By Nicole Ponte

One of the many clichés of riding is the thrill of a long and fast gallop through a field, with the wind blowing through your hair, eliminating all your worries. However, many riders are timid when it comes to progressing past the hand gallop. These are a few tips for improving your galloping experience.

Get security in an enclosed ring.

Before you trek out to the open field, practice various downward transitions, ensuring that your horse will listen to you in an open area.

Start off slow.

Do not enter a field and barrel off; let your horse have his head a bit, and trot around the field, letting your horse look around at things that could be spooky. Then, progressively build speed in the gaits, and again, like in the ring, do various downward transitions to ensure your horse will respect your aids.

Consider bitting up.

Bits are a controversial topic, and while some horses are steady in a snaffle, others need the slight leverage of a pelham or elevator/Pessoa bit. With the pelham or elevator/Pessoa, you have the ability to put two reins, so if your horse listens to your downward transition, you only use the snaffle rein, and if they get carried away, you can regain their attention with the curb rein. (After going on a wild foxhunt in only a snaffle, I can attest to slightly bitting up rather than down.)

Learn the ‘pulley rein.’

As much as we wish it didn’t, sometimes our horses get a bit too exuberant with the gallop and refuse to stop. The pulley rein is a slightly harsher rein aid to be used in times when your horse refuses to listen to your downward transition. (Tips and tricks here.)

Improve your fitness.

In order for a horse to gallop to its full potential, you must independently hold your own weight up in the two point; if you get tired and flail around, your horse has a tougher job balancing. Practice two minute sets of trot, canter, and gallop while holding your two point in order to help strengthen yourself. This will help make the experience more exhilarating. You’ll be out of breath because of awe—not because you’re exhausted.
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