Once you are comfortable riding your horse at both a walk and trot, the next speed is a lope. The nice thing is that a lope, although faster, is actually easier and smoother to ride than a trot.
Since a lot of our guests are here in Utah visiting Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park, and are quite new to horseback riding, I have come up with a few strategies that greatly improve a horseback rider;s ability to ride a horse at a faster speed, even if he is quite new to horseback riding.
1. The easiest way to learn how to lope is to lope uphill. When the horse is loping uphill, it creates an angle that makes it almost impossible for the rider to fall off as long as he simply leans forward. The way I teach a beginner to horseback riding to sit is to lean quite forward and put one hand directly on top of the saddle horn to protect his chest from hitting it, and give the horse his head until he is all the way at the top of the hill. Personally, I very rarely lope or even trot a horse up a hill because it is very good for a horse's mind and muscle building to walk up the hill instead. However, if the horse is quite used to the trail and is not of a high-strung temperament, it will not hurt him to lope uphill every once in a while.
2. If we are on flat ground, I will often tell the rider to lean forward a little and to stand up in the saddle just barely so that his back pockets touch the back of the saddle (called the "cantle"). Leaning forwad a little and standing up just a little as the horse lopes will cause you to bounce only slighly, and in a back-and-forth rhythm somewhat like a rocking chair instead of bouncing up and down right in the middle of the seat. Since we often lope in areas that are full of grass, anthill mounds, small logs, and other obstacles, the horse will probably not lope in a perfect rhythmic motion and may even have to jump over a few small things. Leaning forward a bit as the horse lopes allows the rider to be just a little bit more prepared for these kinds of sudden movements.
3. If the horse is loping in at a collected lope, with his body quite underneath himself, the horseback rider should sit in the saddle, weight totally in the seat, and simply ride with the horse's motion, never leaving the saddle even slightly. Many horseback riding schools will test their students by having them lope around the arena with a small piece of paper between them and the saddle seat. If they lose the paper, they fail the test. This may sound difficult, but I assure you it is really quite easy provided the horseback rider is relaxed (forcing himself to breath) and provided the horse is moving in a collected manner.
4. Loping a horse downhill, if done at all, should only be done very sparingly. Just like it would to a human, loping or running downhill can hurt a horse's joints and tendons. In addition, it is much more difficult to stop, and the stop you do get will be far from correct and will also be a stop that is quite hard on the horse's front legs. There simply is no real benefit to loping or running a horse down a hill, which is why i only do it if it is an emergency (which thankfully has not happened for quite some time.)
If you are ever in Utah, and especially if you come to either Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park, I hope to have you out here for a horseback riding adventure you won't soon forget!
Properly speaking, a mule is born as a cross between a male donkey called a "jack", and a female horse called a "mare." If the animal is born as a result of crossing a female donkey called a "jenny" with a male horse called a "stallion", then it is really not a true "mule", but is called a "hinny." Mules are much easier to breed for than a hinny, and are quite a bit more common.
When it comes to actually finding a mule for sale, they can typically be a little more expensive and are usually a fair amount more difficult to come by in general. Most of the people I know who have bought mules, have decided to travel back east to Amish country in order to find a good mule to purchase. The Amish still raise quite a few mules because they are their primary means of pulling farming equipment and doing work around the farm. (Though they usually use horses to pull their buggies.) Because of the amount of mules raised by the Amish, any place where there are a good number of Amish folk is a pretty good candidate for being a good place to find mules up for sale- usually some place like Missouri or Ohio.
If you're a good animal scientist, you might even decide to clone your own mule! In Idaho in 2003, researchers from Utah State University and from the University of Idaho worked together on what is called "Project Idaho" to produce the very first mule clone. They named this clone "Idaho Gem" and he went on to be a racing mule, winning a few races, and even breaking a few records.
There are many instances where a mule is better suited for a particular job than a horse; but most have to do with riding in the backcountry or packing and pulling heavy loads. A mule, due to his anatomical features discussed in the last blog, is more hardy when it comes to packing weight. This makes them an ideal choice for use as pack animals, for pulling farming equipment, and for pulling wagons.
