At Nine Acres we have a zero tolerance policy on “unnecessary discomfort or distress” for our horses, and aim to keep them in an environment where they thrive. As well as day to day management, this includes education of riders from the very start on how to safely handle horses with feel and understanding, and to apply aids (instructions) to the horse in an effective, harmonious way.
Abuse exists in many forms. You will never hear “Kick” or “Pull” at Nine Acres.
We get to know each of the horses as individuals and treat them to the very best care available. Without them, it would not be possible to educate our clients to the high level of horsemanship which we are passionate about making available to riders of every ability, so the least we can do is ensure they are happy, healthy and comfortable. We take care to read the smallest signals that something isn’t right and address it straight away. What’s more, we teach you to read those signals too. After all, your dream is to have a partnership, so communication is essential.
Below are the top 6 rules we follow to provide you with horses that look forward to seeing you for your lesson.
We would like to say an enormous “Thank You” to the owners of all the horses made available to us in the training centre, who come from a wide variety of homes – from ex competition horses to happy hackers. One thing all our owners have in common is a genuine love of their horses, and a desire to do their best for them. We believe clients should learn to ride with balance and empathy from the early stages, without using force. This is only possible when riding horses that have been well schooled and are happy, comfortable and confident in their work. You will never hear instructions of “Kick” or “Pull” at Nine Acres. Horses are flight creatures and as such are extremely sensitive. When a horse is comfortable, confident and correctly trained, you create a true partnership between horse and rider.
1) All of our horses are seen by accredited equine physiotherapist Jo Spear before starting work in the centre. Although they are large, horses are not naturally strong – in fact their backs are a very weak structure. Just like humans, their muscles require conditioning to carry weight if we are to avoid discomfort, leading to other issues such as lameness or behavioural problems (from rushing or being “lazy” to rearing / bucking.) We take note of the smallest changes in behaviour and work to resolve the root cause immediately, with the use of whichever professionals are deemed appropriate. Jo is one of the leading ACPAT physiotherapists in the UK, and we are extremely fortunate to have her as part of our team, designing specific strengthening programs for each horse.
2) All Nine Acres horses are ridden in snaffle bits, normally a french link which we feel is one of the more comfortable bit designs for most horses mouths’. Stronger bits are not used here because the horses are trained to respond to feel, not force, and as a client you are not put in situations where you have to exert pressure in order to stay in control. Sometimes it takes several months of training before horses are used in lessons. We never rush horses, as doing so nearly always leads to resorting to physical control. Nor do we try to acclimatise them to “riding school situations” by “flooding“. (see “Habituation”) Ultimately we believe this is highly dangerous, as well as being distressing for the horse.
3) For the same reason, all Nine Acres horses are ridden in caveson nosebands. Horses that open their mouths are normally trying to avoid the discomfort of the bit pulling on to their tongue or bars (gums), or finding the work asked of them too difficult. Rather than using a restrictive noseband, we ensure horses respond to light aids and riders do not rely on their reins for balance. We have yet to meet a horse who’s jaw doesn’t relax more when the flash is removed, unless a physical or rider issue is underlying cause. It seems wrong to prevent the horse from telling us he is finding work difficult, so we choose to allow him his voice and take action to resolve the real problem.
4) We carefully match horse and rider. There is so much more to a good partnership than the height, stamp and ability of the horse. For example, did you know horses can be hypermobile, just like humans? A novice, highly mobile rider with low muscle tone on a hypermobile horse is an extremely bad combination – neither will be comfortable nor be able to perform correctly! We have carefully pieced together our string of horses, ensuring we can meet demands from a wide range of clients and run a successful educational enterprise without compromising our horses welfare. In fact this was the mission when Nine Acres was first established.
5) Our horses only work once a day, a maximum of 5 days a week, and enjoy a varied routine with regular breaks. Because we don’t give “nose to tail” group lessons, you’ll be riding a horse that behaves like a horse, who’s happy, alert and responsive.
6) Finally we treat our horses like horses, allowing us to teach riders what horses really are. We can’t completely replicate the lifestyle the horse would have in the wild (picture right) but providing maximum turnout time, constant equine companionship, high fibre diet, good quality feed and clients who build an understanding of how to create a mutual partnership with a live animal, not a machine makes for happy horses. At least, we think so. We hope you will visit us to see for yourself. You can see more about our yard routine, and the management factors we believe help to set us apart here