Willow Creek Stables

Frequently Asked Questions

As they say, there are no dumb questions, just dumb answers. Hopefully these answers will be a bit better than most:

What are the different riding styles?

Horses have been an integral part of societies for thousands of years and in every corner of the globe. It isn't surprising that different ways of riding a horse have evolved to better suit local needs. There are two main riding styles: English and Western. English riding was developed in Europe and is suited to riding in hilly countryside with ditches and fences to cross by jumping. Western riding was developed in the United States by ranchers who tended cattle on mostly flat land and needed the ability to rope cattle, sit in a comfortable saddle all day and have a deep seat for maximum stability when penning cattle.

There is actually less difference between the two riding styles that you might think. The balance, seat and leg/foot positions are similar to both riding styles. The big differences (other than the various horse sports) are the saddle used and how you steer. Western saddles have a horn, english saddles are flat in front and aren't as deep seated. In english riding, you steer the horse with your legs (pushing against the horse) in combination with varying pressure on each rein. Western horses are trained to neck rein where you flip the reins against the neck on way or another allowing you to steer with one hand (useful when trying to catch a cow with a rope in the other hand!)

What does Willow Creek offer?

We offer hunter/jumper lessons for beginners to experienced riders and all ages, and summer camps.

For competition, our barn goes to both local county shows as well as A shows. Click here for the list of shows we go to.

What is hunter/jumper?

Hunter/jumper is one of the many sporting disciplines you can do with horses. It is the foundation for two of the three Olympic equestrian events (Show Jumping and Eventing, Dressage being the third event). In both Hunter and Jumper sub-disciplines you are guiding your horse through a set course of jumps in an arena. It is a very athletic sport that demands strength, concentration, sensitivity, and daring.

What's the difference between hunter and jumper?

The hunter sub-discipline is a judged sport where horse and rider execute a jumping course within a ring. Points are earned for how technically correct horse and rider perform the jumps, lines, or other tests such as lead changes, counter cantering, etc. The jumper sub-discipline is a timed class where horse and rider must jump a usually more challenging course where rail knock downs and time overages are counted against your score. You jump fences in both hunter and jumper.

What are the different horse gaits?

Walking, trotting, catering, what's the difference? Here's a good article about each gait and the extra things a rider must learn to ride a horse well (posting a trot, diagonals, canter leads and changes): Wikipedia Gaits.

What is a good age to start regular lessons?

Young riders typically start at age 7 (you need a certain amount of strength and focus to progress), although we do take younger riders. Adults can enjoy riding and competing even if they don't start riding until they are 50. You might not progress to jumping 5' jumps if you start as an adult, but then, you aren't about to turn into a tennis pro either.

What are begining riding lessons like?

All lessons (whether beginner or advanced) start with tacking up your horse. The trainer will show you where your horse lives and show you how to lead him/her to the cross tie area. There you will learn how to groom the horse and get him/her ready for the lesson.

For beginners during the riding lesson, the trainer will be connected to the horse via a long lounge line. You will initially be riding the horse in large circles around the trainer while you learn how to sit, balance, steer, halt, trot and eventually canter your horse. A lounge line is used so that the rider can concentrate on their balance and correct riding without having to compensate to also control the horse.

After the lesson, you will then untack your horse and put him or her away. Figure a minimum of 1 1/2 hours at the barn for each lesson.

How do the competitions work?

When you are ready you can join the barn when we go to shows. A lot of our shows are local taking place at the Del Mar horsepark. Most shows are two days long and you typically compete in several classes every day. You can start competing very early on in the Walk/Trot division.

Do I need to buy a horse to take lessons?

No. Initially you will ride one of our lesson horses.

Why buy a horse then?

People will look for a horse to buy or lease when they start competing. Lesson horses are often not available to take to shows. And a rider and horse will ride better together the more time they have with each other.

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