A mule is less like likely to come down with an ailment caused by either insects, poor feed, or stress. Of course, we should never purposely subject our animals to things that will cause them harm (such as poor quality feed), but there are times when it is unavoidable if you are hundreds of miles into backcountry or desert.
Mules are also very sure-footed because of their small, narrow, but very strong hooves, making them perfect for packing and riding in rocky mountain terrain. Take a look at this link to see incredible videos of mules climbing rocks: https://youtu.be/ZizkPQevAbw A mule has a tendency to watch where every footstep falls, and also tends to place his hind feet in exactly the same place as his front when he walks, making him an ideal choice for travelling in rocky country.
Mules are also highly intelligent. It is this intelligence that, unfortunately, makes most people unable to work with them successfully. However, if you choose to learn from a successful mule trainer, you just might find yourself liking mule training even better than horse training! Especially in mountain country, many (though certainly not all) mules are able to think through sketchy situations so as not to get injured or killed, making them very reliable and safe to ride in an area where a horse would be more likely to panic and get hurt.
One final thing that must be said: Neither a mule nor a horse will learn much from a poorly skilled trainer. Plenty of horses do just as well in the mountains as most mules (though a mule will, by nature, be much more handy when it comes to rock crawling and cliff jumping). And plenty of mules do just as well in the arena as most horses. The difference is really in the training, the breeding of each individual animal, and the goal you have in mind.
If you aim to become a world-class cutter or reiner, stick with the proven, world class bloodlines that only a horse (typically a quarter horse or at least paint horse) can offer due to a hundred years of purposeful breeding. (Although, there are plenty of decent cutting and reining mules- but I'm talking about being the best in the world.)
If you aim to become a world-class top hand with packing and steep mountain country, stick with the proven, world-class bloodlines that only a mule can offer.
If you just want to ride around the trails and have fun with it on weekends or in the summer, then you will find that either a horse or a mule will likely serve you quite well- it's only dependant upon your particular tastes. It's not until you're at least a fairly skilled rider or trainer that you will really be able to form an honest, unprejudiced opinion on whether you prefer to work with a mule or a horse in any certain instance.
While Rising K Ranch has nothing but horses, you will find that if you head out to ride in either Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park, there are just as many mules as there are horses. In fact, if you go ride at Grand Canyon National Park you will find only mules and little to no horses.
So, what is the difference between a Horse and a Mule?
One difference is in their looks and body build. Mules have longer shaped heads, extremely long ears, a large muzzle, shorter backs with almost no whithers, a very short mane (often the mane will be roached) and narrower hooves. It seems the first thing most children will notice first off is the incredibly long ears a mule has in comparison to a horse.
The narrow hooves of a mule are perfectly suited for travelling on steep, narrow trails such as those in Grand Canyon National Park. Since a mule's eyes have a wider field of vision, they can see exactly where each of these narrow hooves will fall and they usually place their hind feet in the exact footprint of their front feet as they walk. This can be mighty important in steep, rocky country full of cliffs where one mistake can mean certain death for both the mule as well as the rider (as well as whomever they might land on.)
The short, sturdy backs allow an average mule to carry more weight over a longer period of time than the average horse. The short, round back can also necessitate more tack than most horses require. You can just about compare a mule's back to a 50 gallon barrel- the saddle can very easily shift around. Because they have very little whithers to hold the saddle in place, a mule very likely will require a breast collar as well as brichin' to keep the saddle from either sliding back towards the hip when going uphill or forward over the neck when going downhill.
A mule often requires less feed in order to stay healthy and also can thrive on a lower quality of feed, which is especially handy when travelling for weeks or months at a time in rough country.
If you would like to learn more about mules, one of the top mule men in the entire United States (and that means in the entire world) lives only a couple hours north of Rising K Ranch. His name is Ty Evans and he travels the entire country, as well as Canada and Australia teaching mulemanship clinics. You may find out more about Ty Evan's programs here: https://tsmules.com/
The next speed up from a walk is a trot, and the trot is the most difficult of all the horse's gaits for a beginner to feel comfortable with. The horse's trot, as far as speed is concerned, is relative to a jog. The trot is the most difficult to sit because it is the horse's most bouncy gait. In order to really explain how to ride a horse at a trot, I will have to break the trot down to two different types: The Slow, Collected Trot, and the Fast, Extended Trot.
