Bridleways often have gates which you need to negotiate - and it is more fun for all if your horse can deal with these easily. Here are a few tips.
First things first
At some point, as you travel around your local bridleways, you are likely to come across a gate. These are easy to negotiate if you and your horse can manage a few simple movements.
First of all, it's important that your horse will stand when asked. Simple as this seems, it's amazing how many people cannot halt their horse and simply stand there. If your horse is a fidget, do some work in the safety of an arena first - and insist that he does stand still. Initially it might just be halt, stand for a couple of seconds and then move on, but gradually you can increase the amount of time he stands still.
The method recommended by the Britsh Horse Society for greatest safety is commonly called ‘heels to hinges’ because the horse is positioned facing away from the gate’s hinges.
It is considered to give riders most control during the manoeuvre and it is most likely to avoid tack being caught by the gate or latch.
The rider approaches the gate’s hinges and turns to position the horse alongside the gate, ‘heels to hinges’, with the latch by the horse’s shoulder and the horse’s head and neck extending beyond the latch, parallel to the gate.
The other maneouvre you want to be able to do with ease is a turn about the forehand. This is so that you can line up alongside the gate, open the latch, keep hold of the gate and move your horse's hindquarters around so that you can proceed through the opening.
Out in the open
Once you have cracked these two things it should be easier for you to open gates. Go out and have a go!
Above: Get yourself lined up alongside the gate so that you can easily reach the latch.
Above: As you open the gate you need to co-ordinate moving your horse's hindquarters around at a sensible pace so that you can keep control of your horse and still keep a hand on the gate latch. You do not want your horse stepping back too much - he may have to move back a little depending on the swing of the gate but it's important you can retain control of the speed of movement at all times.
Above: Ensure you open the gate wide enough so your horse does not catch himself (or any part of you!) on the gate or posts. It's important that your horse waits for your instructions and does not try to rush through the gate when it is only partially open. Remember to use your voice to calm a more nervous horse or to reassure your horse if he hasn't tackled many gates.
Above: Ensure you keep hold of the gate latch for as long as you can as you pass through the opening - you do not want to frighten your horse by allowing the gate to swing on to him. Once through the gate, turn your horse and line him up alongside the gate if you need to ensure that the gate is properly and securely closed. Some gates, such as this one, have self-closing latches.
Read more great schooling and flatwork exercises helping you improve your riding