I do things way differently that most. I rely so much on energy and body language in the saddle that I try not to use my legs or reins at all at the stage. Especially because she is still learning, I think that EVERY ride counts. Not to mention that I know no one else has the same emotional investment in her and I would hate for someone to not be as concerned about her happiness as I am.
    As far as trainers, I would allow my Parelli instructors to rider her, but no one else. Luckily they are huge advocates for me doing things on my own, so it is has never been a problem. Maybe I am over protective and a little crazy, but Estella is worth it to me. So I don’t think there is anything wrong with not sharing, even if it isn’t what we learned in kindergarten 😉

  3. funny – another blogger (Karley) recently mused on this subject, so it’s been on my mind lately! never having had my own horse, i can only hypothesize: i tend toward possessiveness and strongly suspect i won’t really want to share when the day comes haha….

    that said tho – i think horses CAN benefit from occasionally having a different rider, even of the beginner variety. provided there aren’t really any deeply negative experiences, i think it gives horses a chance to learn a little tolerance and a sense of humor… but maybe that isn’t a priority for the show horse? idk…

  4. I could not agree more. My current horses are both green, and I have them on a particular riding schedule that is easy for me to maintain since I work at the barn full time. This being said, sometimes I need a break from one or both of my horses, so what I do in that case is get either my coach or the barn manager to ride them for me. This gives me the opportunity to watch my horses go, and with experienced riders on them they may notice habits either of my horses have picked up from me, and my coach can then help me correct them.
    While there are some very sucessful and capable riders at my barn that would probably do fine on my horses while I’m away, I just prefer my coach to ride them at this early stage in their riding careers.
    In the past with the experienced horses I have leased I rarely was away that I needed someone to ride, but when I was away I prefered asking someone that I knew liked my lease horse, would spend the time to properly groom them, and would enjoy riding them. Those horses were not green like my current horses, so therefor I didn’t feel like they needed to be ridden by someone “capable”, they could just enjoy a pleasure ride and some attention while I’m gone.

  5. I am very picky as well. My horse liked a super soft ride and gets upset very easily. It has taken me a year and a half since he came off the track to instill some confidence in him, I wouldn’t want that to be shaken. As of yet, I have been the only one to ride him

  6. I will let pretty much anyone sit on Simon and do a pleasure hack walk/trot/canter. His approved jumping list is much smaller, and his approved list of riders who I trust to ride him when I’m NOT around is pretty damn small indeed. He’s a delicate creature!

  7. After I started care leasing him, I was the only person to ride Murray for close to ten months. My trainer got on him for 5 minutes each during two different dressage lessons to help me out, and then happily handed the reins back to me. It turns out though, that when you’re not asking him to do anything challenging (dressage), Murray is quite happy to have pretty much any old schmo sitting on him. So I’ve had a fair number of people ride him since June-ish and it’s gone well, but I’ve almost always been there.

    I agree that I want someone who cares enough to leave him better trained than when they got on him, even if it’s little things like tolerating a different rider’s weight without fussing or giving and softening to someone other than me. Fortunately, all of my friends do care about that, so I’m very lucky.

  8. I chuck just about anyone on my horse. Reasons being,
    1) she’s downright fun
    2) if you know what you’re doing she’s more fun
    3) if you don’t know what you’re doing, but try hard, she’s still fun
    4) if you think you know what you’re doing but you actually don’t it’s at least fun for me to watch 😉

    #4 may have been a little snarky. I suppose I won’t put just anyone on my horse but I certainly don’t mind putting anyone on if I’m there to supervise/give advice. I guess I just think she’s a cool little horse, and want everyone else to think so too haha.

  9. I’ll put pretty much anyone on my horse – barnmates, friends, hubby, family, as long as the situation is safe (ie, he’s been exercised, its not too windy, etc). I think its just so good for horses to be ridden by others, whether experienced riders and Hemie having to figure out what they want, or pony rides where he needs to just be a good boy and walk calmly. I was more selective when he was fresh off the track, but he knows enough now that I expect him to step up to any situation. However, if I were to lease him or allow him to be used for lessons or something, I would be VERY selective for precisely the reasons you mention.

  10. I don’t have a horse of my own, but if I did I would let friends ride. I want an OTTB when I am a good enough rider, so I will mostly let friends who ride or trainers ride him unless he’s one of the calmer ones. This is more about safety because even though I too believe that you are training your horse for good and bad from the minute you take him out of the pasture, I wouldn’t be too worried as long as I have confidence in the person as a rider or if I am there.

  11. Growing up my mom always told me to make sure my horse could have a life after competing. Could they take a timid old lady through the woods at a leisurely pace? Or could they take an up and coming rider around their first horse trials? What is your horse’s retirement plan when their body starts to fall apart and they need to scale back what they’re doing? So with this in mind- my ultimate goal is that anyone, or at least a decent enough rider will one day be able to ride my horse- He’s not at that point right now and I am very wary about who I let ride Chimi at this point in his training, but ultimately would love for him to be able to pack anyone around and take good care of them 🙂

  12. My basic criteria is: if they’re going to be doing things at or above my level (for now, that’s jumping 2’6″), then they have to be a better rider than me. Not so much because I think they’ll mess Addy up, but because I want every ride to be a confidence booster for her. She happily carts a beginner around a walk-trot lesson every week, but as things start getting more complicated, she starts getting more complicated. I think it’s a ton of fun, but I want to make sure that anyone on her is having fun too and not just trying to figure out what buttons to press.

  13. I’m in agreement with Lauren — I’ll let a lot of people hop on and w/t/c, but to actually jump and school my horse, the list is about… 2.

  14. My mare is so young. A baby. I take pride in doing SO many firsts with her on my own. That’s what I wanted.
    But as she goes along I’m hoping to have the opportunity to share her with friends, so they can get a feel for what she’s like.
    I want to make her awesome!!
    Of course….
    She’s really, eh, not, awesome right now 😦

    • That is what makes babies so fun- watching them learn all of the skills that make them awesome with time! One of my favorite things to do is look through Foster’s ‘baby’ pics and see how far he’s come! All about the journey!

      • True. It does feel really rewarding when looking back at all I’ve taught her in just a few months.
        Right now she’s in an ugly phase in the arena, after her first few rides not really wanting to play along. Argh!

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