While the slow trot is good for precise movements, the fast trot is better for covering country quickly without wearing out your horse. A cowboy will fast-trot his horse when he is riding fences or heading out a few miles to go work cattle; but once he is in the cutting pen, he will collect his horse and begin to work at the slow, collected trot.
1. The Slow, Collected Trot.
When a horse is travelling at a slow trot, he will be much less bouncy than he is at a faster trot. All you need to do to ride a horse at a slow trot is to simply relax and breathe, much like you would if the horse were at a walk. The slow trot is the perfect gait for working slower cattle and for teaching your horse to collect and flex in different ways. While the slow trot is easier to ride, it is also harder to tell your horse to do at first because the only way you can really communicate to your horse that you want him to collect his body and trot slowly is for you to be fairly precise with your leg, seat, and rein cues.
2. The Fast, Extended Trot.
Here on the trails between Zion and Bryce Canyon, the fast trot is going to be used a lot more often than the slow trot. This is because most of our riders here are fairly new to horses and are not yet ready to grasp the nuances of the collected trot, and also because when you are out on the trail, the fast trot is a lot more practical.
In order to ride a horse at a fast trot, you will need to "post." "Posting" is a method of riding a horse at a trot in such a manner as to stand up for one and a half beats, and sit down for a half beat. The manner of rising and sitting in proper rhythm saves you from getting bounced up and down in the saddle and getting beat up by it. Posting can take some people only a few minutes or even seconds to learn, and take others several hours to learn. However, it seems that once a horseback rider feels the proper rhythm even for a couple seconds, he will remember it for the rest of his life and from then on he will have little to no trouble posting at a trot.
I hope someday you will come visit us out here in Utah at Rising K Ranch and we can go out and trot the Zion/ Bryce Canyon country trails to your heart's content!
Since many who ride here at Rising K Ranch are quite new to horseback riding, and maybe are drawn to our ranch because they are visiting Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park, I sometimes give a little bit of beginner riding advice here on the "Horse Sense" blog. This particular "Horse Sense" blog will cover: "How to Ride a Horse at a Walk."
Even though the horses in western movies can gallop for days without resting, the horses here at Rising K Ranch do a lot more walking than they do any other speed. When I was growing up I had a couple horses that I worked about five days each week where my sole purpose was to make endurance horses out of them. My routine started out with a lot of walking and trotting and very little loping, but my end goal, after about 60 days, went something like this:
1. Walk for ten minutes.
2. Trot for twenty minutes
3. Lope for fifteen minutes
4. Trot for twenty minutes
5. Walk for fifteen minutes.
This was a lot of work, took a lot of time, and made the horses remain very well maintained. You will notice, however, that there is a lot more walking and trotting in that daily horse workout routine than there is loping.
In fact, during most of my own personal trail rides up the mountains here in Utah, as well as during the times gathering cattle or taking an overnight pack trip, I remain at a walk and trot almost the entire day without ever going into a lope and rarely if ever into a full run.
To answer the title question, then, here is how to ride a horse at a walk:
1. Keep your heels down and toes up. This will keep your balance proper and make your ride much more comfortable. If your heels are up, you risk spooking your horse by kicking him in the flanks, which may cause him to buck or run away with you. Even if your horse remains perfectly calm, however, riding a horse with your heels up will take a definite toll on your back, give you a horrible leg cramp, and will make you more prone to fall off the horse if he stops suddenly (even from a walk) or if you are going down even a tiny hill or dip.
2. Sit up. You don't quite need to sit like you're on parade, but you will probably feel like that is how you're sitting. If you slouch while you ride at a walk, you will hurt your back, and you will also make it more difficult to cue your horse to stop since the first cue to tell you r horse to stop is to slouch down a little in the saddle. Obviously, if you are always slouching you are always desensitizing your horse to a very important stopping cue that you will need if you ever decide to try your hand at reining, cutting or cowhorse events.
