Hoping for some good advice from people who are more experienced than me in all things equine (which will be most of you!)
I learnt to ride as a kid at school in the UK - was very lucky and went to a state school with a pony club. I then moved abroad and got the chance to learn to ride again. Of course, I have had to unlearn lots of bad habits that I didn't know were not "right" at the time, but I can now walk, trot and canter confidently. The horses I ride are Arabian and quite fizzy, v different to what I was used to in the UK. My instructor says that once I learn to canter standing up, I will be ready to start jumping. My balance is still a bit off at canter and I tend to bounce all over the place when I try to stand. I am working on that!
When I return to the UK in the next couple of years, I would love to get my own horse. I know that I will need to learn stable management and basically how the hell to look after a horse - at the moment I have no idea. At my school, most of the riders just hand the horse back at the end whereas I would love to help with cleaning tack, feeding etc, just to learn. Even if I end up with a full livery I would like to be "hands on" iykwim.
I wondered whether any of you knew of a course I could take in the UK that might help me learn? Do you think my riding school would think I was crackers if I asked to help occasionally? (Or would they just hand me a shovel?! ) Do you think I should ask my instructor if he thinks I am ready to own a horse (and if not, what I need to do to prepare)?
Offering to help at a riding school is a great idea, but make sure you are actually learning not just being used to muck out and poo pick all the time. Ask to watch horses being treated for injury and illness, learn about feeding etc.
I used to help at a riding school but looking back I realise I didn't actually do anything with the horses, I just shovelled poo!
Wow - we did small jumps at my riding school ( 2ft) but not cantering in stirrups.
If its Arabs that your keen on then I spent a day at an Arabian stud in Surrey where they taught stable management, correct tack fitting as well as a nice ride out - i think they tailor the day to what you want to learn.
There are other options, full livery for example or a share for a few months whereby you pay another horse owner to treat the horse as your own a couple of days a week, they would probably want to be teaching you their way of mucking out etc (wonders why there seem to be so many ways to make a bed up in a stable.)
Thanks for your replies! I don't mind shovelling a few spoonfuls while I am learning and I think it's a great idea to ask to ask to watch them being treated etc. I offered to help hose the horses down after a particularly long and sweaty ride - I live in a hot/desert country - and the instructor looked at me very quizzically, although he did let me in the end and the horses loved it! I guess they are not used to people offering to help. I will bite the bullet and volunteer!
The stud in Surrey sounds great - I have only ridden Arabians and riding school ponies (who are like zombies compared to the horses I ride now!) so I don't have much to compare to, but the share thing sounds great to start off with. I will start checking the classified ads near my DP's house in the UK. Planning to move back in Winter time so I guess if I am still keen after battling through the cold weather, I will know it's the right thing for me
I would definately find somewhere to learn some basic stable management before thinking about getting your own, or even taking on a share?
Where is your stable management at the moment? Are you at the stage where you could not even put on a headcollar properly, or more at the stage where you are interested in things like feeding/fitting tack correctly?
You could also look for a stable which offers BHS progressive tests, which will help you work through stable management in a structured way.
If you were looking to take on a share, on your share days you are usually unsupervised or lightly supervised, so at an owner would probably expect you to:
-Be able to catch the horse/pony from the field and turn them back out. -Be confident generally handling the horse, tying up, and leading. -Know how to put a rug on a horse/pony and when different rugs are needed. -Be able to tack up for yourself, and have some idea of if the tack is fitting correctly or not (this doesn't mean expert knowledge, just being able to see if something is obviously wrong). -Be confident grooming the horse/pony, including picking out their feet. -Some basic knowledge of feeds, so you could feed the horse/pony if needed. Also how to fill and tie up a haynet safely. -Some basic first aid knowlege, and the symptoms of problems like colic and lamminitis. Know when you need to call the owner and when you need to call the vet. -How to recognise if the horse/pony is lame. -It would be good if you could tell when the horse/pony needs shoeing, although not 100% esential for a share, you would obviously need to know this when you have your own. -You would also be expected to muck out the stable on the days when you shared the horse (although the owner will probably explain exactly how they want things done). -You may be expected to clean tack, possibly after each use. -You may need to put on any boots/bandages needed for exercise, although the owner will probably show you how to do this if it is anything unusual.
If you have your own there are other things you will need to keep track of, like dentistry, worming, injections etc.
Some share owners may be happy to show you things if you are inexperienced, but in general owners take on sharers because they are short on time, and want someone they can leave to get on with it. I also think on full livery it is still good to have some knowledge, so you are not just blindly accepting the things the livery owner tells you.
I hope the list doesn't sound too daunting. Learning about stable management is pretty fun if you really love horses. If you're at a good riding stables they should be happy for you to help out, and will be happy to answer all your questions and show you how things are done.