A horse has for legs and a head.
Although it’s really important to know some fundamental things about the animal you’re about to have a very close relationship with. You should understand it and treat it appropriately.
Horses are herd animals, and as with other herd animals, our herd has a hierarchy based on respect and trust. Subordinate animals will act in accordance to the leader. Hierarchy is useful to riders, the horse looks up to you for confidence and guidance, it will respect your orders, and trusts you even in difficult or dangerous situations. However, if respect isn’t clearly established or guided, the horse will do whatever it wants to (eating during the ride, stubbornly resisting to continue walking or sudden wild running, etc.).
Your horse will promptly lose respect for you if you allow it to get away with whatever it feels like doing, however, if you prove to it you can guide him or provide it with decisive orders, it will respect you and it won’t resist.
Also, keep in mind horses are prey animals, programmed to flee from insecure creatures or situations. Your horse will moderate or stop his reflexive behavior by trusting you, it must get used to odd things -such as plastic bags blowing in the wind, your shining yellow raincoat, etc.
As in the case of human beings, horses have individual characters, traits distinguishing one horse from its fellow animals. Therefore, it becomes important to attempt to find chemistry between the horse and you, and that each person gets to ride the best-matched horse – although it is not always possible to find the perfect horse-match.
Communicating with your horse
Some horses are trained to understand orders such as “trot” or “gallop” and react by changing pace. Be that as it may, you won’t have to learn Spanish to give your horse the correct order, as horses instinctively react to a voice pitch. For instance, your horse will slow down if you speak softly to it, on the other hand it will accelerate its pace if you are demanding and loud.
Your horse can recognize your moods by hearing the tone of your voice, it can pick-up fear or self-confidence. Our four-legged friend also has feelings and expresses them by moving its ears. If it points them forwards, it is in a good mood and attentive. If both ears hang to the side, it is dozing and listless, which can be dangerous especially on strenuous terrain, as our friend tends to stumble. If this occurs, you should awaken your horse’s attention by pushing it forwards.
“Split” ears are also a sign of awareness: Your horse is listening with one ear to noises from behind, for example, your voice. If both ears point to the back, the horse is in a bad mood and it’s about to bite or kick, something is bothering it.
Your horse’s eyes also play a role in the horse-rider relationship: Horses’ vision is far better in the dark than ours. However, oftentimes they miss things directly in front or behind them as some things are beyond their field of vision. Riders should always approach their horse from the front and talk to it some meters away before coming close, never from behind.
Mutual grooming amongst horses is a manner of social interaction. As a matter of fact, horses may often be seen tenderly nibbling at each other, a sign of affection and friendship. In Chile, it isn’t a common practice to groom a horse before each ride. Nevertheless, you will be responsible for making sure the saddle is well placed, and that the tack, the tail cord and the saddlebags are clean, and that its hooves are free of cobblestones.
The Chilean horse
Horses in Chile are mainly station bred, often English thoroughbred and cross breeding. Arab horses or Bretons may be found, the latter especially working on fields. However, Chile ‘s distinctive horse is called Criollo (the Chilean Landrace Horse). The Criollo, offers a low wither height of 1.49m, its main characteristic is its square-shaped body, robust hind legs and short shins, an extremely sure-footed animal. Tough, resistant and bold, Criollos deal equally well with hot summers as with cold winters. They also posses strong physical features, sustain heavy loads; they are tireless and obedient. Criollos are well-known for the little care they require as far as food and care are concerned, a feature that proves effective on long treks.
A horse’s gear
Chilean saddles are very comfortable and suitable for horse trekking. They do not have anything in common with dressage, show jumping, western riding or all-purpose saddles. Chilean saddles have a unique style; its stirrups are completely closed on the end-tip, finished in metal, leather or from a single piece of wood, some finely ornamented. The saddle base is more or less oval-shaped, tailored to the horse’s backside. Its mounted on one or more thickly rectangular pads, some use rectangular layers of fur (often sheepskin) and sometimes a top layer of leather. Although the saddle is relatively soft and well padded, you will doubtlessly feel some backside discomfort by the end of the second day, especially if you are not used to riding long distances. By the third day, however, you will finally begin enjoying the ride.
The Chilean snaffle is mostly rather unadorned and comes with simple, double or unbroken snaffle-bits, as well as a leverage snaffle bit, alike the “sweet bit” of Western bridles. Instead of head collars, halters are set underneath the snaffle, which may also be used without the snaffle, as a head collar. Chilean head collars are unlike European or North American ones, and you will certainly not need gaiters or additional reins to ride the Chilean style.