3. Look where you want to go- not just at your horse's ears. This will assist you in your efforts to sit up, will help you communicate with your horse when it comes to telling him where you want him to go, and will also make your horseback ride a lot more memorable because you will be seeing so much beautiful Zion and Bryce Canyon type of country rather than just seeing your horse's ears and whatever is five feet past your horse's ears.
4. Breathe. Whenever we try anything new, we have a tendency to strain, to get tense and to hold our breath. The best way for you to resist the natural tendency of tensing up is simply to force yourself to breathe. You cannot force yourself to relax, but you can force yourself to breathe, and breathing will make you relax.
5. Do not balance with the reins or the saddle horn. You will have a much better horseback ride here in Utah if you will simply trust both your horse as well as your own balance and quit gripping onto the saddle or reins for dear life.
First of all, you physically cannot keep yourself in the saddle by means of your arms anyway. Even in a true saddlebronc rodeo situation, balance is maintained by proper use of the seat and one hand on the bronc rein lifting straight up- never by holding as tight as you can and using brute arm strength. Secondly, using your arms to stay on will make it impossible for you to make use of leg and seat cues which are just as important as the reins. And finally, using the reins for balance unfairly pulls on the horse's mouth for no reason.
Remember, your horse's mouth is sensitive- it's a mouth. You can't use it like it's a third stirrup or your horse's mouth will become desensitized and he will never know when you really want to stop or back up.
If you keep these five tips in mind, you will be a good ways toward having a wonderful, memorable horseback ride. If you are ever out here in Utah visiting the Zion National Park area or the Bryce Canyon National Park area, I hope you will drop in and make use of these, and many other, horseback riiding tips.
One of the most prominent aspects of Utah, particularly here in the country between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, is the large amount of red ground, red rocks, red hoodoos, and even large red rock cliffs. In more ways than one, Utah is a red state! This red colouring makes for beautiful sunsets which turn the country even more brightly red and orange, and in many places the bright green quaking aspen up against the red rock country makes for some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. In fact, it's so beautiful here that Bryce Canyon National Park receives over a million visitors each year and Zion National Park receives well over 4 million visitors each year and many of these vistors are not only from all over the United States, but are also from Europe, Australia, and Asia. In either Bryce Canyon or Zion National Park, you can expect to hear many different languages being spoken on the hiking trails.
But why is the Utah country so red? The colouring of the red hills of Utah is caused by the fact that there is so much iron in the ground here in Utah. As the iron is exposed to oxygen and to water, it does what all iron does- it rusts. So what you're actually seeing in this red Utah country is sandstone and shale that is rusting. In many areas, you will see this rust in contrast with a bright white which is limestone.
If you are ever out here in the Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park country, I hope you will drop in and take a memorabe horseback ride with us here at Rising K Ranch!
One trait that is very important in a horse is that he ben easy for the farrier to handle, whether you intend to go with natural hoof trimming, or put shoes on him. Here in the country between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park, all our horses will need to be shod at some point because the ground here is a little harder, and in some places rockier, than many of the sandy areas where horses remain wild.
The key think to remeber when handling a horse's feet (or in anything you do with a horse for that matter) is to remain patient. Your horse really does want to please you, so if he is acting up it's most likely because you are moving too fast for him and asking him to do things that he does not yet understand. For example, you may be lifting the horse's foot higher than he has learned to be comfortable with. Rather than get into a fight with him, things will go a lot smoother (and a lot faster really) if you take your time and teach the horse to be comfortable.
The first step in teaching a horse to have his feet handled is simply to rub him all over his legs. You can pet his legs with your hand, starting at his shoulder where he is more used to being touched, and work your way down his legs. Any time the horse reacts with nervousness, simply backtrack by going closer to his shoulder again for a while and then try again, this time keeping in mind where exactly on his leg he was nervous about being handled and just go to almost that point, then retreat. After a few times of this, you can go back to that "touchy" area for just a few seconds, then again retreat back to his shoulder.
You will use this method until you are all the way down to handling the horse's pastern, not only with one hand, but with both. You want your horse to be used to you handling him all over his legs, getting him used to being held or "trapped" and yet still trusting you. The trust is built over time because every time you "trap" him with your hands around his leg, you only hold it for a few seconds before you give it back and "free" him again.
