horse riding tips
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Beginner’s Guide to Horse Riding

If you dream of riding through the open fields on horseback with reins lifted and a gallop, then you have come to the right place. Getting started, horse riding is not too difficult, but like any skill, it does require practice and laying the groundwork of knowledge.

Before trying to get mounted, you need to know what to wear, how to approach your horse, how to properly mount it, and then how to ride and get dismounted after you’re done. This is critical to ensuring a safe and enjoyable ride, so let’s get started learning the basics, so you can live your dream.

What Should You Wear to Safely Ride a Horse?

The first thing you need is to show up to ride in the proper outfit. Your arms and legs must be completely covered to safely ride, and these clothes should be durable to resist abrasion. A good pair of sturdy jeans will do as well as any dedicated riding pants and a long-sleeved shirt. You will also need appropriate footwear to keep your traction, protect your feet, and ensure your feet remain properly positioned in the stirrups with the ball of your foot resting inside the stirrup and the toes pointing upward.

A good choice is durable leather riding boots that have good traction and a good one-inch-wide heel. The tough leather is critical in case the horse unintentionally steps on your foot, and a small heel will help keep your foot inside the stirrup but won’t trap your foot inside if you are thrown from the horse.

Speaking of becoming thrown, just like when riding a bike or motorcycle, you will need to wear a helmet every time you ride. Try looking for a certified helmet designed for horseback riding. However, if you are into several athletic disciplines, there are multi-purpose helmets that can work.

Introduce Yourself

The first step to take is to introduce yourself to a horse for the very first time. This is often referred to as the horseman’s handshake, and it is critical to perform this step to let your horse get to know you. 

This is like how you would greet a dog and should be done slowly and gently. Start by extending your hand toward the horse slowly and gracefully.

Let your hand sit there and give the horse time to get used to you. Once the horse decides to touch its nose to you, this is its way of letting you know that it is okay to move on to the next stage.

Get Mounted

Now that the two of you have had a chance to meet, it is time to get mounted. In the U.S., most trainers will help you get mounted using the left stirrup. After placing your foot inside the stirrup, you can then smoothly propel your other leg across the horse.

During this stage, you will find that it is important to rely on your legs. Try to make sure that you lean your weight on your legs while mounting. If you try placing your weight on the horse’s head or neck, it could result in a poor reaction and possibly forgetting your recent meeting.

Staying in the Saddle

Now that you’re in the saddle, you want to stay in there. The best way to ensure this is to start out riding with a gentle older horse with experience around beginners. You will still have a lot to learn about riding, and the right horse can give you the chance to learn what you need and can even teach you how to interact with a horse properly. A “hot” horse can easily become nervous and excited with young, inexperienced riders and make learning a challenge.

After getting mounted, settle down gently and relax. Sit down slowly and comfortably and let yourself become familiar with the horse’s motions. Hold yourself in your seat using your thighs and maintain balance. Don’t dig your heels or knees into the horse’s side.

Guide the Horse Using Your Whole Body

Never pull on the reins and instead hold the reins gently. You should never have to move the reins very much to let your horse know what you want it to do. Instead of just pulling on the reins, you can indicate the direction you want to go by shifting your own weight around. By applying slight pressure with your knees or calves, you can guide your horse to turn in one direction or the other.

Stay Alert

Whenever you are riding, it is crucial to stay alert and keep your eyes open. You need to be ready for any obstructions or surprises that may surprise your horse. You may need to change your course at any moment to avoid any unexpected obstructions and prevent your horse from becoming frightened.

Keep a Light Touch

No matter what style of riding you end up using, you will never need to pull hard on the reins. You should feel a slight contact between the bit and your horse’s mouth, and that is it. Hold your hands comfortably slightly above the pommel with your elbows sitting at your sides. Don’t swing your arms around or hold your elbows out. Simply relax and sit with a straight posture.

Begin with Short Rides

Riding a horse doesn’t mean simply sitting there. In fact, the act of riding is an intense workout for your core. When you are just starting out, a long ride will leave you aching all over, particularly in your thighs. When you are just beginning, do yourself a favor and take the time to build up the length of your rides. Your muscles will thank you, and it will give you the time to build a relationship with your horse before engaging in longer rides.

Dismount Properly 

Dismounting is essentially the opposite of mounting. Take the reins into your left hand and hold them over the horse’s withers with your right hand over the withers. Take your right foot out of the stirrup, bend your right leg, and raise it over the horse’s croup while simultaneously moving your right hand to the cantle and balancing yourself using your hands. Take your left foot out of the stirrup and gently jump to the ground. Keep control of the horse while gently sliding down. Remember to never push away from the horse while sliding down.

Final Thoughts

Horse riding can be a wonderful pastime for anyone who loves the outdoors, the gentleness of these peaceful animals, and is ready to learn. There is always something new to learn from every ride you take. Even one ride can quickly lead to a lifetime of passion for riding. Now that you have learned some of the basics, you are ready to get started riding a real horse.