Mounted Drill Team
Simply speaking, drill team is a group of riders working in unison to create a "dance" on horseback
which we often see in parades or at horse related events. Unlike the slower line work done in
parades, musical freestyle routines are done at a canter or lope and performed to a musical selection
where an entire arena becomes our "dance floor". The routines can be a short program of 5 to 6
minutes or long programs which are usually 9 to 12 minutes in length. This performance is a series of
patterns or maneuvers choreographed into a full routine. Some of the names of these maneuvers
are, "Suicide Cross", "Peel The Apple" "Crack The Whip" or the "Double Wedding Ring". There are
many more and numerous variations on these same patterns, some of which can be highly complex
while others are quite simple. In competition, it goes without saying that the more complex the
maneuver, the higher the points awarded, If it can be ridden successfully. However, even a simple
pattern, when ridden well at a faster gait and with shorter horse spacing can be awarded high
scoring. When putting together a drill routine you are only limited by your imagination because the
possibilities seem endless. Freestyle performances can be seen at fairs, rodeos, saddle club events
and in competition and demonstrations are often seen during the intermissions at horse shows.
Proper equitation is essential for the comfort and safety of both horses and rider. When done
correctly, the horse and rider communicate. They become a team, which is the goal of every horse
person. Proper equitation consists of:
1. Sitting up straight in the saddle, yet relaxed enough to move with the horse.
2. Shoulders straight, but not stiff.
3. Elbows in at the sides.
4. The left hand holds the reins slightly above and ahead of the saddle horn.
5. The right hand is closed and rests on the rider's leg. Extra reins may be held.
6. Balls of the feet are in the stirrups with boot heels lower than the stirrup.
7. Toes are parallel with the horse's body, not turned outward. The rider should be able to see just
the tips of his/hers toes in front of his/her knees.
8. From the knees down, the legs should be relaxed and slightly away from the horse's sides.
9. An imaginary line should run through the rider's shoulders, hips, and heels.
The rider communicates with the horse by using the reins, his legs, and his body. Cues are given
quietly and gently. If the horse doesn't respond, then the cue should be repeated more firmly.
Usually when a horse doesn't respond as requested, it is because the rider is accidentally giving the
wrong or conflicting cues. The rider needs to be aware of exactly what he/she is asking the horse to
The horse's head follows the rider's hand. If the rider moves his hand back, the horse will slow or
stop. To turn left, the rider moves his hand to the left. The right rein will touch the horse's neck and
the horse will turn left. The opposite is done to turn right. The rider's hand movements should be
done gently so that the horse's mouth is not hurt. Sudden or hard jerks on the reins, especially if it
forces the horse to open his mouth, are not proper. If the horse doesn't respond to neck reining, the
rider should gently pull on one rein until the horse turns, then immediately release the pressure on
the rein. By releasing the pressure, the rider is rewarding the horse for turning. The horse would
become confused if the pressure wasn't released after he/she responded to the cue. The rider should
never use the reins to maintain his/her balance in the saddle. The reins should be held loose enough
so that constant pressure isn't applied to the horse's mouth. Yet the rider shouldn't have to take up
extra slack in the reins to cue the horse.
The rider uses his/her legs to tell the horse to move forward and at what speed, a soft squeeze of
both the rider's legs asks the horse to walk; a firmer squeeze or tap with one leg cues the horse to
lope and tell the horse which lead to pick up. Since some horses are more responsible than others,
the rider should always begin with a gentle squeeze, rather than kicking the horse's sides. Before a
leg cue is given, the rider should slightly raise the reins to collect the horse and to let him know a cue
Most horses are trained to move away from pressure. The squeezing of legs mentioned above
propels the horse forward. Combined with reining cues, leg pressures are also used to turn the
horse. To turn to left, the rider moves hand to the left and nudges the horse with the calf of his/her
right leg. It is opposite for a right turn. Leg pressures are released as soon as the horse responds.
By shifting her body weight, the rider can cue the horse. Leaning forward urges the horse to move
forward; leaning back cues the horse to stop or back; and leaning to the side tells the horse to turn.
Body cues should be a slight almost invisible movement that only you and your horse feel. All three
cues work together. The rider needs to be sure that he is giving the horse three consistent cues or
the horse will not understand what it is being asked. As the rider's ability improves, the cues become
natural movements, barely visible to someone watching. Then the day arrives that horse and rider
set to move as one~~they are a team.
Grooming of a horse
Grooming is essential to a horse's health as well as his looks. The brushing of a horse's coat opens
his oil and sweat glands thus promoting a glossy coat. Horses should be groomed at least once a day
and always before and after a ride. The grooming process is as follows:
STEP 1: Tie your horse securely to a tie rail or hitching post.
STEP 2: Use a currycomb to loosen caked mud and dirt from his coat. Currycombs may be made of
metal or rubber. Never use a metal currycomb on a horse's legs, face, or bony places. The rubber
currycombs may be used on these places.
STEP 3: The body brush is used to bring up loosed dirt and dust from the skin. Starting at your
horse's ears, brush his entire body using with-the-hair-strokes. Be sure to clean between his legs,
under his belly, and behind his pasterns
STEP 4: Uses the dandy brush to flick off any remaining particles of dust and hair. Again beginning at
the back of your horse's ears, clean around his eyes, over the cheeks, and down his nose. Continuing
to use the with-the-hair-strokes, briskly brush the whole body.
STEP 5: After brushing your horse's coat, you may use a clean towel or cloth to finish removing dirt
and dust. This puts a final sheen on his coat.
STEP 6: A damp cloth or sponge is used to clean your horse's eyes, nostrils, and under his tail.
STEP 7: Comb out your horse's mane and tail with a main and tail comb. A stiff hairbrush or dog's
grooming brush may also be used. When combing out the tail, stand to one side and pull the tail
towards you rather than standing directly behind your horse's hindquarters.
STEP 8: Using the hoof pick, clean your horse's hooves.