Not only will your horse have to get used to you handling him in diferrent, touchier places, but you will also need him to get used to you handling him or holding him for increasingly lengthier periods of time. This will be accomplished by your gauging his patience's time limit and releasing him a little while before he reaches it.
With this kind of patient handling, even a wild horse will soon be safe to handle, and will be comfortable with you handling him in any way you need to.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things about the saddling up process (for beginners to horseback riding) is putting on the bridle. However, it does not need to be difficult at all, if you will simply take the proper steps to help your horse understand what you are doing.
The first thing you need to do is stand in the correct place, which is just to the left of the horse's shoulder. For most beginners to horseback riding, the tendency is to stand directly in front of the horse, or almost directly in front of the horse. The problem with this is that it makes it very awkward to handle the bridle as you put it on, and it also makes the horse more nervous because you are coming at him in something of an "attack" position from directly in front of his face instead of from a "partner" position, just to the left side of his shoulder.
The second thing is to place the reins over the horse's neck- First the reins, then the bit. This will keep the reins from getting ruined on the ground, will give you a little bit more control of your horse as you can use the reins around the horse's throatlatch to control him and keep him from running off, and will put the entire headstall in a better position to be placed on the horse without resistance.
The third thing is to place the headstall around the horse's muzzle. This will give you added control over your horse, so that you can keep him from learning the bad habit of looking away from you when you attempt to bridle him, and will also keep him from trying to run off. (Many of these kind of habits are easier to prevent in the first place than they are to fix after they have been created.)
The fourth thing is to place your hand properly on the bit itself, so that you can properly guide it into the horse's mouth. You will place your left thumb in the center of the bit's mouthpiece, and your left middle and ring finger into the horse's mouth at the place where the bit will sit. (God has perfectly created the horse so that there are no teeth in the area where the bit will rest.)
Fifth, with your left hand on the bit in this position, you will help him to open his mouth with your left middle and ring finger, as you guide the bit with your thumb at the center of the mouthpiece. Your right hand should be at the top of the headstall between the horse's ears and it is your right hand that will actually pull up on the headstall and put it on while your left hand is simply making sure the bit does not hit your horse's teeth.
Finally, once the bit is in place, you will place the headstall behind the horse's ears and if there is a throatlatch you will buckle it, making sure that there is at least an inch or two of room between the throatlatch and the horse's actual throat because you do not want to restrict the horse's breathing in any way at all, and it simply is not necessary for your throatlatch to be very snug at all. In fact, many of my headstalls do not even have a throatlatch and they have still served quite well both in the arena as well as over many miles of Utah mountain trails here between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park.
The reason it is so important to bridle your horse this way is that it keeps your horse from getting hit in the mouth with the bit. It is our responsibilty as horseback riders to place a great deal of concern toward the comfort and care of our horses. If we want our horses to truly trust us, then we must be the type of people who care enough about them to take the time to learn how to do things in a way that the horse can understand. This same principle applies, not only to bridling the horse, but also to every aspect of horsemanship.
I understand that there will be an unavoidable learning curve to your horsemanship, but you must make the most diligent effort possible when it comes to treating your horse with respect- and this is exactly why it is so important that you are often riding with people who are better horsemen than you are yourself. You will learn thousands of times more in a single year with an accomplished horseman (if you diligently heed his advice and actions) than you would in a lifetime of struggling on your own.
Since many of our riders here at Rising K Ranch are quite new to horseback riding, we often find ourselves answering many of the same questions. Here is my answer to the question, "How do I stop my Horse?"
I hear this all the time: "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!" in a panicked voice while the horse continues to walk or trot along.
Some of my horses- particularly my reiners and cowhorses, will stop as soon as you say, "Whoa." However, some of our horses that are better suited for beginners have grown quite accustomed to the idea that "Whoa" doesn't really mean much at all. This is becasue they hear it so much from their riders without it being followed by the proper steps. The horse basically becomes desensitized to the word. All our beginner experience level horses are still easy to stop and they're very safe to ride; they just aren't going to respond to voice cues alone.
