It is really important to have an understanding of anatomy -- yours and your horse's -- in order to influence the horse's movement.

The Rider

To understand how you should be positioned on your horse, stand on a level surface with your feet apart a distance that is about as wide as your hips. Now, slightly bend your knees and straighten your posture so that your ear, shoulder, hip and ankle are in a straight line. You elbows should be at your side. Stand up on your toes so your heels are not touching the ground.That is your correct position on a horse. Rock back and forth; bend your knees a little more then a little less, and you will find a position that works best for you in terms of balance and security.

When mounted, your leg should hang straight down, not gripping or pushed away from the horse's sides. Depending on your height and how tall your horse is (plus the shape of his barrel) your knee and upper calf will be in contact with the horse's sides, but as his rib cage narrows at the lower part of his chest, your lower leg will not be in contact with the horse unless you squeeze with your leg. Squeezing, bumping or kicking with your leg, putting more weight into a stirrup, putting a leg on a horse or taking it off - these are all ways we influence our horse.

In addition, your seat is comprised of three bones: Two pelvic bones and your pubic bone. You should be sitting evenly on that "triangle." Shifting your weight from side to side or front to back is yet another way you influence your horse.

Your hands generally should be a fist apart and a fist above the horse's withers. Our reins should reinforce what our body is telling the horse. Heavy hands or overuse of your hands can cause a horse to become dull to the signals he is receiving through the bit, not to mention cause pain and even permanent damage to a horse's mouth. A mechanical hackamore can be an extremely cruel device in the wrong hands, and a traditional hackamore, or bosal, which is appropriately used on horses 5 years old and under, can be very harsh on a horse's nose and cause scarring when used incorrectly. One of the reasons the bosal is considered appropriate on young horses and not older ones is that as a horse ages, cartilage above the nostrils converts to bone, and the nose becomes less sensitive. In most association rule books, horses 6 and older may not be shown in a bosal.

There are a number of ways to use the reins that will be reviewed in a separate section.

The Horse

Rather than explain anatomy here, watch these videos on The Horse.com, one of the best resources available to horsemen. Many articles on this site are available to anyone. However, if you are asked to sign up to view an article, by all means, take the time to do so. It is free and well worth tlhe minute or two it will take to sign up. And next time you have a question about your horse, check this website first; the information is top-notch and reliable.

Click to watch:

The Horse's Skeleton: Overview.

The Horse's Skeleton: Forelimbs

The Horse's Skeleton: Hind Limbs

The Horse's Skeleton: Skull and Teeth

 You might also want to take a look at this pdf file from Future Farmers of America: Equine Anatomy

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