Equestrian activities are much more than just a little girl's dream. In addition to the sporting aspect, most riders focus on the close relationship between man and animal and the trust that has grown over a long period of time. No matter if tournament or leisure rider, dressage or Western rider – all agree on one thing: There is nothing better than discovering the world on horseback.
- Austria 229 bridle paths
- Belgium 6 bridle paths
- Czech Republic 12 bridle paths
- France 49 bridle paths
- Germany 2,540 bridle paths
- Hungary 5 bridle paths
- Italy 36 bridle paths
- Liechtenstein 4 bridle paths
- Luxembourg 5 bridle paths
- Netherlands 26 bridle paths
- Switzerland 97 bridle paths
Dressage riding – from the basics to Haute Ecole
Dressage is the basis of all riding. The horse's natural movements are controlled by the rider using various aids such as thigh pressure, weight shifting, rein support and the voice.
Within a riding arena, straight and curved, serpentine or circular figures are ridden as standard:
- Full school
- Half school
- Shallow loop
- Serpentine (three or four loops)
It is also possible to switch between different figures and to change direction within a figure. The orientation and turning points within the riding arena are marked by letters.
Depending on their level, horse and rider also perform more difficult figures during a dressage lesson:
- Going backwards
- Turn on the forehand/turn of the haunches
- Lead change
Show jumping – cavaletti, oxer, water
Show jumping is the discipline in which the rider and the horse overcome obstacles on a predetermined course. Speaking of show jumping, one usually has competition jumping in mind.
However, even with leisure horses, basic jumping training cannot be neglected. In addition to rhythm, coordination and trust, it serves above all the flexibility of the animals' spine. The obstacles do not have to be high. Often, poles lying on the ground or low cavalettis are used.
Following the Cowboys' tracks – Western riding
Western riding developed on the American continent – but today it is also widespread in Europe. Leisure riders in particular appreciate the comfortable saddle and a riding style that allows horse and rider to enjoy the greatest possible relaxation.
When riding in the Western style, the reins are left a good deal longer than in dressage and show jumping. Moreover they are held with only one hand. Aids are mainly given by shifting the weight and using the voice.
Quarter Horses, Appoloosas and Paint Horses are known breeds for Western riding. Due to their agile physique they are particularly well suited for working with cattle. For leisure purposes, however, almost all horse and pony breeds can be ridden in Western style.
Spectacular figures such as spins or sliding stops characterize the picture of Western tournaments. These are held in various disciplines, for example:
- Western Pleasure
- Barrel Race
- Working Cowhorse
Trail and distance riding
Competitions over long distances fall into the category of trail or distance riding. The idea probably goes back to the development of mail transport by horse. Already in the days of Genghis Kahn around 1200 AD, there was a successful communication system with mounted messengers.
Much later, in 1860, another postal service on horseback developed in the USA: the famous Pony Express. The route covered almost 2000 miles from Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California.
In 1955, the Tevis Cup, one of the world's toughest distance rides, took place for the first time in the USA. To this day, the USA is regarded as one of the leading distance riding nations.
Equipment for horse and rider
Depending on the type of riding, the equipment of horse and rider differs fundamentally. Eventing (a mixture of dressage, jumping and cross-country riding) is widespread in Europe – that's why eventing saddles and bridles are very common. Riders wear helmets, breeches with leather trimmings, riding boots and a riding crop.
In contrast to the eventing saddle, which has a small contact area, a show jumping saddle is slightly larger to cushion the rider during the landing. Racing saddles, on the other hand, are particularly small in order to transfer as little weight as possible to the animal.
Leisure riders often use Western saddles which guarantee an even weight distribution due to their large contact surface. They are also very comfortable for the rider. Western riders are usually dressed in jeans, shirt, hat and boots.
A trail saddle offers the possibility of attaching luggage. A saddle girth is used to attach the saddle, in some cases also a crupper and a martingale are used. Stirrups give the rider additional support and help when climbing up.
Many people with physical, psychological, pedagogical and social-integrative difficulties find it helpful to undergo a horse therapy. While the gathering of riding skills is rather offside, therapeutic riding is mainly about the relationship between humans and animals.
By the way: It does not always have to be a horse – donkeys, llamas and camels are also extremely suitable for horse therapy.