Galloping is the fastest gait that a horse can achieve. For the rider, this means it is also the most dangerous gait that must be controlled. Knowing how to ride a galloping horse means being aware of proper safety measures while being able to maintain a proper riding form.
Why is it so difficult to ride a galloping horse? For starters, the shape of the horse during this gait changes. A horse in a four-beat gait has an increased time of suspension, which means all four hooves are off the ground for an extended period of time. In order for this to work, the horse at a full gallop will flatten the back and point the nose forward, which makes it difficult for a rider to maintain control with leg and rein pressure.
This is why it is important to practice riding a horse at a slower gait before progressing to the gallop. Without the needed skills, a rider can feel out of control when a horse reaches its top speed and that's a scary combination.
How To Prepare For Galloping
In order to ride a galloping horse, it is necessary for a rider to master the balance and control they need at a walking pace first. Then progress to a trot and a canter before even beginning to attempt riding at a gallop. It's not just the experience which is needed as a writer to make this happen. Riders must also have their leg muscles and upper body conditioned well enough that they can stay firm, but still flexible while in the saddle.
Endurance is something that both rider and horse need in order to be successful at the gallop. By working up to the faster gait, both can get the feel of what each expects of the other so there are no surprises when you're at full speed. Practice downward transitions in particular during this period of adaptation so that both the rider and horse know what is expected when it is time to slow down. Practice transitioning between various gaits as well.
The horse needs to have cardiovascular strength and conditioning to maintain a gallop. The rider needs physical strength and endurance to stay in control during the gallop. If either is missing, then the experience can be potentially dangerous for one or both.
Safety Steps To Consider When Practicing the Full Gallop
Horses need to have a warm up time before they go running just like humans do. For this reason, you'll want to give the horse plenty of walking, trotting, and cantering before even attempting to work on a gallop. It's a good ideas to work the horse in circles, serpentines, and other repetitive figures to help loosen all of the muscles so the horse's body is fully prepared.
Galloping can also be pretty hard on the legs of a horse, so it is a good idea to have splint boots or sports boots on the horse before beginnings. Bell boots is strongly encouraged for most horses as well. This will stop the horse from clipping the front coronet bands and protect the leg joints from picking up an injury during the practice session.
Where To Practice Preparing For the Gallop
When you first get started preparing for the gallop, the best place to practice is in a flat area that is relatively contain. Scout out the area before getting out there with the horse so any holes can be filled in and potentially dangerous debris removed from the area. Look in particular for changes in elevation that could create a stumbling hazard for the horse as you begin to work on the various gaits.
The first few practice sessions in learning how to control a gallop requires even footing for the horse so it can maintain its balance. If the horse is off-balance, then you're going to be off-balance as well and not be able to have the knowledge and experience necessary to maintain good balance at the height of the gallop.
If you are taking the horse out of the stable into an open field to practice the gallop, then work on increasing speed as you move into open space. When returning toward the stable, hold the speed back on the horse. Many horses that are accustomed to their stable will often gallop faster toward the stable instead of away from it and you'll need to work on changing this habit for best results.
What Position Is Necessary For the Gallop?
Knowing how to ride a galloping horse means being in the proper position as a rider during this fast gait. Either a half-seat position or a two-point position will typically work best when a horse is at a full gallop. These two positions give you more control, flexibility, and stability when you are experiencing a top speed. Two-point will actually lift you completely out of the saddle, taking the weight off of the back of the horse, with nearly all of your weight sinking into the heels of the horse.
In the half-seat position, the rider will need to lift their head and chest while shortening the reins as some of the weight shifts to the back of the saddle for best results. This will help the rider be able to maintain consistent contact between the hands and the bit.
A third option that is available for new riders is called the “hand gallop.” This is more of an extended cantor than a true gallop, but allows both the rider and the horse to become more accustomed to a faster speed. It also gives you both some added flexibility in speeding up or slowing down when conditions may require. For horses that may enter competition one day, the hand gallop is usually more common to see than a full gallop
In the hand gallop, if the horse begins to pick up more speed than is desire, simply collect the horse into a transition to a slower gait and then try again. Eventually you'll both be on the same page.
Learning How To Maintain Your Balance During a Gallop
At this point, you should be comfortable with cantering. If not, then get comfortable. You must be able to control the horse and feel happy about the experience before you take the next step toward the gallop.
You'll also want to practice standing in your stirrups during trotting or cantering. Don't assume that you'll just be able to do it when the time is right. The muscles used in your legs for the two-point position in particular are different. If you're unable to maintain the proper position, then the horse will become out of control the moment it happens. If your core isn't strong, you'll want to do some strength training off of the horse to improve them as well.
Some riders who plan to use stirrups while galloping may need to adjust them. You'll need to be able to clear the saddle when the horse is at a full gallop. The shorter stirrup allows you to have a position that is more secure. Make sure the stirrups are even with each other as well so you don't put more pressure onto one side of the horse and give it inadvertent commands or cause yourself an injury.
Then you'll need to think about the gear that you'll want to have. It is essential to wear a helmet when taking a horse into a gallop, especially for the first few times. This will give you some added protection in case you or the horse happens to make a mistake.
Are You Ready to Start Riding a Galloping Horse?
If you've never ridden a horse before, then it would be a good idea to take some riding lessons before trying to take a horse to a gallop. Without full control of the horse, you're at the mercy of whatever the horse decides to do and that might have life-threatening consequences depending on the circumstances surrounding your ride.
Take it slow and easy at first. Even if you're experienced at galloping, you'll want to warm up the horse for at least 10 minutes before taking off in a gallop. If you've never known how to ride a galloping horse before, then you may want to give yourself 3-4 weeks to work up to the pace of each gait before attempting the fastest one for the first time.
Even in perfect situations, unexpected things can happen. A horse can become distracted. A bee can sting the horse or sting you. Be prepared for the unexpected at all times and you'll be able to avoid many of the common injuries that occur.
Riding a galloping horse can be an extremely rewarding experience. It can also be an incredibly frustrating one if you're unsure of what to do. Use this guide to help plan your practice sessions and to build up your knowledge base so that you can have the experience to ride as fast as you want on almost any horse.