First of all, about the only time I ever say "Whoa" is if I am running down in a well maintained arena and I want the horse to slide to a stop. And even then, 95% of the stop cue is coming from the fact that I sat down deep in the saddle and put my feet forward. If I am not performing this kind of reining horse sliding stop from a pretty fast run, then I won't use the "Whoa" cue at all. That is, if I am simply on a mountain trail at a fast trot, lope, or fast run, I will stop the horse by silently sitting down a little deeper in the saddle and, if needed, I will lightly pull on the reins. Once the horse is down to a slow trot or a walk, I will finish the stop by sitting down even deeper in the saddle and putting my feet a couple inches further forward.
The reason I don't say "Whoa" out on the trail is that I want to reserve "Whoa" for a time when it's really needed- like for a sliding stop from a run. If I use "Whoa" all the time it will become a little less meaningful.
Since I reserve "Whoa" for a sliding stop, it simply is not fair or right of me to say "Whoa" out on the trail because out in nature the ground has not been worked or dragged with a tractor. If the ground is not worked properly, a sliding stop could actually injure a horse, or at least be very uncomfortable for him, so I don't want to make my horse think that I am asking him for a sliding stop in such rough, unworked ground.
Now, if you are new to horseback riding, we will not be putting you on a reining horse with the training to perform a sliding stop like I've just been describing. Instead, we will put you on a horse that matches your experience level. The horse you ride will be one that is safe to ride on the trail at any speed, but will not be quite so sensitively trained. You can think of it like driving an Oldsmobile as compared to driving a Ferrari. Because your horse will not be quite so finely tuned into your every movement, you will be able to get away with more mistakes in your riding. (If you keep returning to Rising K Ranch for lessons, you will progress until you can ride some of our more "Ferrari" type horses.)
For beginners to horseback riding then, the stop will be performed like this:
First, sit down a little deeper in the saddle and put your feet a couple inches forward. This will prepare your body for the coming stop so that you are not propelled forward when the horse stops.
Second, pull on the reins until the horse comes to a complete stop.
Third, loosen the reins after the horse has come to a complete stop (if you don't loosen the reins after you stop, your horse will back up or will learn to pull on your hands.)
I hope to be able to have a great day of horseback riding with you whenever you come visit the Zion or Bryce Canyon National Park area!
One of the most conspicuous things about Bryce Canyon National Parks is the hoodoos. Those tall rock spires found all over Bryce Canyon National Park with names such as "Thor's Hammer", "Sinking Ship", and "Queen Victoria" are all hoodoos. These hoodoos are constantly being sculpted and changed by the forces of water and wind. For example, only a few years ago a portion of the famous "Thor's Hammer" fell off and made it look just a little less like a war hammer.
Geologists will tell you that the hoodoos started off as plateaus and gradually eroded into a solid rock wall. From there, the rain would do its work of getting into small cracks and freezing, breaking off one little pice of rock at a time until a large hole is created in the wall. Finally, this large window or hole spreads until the once solid wall becomes two separate pillars.
The Paiute Indians who inhabited the Bryce Canyon area long before the Mormon settlers came in had a totally different idea about how the hoodoos got into Bryce Canyon. They believed that there once lived a special type of people called To-when-an-ung-wa, or "The Legend People who lived in Bryce Canyon and were quite irresponsible in the way they treated the land. The Legend People would routinely eat and drink far more than they needed, causing the animals to go hungry and without water. As punishment, they say the Coyote god tricked the Legend People by having them all gather at the floor of Bryce Canyon for a great feast. Once everyone was gathered, the coyote used his powers to turn them all into stone.
It has been said that, because of this legend about the coyote god, the Indians refused to enter Bryce Canyon, fearing that a curse was still upon the land. At any rate, though there is plenty to find about Indian tribes living all over the Colorado Plateau, there is no evidence at all of any Indians actually living in the area of Bryce Canyon National Park itself.
Many who come Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park decide to visit Rising K Ranch for a horseback riding vacation and their experience level is that of a beginner. Because of this common experience level amongst our horseback riders, we hear the same questions quite often. I thought I might just post some of these questions and answers right here on the Rising K Ranch website.
