Welcome to Allison Acres ~ Galt, CA ~ (209) 224-4304

The pre ride check 

I do three types of pre ride checks. 

Level 1: Basic soundness and yoga check for a horse you know well and are going to ride pretty much no matter what

·   Level 2: Temperament and skills test for a new horse

·   Level 3: Foundation test for a horse you’re training, where you might or might not actually ride this session, depending on what you find




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(209) 224-4304

Allison Acres
13512 Alta Mesa Rd.
Galt, CA 95632
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I came up with the levels to guide people because lots of my students were getting worried that they would never get to the point of riding their horses when they had bought horses who were broke to ride but who had some behaviors on the ground that we would really want to address.  In a horse who’s been ridden for years and years, some of the missing ground skills are just bad habits or examples of improper training that don’t necessarily mean the new owner can’t ride that day – they can be addressed as we have time.  Sometimes people get discouraged when they see there is much to do, and they stop coming out to see their horse or they go to another trainer who’s not going to point out the work that needs to be done.  Lots of horses who are not great at the tasks below can still be ridden successfully ESPECIALLY when ridden in a certain way.  I’m not one of those natural horsemanship trainers who won’t let you ride your horse until their groundwork is Horse Expo Ready!  :-)

If you want the details and to see examples and learn these tasks, send me an email and we’ll set it up. 

Three basic things I'm checking:

  • Will he move when I ask?

  • Will he not move when I ask?

  • How is his body feeling?


Level 1:

·         This horse is broke to ride but might have some habits like walking off while mounting, not giving to pressure appropriately, counter bending on the circle, not gentle with his feet, barging ahead when being led.  Other than this, he is a safe horse, ridden often by his owner, and his owner is going to ride today barring very unusual findings.  These tasks will not take very long.

o   Proper way of allowing himself to be caught

o   Bringing head around to be haltered

o   Lateral flexion to both sides

o   Desensitize to rope over back

o   Backing away while being led

o   Backing away while facing up

o   Use yielding the forehand, disengaging the hind quarter, sending the front end and backing up to get the horse tied up and led away after being tacked – a way to practice these skills without taking a lot of extra time

o   Yoga: front leg circles, belly lifts, butt tucks, tail pulls

o   Tack up with feel

o   Circle both ways, back up, stand at attention

o   Reward proper mounting behavior using approach and retreat


Level 2:

·         This horse is new, maybe being viewed for purchase or just purchased.  These tasks are to gauge the horse’s level of camaraderie, tolerance of authority, general energy level and spookiness.  MOST PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE SEEN SOMEBODY ELSE RIDE THE HORSE FIRST. 

o   Catching: using approach and retreat, reward the horse for proper behavior

o   Proper haltering

o   Backing up to steady pressure

o   Backing up to driving pressure

o   Baby lateral flexion

o   Disengage hindquarters gently

§  Disengage hindquarters more aggressively if warranted

o   Rub all over, check response to being touched

o   Check for sensitivity to poll pressure.  Tie or don’t tie for grooming/tacking depending on findings

o   Groom, tack up with feel

o   Bridling readiness check

o   Lead around having horse follow flag (more advanced desensitization can be undertaken later, this is simply to see horse’s likely response)

o   Attempt to send, circle, disengage (some don’t know this method, don’t mistake confusion for insubordination)

o   Attempt traditional lunging if that’s what the horse knows

o   Round pen loose.  Don’t sweat the small stuff – look for desire to partner up, check movement, gait preferences, energy level

o   Mounting: approach and retreat to reward appropriate behavior. 

·         If these tasks did not go well, consider not riding.  That doesn’t mean all hope is lost.  Most of my horses who are excellent lesson horses now would have not done well (and did not do well) at these tasks in the beginning.  Use this as data to guide what you do in subsequent sessions.


Level 3:

    This horse is your horse and you’re taking the time to fill in all foundational gaps, or maybe you’re starting him yourself.  In most of your training sessions, you are not feeling pressured to ride – training is the goal, whatever that might mean for this session.  I’m not going to cover individual items for this level here.  I just want to point out that the “pre ride check” has an assumption that there will be a ride, and in some cases, when you are re-doing things or starting from scratch and when the overall development of the horse is your goal, you might not ride in any given session. 

Of course if you want info on where to go from here, come see me!