If you are interested in learning to ride, the first thing you must do is learn about horses. Keep in mind that horses are not just vehicles. They are living, breathing beings, and each one is an individual, just as you are. So what should a beginner horse rider learn?
Before you begin riding, it’s a good idea to take some lessons in ground work with horses. Learn to lead, feed, groom and simply be around horses. Being familiar and comfortable around horses will go far toward helping you learn to ride successfully.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 6 Horse Riding Tips For Beginners
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
6 Horse Riding Tips For Beginners
The first and most important thing to learn when taking up horseback riding is how to understand, care for and be confident around horses.
Learning how to feed, groom and handle a horse on the ground lays a good foundation for excellent horsemanship. Don’t be in a big hurry to get into the saddle. Ease into riding. Get to know your horse first. Build a relationship so that you can trust one another.
Here are 6 simple horse riding tips for beginners that you may find helpful.
1. Be Safe!
Even with a very gentle and settled horse, horseback riding can be dangerous. If something scares your horse, you could easily be run-away-with, thrown or dragged. That’s why it is so important to dress correctly for horseback riding.
What Should You Wear To Handle Or Ride A Horse?
Your legs and arms should be covered. Wear sturdy jeans or other riding pants and a long-sleeved shirt. You’ll need to have steady footing on the ground and footwear that keeps your feet properly positioned in the stirrups. The ball of your foot should rest lightly in the stirrup with your toes pointing up and very slightly out.
Wear comfortable, sturdy riding boots with good traction and a one-inch heel. A boot made of sturdy leather protects your toes in case your horse accidentally steps on your foot.
Good traction helps you prevent slipping, and a slight heel keeps your foot from slipping through the stirrup. If you are thrown or fall off, you do not want your foot to be caught in the stirrup. If you have to walk back to the barn, you want to have comfortable footwear!
2. Protect Your Head!
Just as when riding a bicycle or motorcycle, you need a helmet when you ride a horse. Look for a properly certified, horseback riding helmet, or if you are a multi-discipline sort of athlete, try a multi-purpose helmet!
How To Stay In The Saddle
One of the best ways to stay in the saddle is to pick the right horse. Start out with an older, quieter horse who is used to beginners. There’s actually a lot to learn about good form, technique and horsemanship.
A settled mount will give you the opportunity to learn these things and will even teach you. A “hot” horse will challenge you every step of the way and make learning very difficult, if not impossible.
Once you are in the saddle, relax and use good posture. Sit comfortably on your sit bones, breathe and feel the rhythm of the horse’s movement.
Allow your body to move along subtly. Keep your balance and hold your seat with the strength in your thighs. Don’t grip with your heels or press unnecessarily with your knees.
3. Use Your Whole Body To Guide Your Horse!
Hold your reins lightly. You should not have to move them much to let your horse know what you want to do. You can also indicate direction by shifting your body weight left or right, forward or back.
Gentle pressure with the inside of your knee and calf lets your horse know you want to move one direction or another.
For example, if you want to move or turn left, press gently with the inside of your right knee and calf while lightly moving the reins to the left and shifting your weight slightly to the left. With practice, you will be able to convey your intentions to your horse without appearing to move at all.
4. Be Alert!
When you are riding, always look ahead and all around. Be on the lookout for things that may surprise or frighten your horse. Be prepared to change your course to avoid unnecessary disruptions.
5. Be Light Handed!
Whether you ride western or English, you do not need to saw on your horse’s mouth. You should just barely feel contact between the horse’s mouth and the bit. Your hands should be comfortably positioned just above the pommel or saddle horn.
Your elbows should be at your sides. If you find yourself raising your hands high or poking your elbows out like wings, you’re doing it wrong. Relax, breathe and get back into a comfortable and contained position.
6. Take Short Rides At First!
When you ride a horse, you are not just sitting there. Riding with correct posture and a good seat is a core body, isometric workout. If you aren’t used to riding, a long ride will make you achy all over, especially in the inner thighs.
As a beginner, take your time to build up your seat and develop a good relationship with your horse. You will soon come to realize that no matter how many years of riding you have behind you, you will learn something new every day when you pursue excellence in horsemanship.
How To Ride Horses
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s a good idea to be generally physically fit when you take up horseback riding. Follow standard, common sense practices including healthy eating, plenty of sleep and regular light to moderate exercise. Specific exercise to strengthen your seat, legs and core muscles are helpful, as are stretching routines to improve pelvic flexibility. Use of an exercise ball and yoga practice are both very good for improving strength and flexibility for horseback riding.
You should never divide your attention while riding. Stay in the moment, and pay close attention to your horse and your surroundings. Don’t talk on your phone, listen to music, get into animated conversations with other riders or do anything else that will distract you. Stay calm, collected and in charge at all times. Don’t shout, talk loudly, get into arguments, wave your arms or otherwise do anything that will unsettle, startle or spook your horse.
A horse is a living being, not a mode of transportation, so you must approach horseback riding as building a relationship rather than mastering a sport or learning to drive.
Your horse can “read” you, so you should always come to your riding session calm, focused and confident. If you are anxious, distracted and fearful, you will bring out these qualities in your horse and neither of you will have a good time. If you are riding a jaded rental horse, coming to a riding session filled with fear and doubt is very likely to lead to mischief on the part of the horse.
Remember that the goal is for the riding instructor to impress good riding habits and abilities onto you. Arrive with a beginner’s mind, pay close attention and follow directions. Be patient with yourself and your horse, and always keep an open mind and be ready to learn. This will impress your riding instructor.