Smart Horseback Riding: The “Check-Out Drill”

Incorporate this program for tightening your horse’s girth into your pre-riding routine.

From AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship

In AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship series, AQHA partnered with La Cense Montana to provide a resource that will help you get the most out of your horse experience. Today, we’ll cover the “Check-Out Drill,” an exercise for tightening your horse’s girth. The following are three objectives of this pre-horseback-riding exercise:

    • To assure that the horse is comfortable after being saddled so the girth can be tightened once your horse has “deflated.”
    • To combine several movements, such as backing, sending and lateral movement, to make a thorough evaluation before getting onto his back.

How Do I Do It?

If you found this horseback-riding exercise helpful, just wait until you see what else AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship can offer you! Purchase this series today so you can make the most of your horse and the relationship you have with him.

Once the horse has been saddled, never simply turn your back and lead him off without first sending him to the right and left. If the girth is pinching him or if he is stuck or feeling “girthy,” he might leap toward you, particularly in the case of a young or highly sensitive horse. When any horse is saddled for the very first time, you should remain extremely vigilant and not lose sight for an instance.

Give the horse some direction and send him away at a walk, then a trot. Direct the horse toward a fence, and then send him between you and the fence. Once you have completed this “check-out drill” on one side, tighten the girth and repeat it on the other side before tightening the girth once again. Three small girth adjustments are infinitely preferable to one big one, which could tighten it too much.

Once the horse is moving forward nicely, ask for a few backward steps. If the saddle is giving the horse any discomfort, it will become obvious at this point.

Important: Some people like to stretch out the horse’s front legs to remove any girth wrinkles. This is a good practice, but should only be done after some movement, for safety reasons. If the horse’s muscles are cold, you risk over-stretching them and damaging the muscle tissue. If the horse is “stuck,” he could react, and you could find yourself in a dangerous position.

The “Check-Out Drill” is just one fundamental you need before you climb aboard your horse. Purchase this helpful horse series today so you can look forward to safe and fun horseback rides for years to come!

You should think of this series of exercises as “pre-flight checks,” which will allow you to evaluate not only your horse’s physical state, but also his mental and emotional state.

If your horse is very fresh and wants to buck and play around, allow him to do so, but keep him busy with transitions, cantering and directions changes, until he is calmer. It is better for him to express his exuberance now - before you get on his back.

Errors to Avoid:

    • Do not simply try to wear your horse out physically before you get on - he will just become fitter and fitter.
    • Do not stop the exercise when the horse is still bucking or jumping around, or this is what he will learn to do. Stop only when he is calm and attentive.

AQHA Video

Want to learn one more bit of information from AQHA's Fundamentals of Horsemanship that will come in handy? Check out this video, which covers the pressure-and-release basics!