Question: Do the horses know their own names?
However, a horse can be trained to come to a cue such as a whistle or the crack of a whip. (I suppose if you really poured hours of the right kind of training into it you could teach a horse his name, but I've never yet come across such a horse.) The most important aspect when it comes to communicating with a horse is your body language.
If you take one of our longer day rides (like the Mountain Ride) or if you take the Half Day Ride, we often like to teach you how to joinup with a horse in the round pen. You will see that all our horses will come one kind of body language and will move away from another kind of body language.
The take-away is, horses care a lot more about how you move and how you say things, and even the atmosphere you have about yourself (one of confidence and calmness as opposed to one of anxiety or rage). Horses by nature don't really care too much about specific words.
If you are ever around Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park, I hope you will drop by for an unforgettable riding experience on our beautiful Utah trails full of red rock mountains and hills!
Many of our riders are beginners to horseback riding, and are primarily here to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Because of this common experience level, the same conversation takes place quite often (and understandably so). I just thought I might as well post the general conversation right here on the Rising K Ranch website.
Question: If I stand behind a horse, will he kick me?
Answer: Some horses will kick you most of the time, most horses will kick you some of the time, a few horses will kick you every time, and a few will never kick you.
Horses are prey animals, so for the sake of the specie's survival, it is ingrained into their minds that anything and everything will knock them down and slit their throat and eat them for dinner. Our job as human partners is to build such a trust in the horse that he neither looks at us as predators, nor looks at us as peers. If a horse does kick, it is usually for one of three reasons:
1. The horse is afraid.
Maybe you sneaked up on your horse and startled him, maybe you made a sudden movement around your horse like a lion would make, or maybe the horse just is not used to people yet and has not learned to trust a horseback rider at all. With the horses you will ride at Rising K Ranch, as long as you're not purposely being an idiot, you should be safe with regards to your horse having this fear issue.
2. The horse is disrespectful of humans.
This usually happens when a well-meaning beginner to horseback riding with a very low experience level tries to "train" his own horse. A horseback rider at this experience level is often afraid to discipline the horse in any way whatsoever, and often will not even know how to tell when a horse is being disrespectful (their language can be somewhat subtle at times). Eventually, the horse looks at you like just another horse, and feels free to try to dominate you. This, too, will not be an issue at Rising K Ranch.
(Please note, "disciplining a horse" does NOT mean "hitting the horse". It means keeping the horse in the correct position in relation to your own, which requires a bit higher experience level to discern)
3. They are kicking at another horse but you are in the way.
This, I believe, is the most common reason people get kicked by horses. For this reason you do not want to place yourself in a situation where you are pinned too closely between two horses. You don't want to ride too closely to the horse in front of you. And you want to pay attention to any horse that you might have to walk behind. Often, if a horse is irritated at another horse, he will kick with his hind feet, regardless of where the other horse is. That is, a horse may be mad at a horse fifteen feet in from of him, but he will still lash out by kicking with his hind feet in a sort of temper tantrum, and if you happen to be behind him- "ouch!"
Finally, you don't want to just hang out behind a horse without paying attention. Whenever I have to walk behind a horse (which is many times each and every day), I first place my hand on the horse's hip so he knows I am there. I keep my hand on the horse's hip as I walk so that I can feel if he does tense up like he might kick, (in which case I won't walk behind him at all right then), I then walk behind him as close to his tail as possible so that in the off chance he does kick, he won't have near enough force to hurt me like he would if I were four feet behind him.
If you are ever visiting either Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park, or just visiting Southern Utah, I hope you will drop by Rising K Ranch to take a horseback ride through our red rock country! Regardless of your experience level with horseback riding, we're sure to have something new to learn and plenty of new country to ride!
Apart from the horseback riding here at Rising K Ranch, there are many great, memorable things to do in Southern Utah's Zion and Bryce Canyon area! Here are just a few off the top of my head:
1. Fishing. My own favorite places for fishing around here are Panguitch Lake with its streams and the Sevier River if you are headed to Bryce Canyon. If you are headed to Zion, then Kolob Reservoir has some great fishing! If you happen to be going north to Salt Lake, the Provo River is some of the best fishing in the USA- people come from all over to fly-fish there!
2. Hiking up Kanarra Falls. This is a great little 5 hour or so hike only ten miles south of Rising K Ranch! It's a miniature version of Zion National Park's "The Narrows". You walk in water most of the time so go when it's warm.
3. Zion National Park. My favorite trails in Zion National Park itself are definitely Angel's Landing, the Narrows, and Observation Point. Keep in mind that Zion gets about six million visitors every year so unless its winter, you should start your hikes early in the morning (start before sunup) to avoid the crowds. If you are visiting Zion with little children, then do "Weeping Rock" and "Emerald Pools" as they are both easy and short hikes that stil show off the beauty of Zion National Park!
4. Bryce Canyon National Park. My own favorite trail there is the "Peekaboo Loop". There is also a 3 hour horse and mule ride called Canyon Rides that you can take that follows that trail twice a day.
5. Best food in Cedar City, only six miles north of Rising K Ranch. I'll tell you the ones I would hit if I were only visiting Cedar City:
Best Mexican Restaurant- "Brody's"
Best Pizza- "Pizza Cart"
Best Steakhouse- "Milt's" or "Rusty's"
Best Diner- "All-American Diner" on Main Street.
Best Fancy Wear-A-Tie Italian- "Chef Alfredo's"
6. Lodging. By the time I get to go to sleep, I'm tired. Some of my best night's sleep have been on the ground or on a wooden bunk with only a blanket. Therefore, I am not a good hotel critic. However, I do know of a newly built, two-bedroom vacation rental home only about 3 miles from the Ranch. If you call me up at the Rising K Ranch Phone Number I can get you the phone number for that house.
7. There is a world-renowned Shakespeare Festival right here in Cedar City UT. All summer long there are various plays and musical events.
Of course, there are many other things to see and do here in the Zion/ Bryce Canyon National Park area! I hope you have a great time here in Southern Utah!
If you are going to be successful in your horsemanship, you must take Jesus' advice and have the kind of spirit that seeks to remove the telephone pole out of your own eye before attempting to remove the splinter from your brother's eye. That is, if your horse simply is not progressing, the problem is almost certainly with you, not with your horse. You are probably trying to get too much too fast, or are using your cues in a way the horse just can't possibly understand, or maybe you are even leaning in the saddle in some direction hindering your own desired movement, like trying to move a rug while you are still standing on it. At some point, every rider who would progress in his horseback abilities must go find someone better than himself to ride with for a while. This is what we strive to help riders do here at Rising K Ranch, and if you outgrow us, we'll be sure to point you to someone else who can teach you something (and we'll also probably try to hire you .)
A horse rider, somewhere along the line, must make a decision, not only of what kind of horseback rider he wants to be and what kind of horses he wants to make, but he must decide what kind of person he wants to be. Do you want to be the type who forces a horse around, getting the job done by jabbing and poking and pulling on him constantly, or do you want to take the time to teach yourself before teaching your horse, and get the job done by making your horse into a partner rather than a four-legged machine?
I hope someday you'll drop by at our ranch here between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and we can show you a liitle of what I am talking about here!
Even when horses were the primary means of travel, they were still loved as individuals. True, there have always been wicked men who will mistreat both animals and people, (read "Black Beauty" for examples of what a horse's life could be like) but good men have always treated their horses well. (In fact, "Black Beauty" played a large role in the reformation of horse care.)
Horses have never been looked at as mere machines, just used for travel. George B. McClellan, the Union Civil War leader once said, "There is no hour spent in the saddle, that is a wasted hour." Lee, on the Confederate side, likewise loved his horses, and would often visit them in the stable just to give them apples and talk with them.
It is a well known fact that every cowboy worth anything has always made sure his horses eat, get bedded down, etc. before he does, both morning and evening. Proverbs 12:10 even says, "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast..." Will Rogers was known for saying, "A man that don't love a horse, there is something the matter with him."
I hope someday you'll come out here to our Zion/Bryce Canyon area and I'll take you out on horseback and show you just why horses have always been so admired!