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5 Tips For First-time Horseback Trail Riders

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely thinking of going horse trail riding for the first time. Now you probably are nervous and feel butterflies all over your stomach. This is normal for many people and there’s no need to feel ashamed. However, you cannot let these emotions take the better of you. If you do, your horse trail riding experience will turn into a nightmare.

To ensure you have fun, follow the below tips.

Remember: being your first time, it’s recommended to have an expert guide you through the trail. He/she will help calm you and the horse down for a memorable experience. With that said, let’s now get down to the tips.

Wear Proper Horseback Riding Attire

proper horseback riding attire

A little too obvious, huh? Well, not quite. You’ll be shocked at the number of first-timers who turn up for a horse trail riding session in beach sandals and miniskirts. But it’s probably because they do not know any better. But here’s the thing – horse trail riding attire is available for a reason. Riding a horse is uncomfortable when you are not in the right attire.

So what should you wear? Well, long pants and closed toe shoes will suffice. However, if you have cowboy boots they would do better. Also, scarves, purses and other fashion accessories are a no-no. These could easily get tangled in your horse and lead to serious injuries. Last but not least (but this is not a must), you could wear a helmet.

Greet Your Horse

greet your horse

Horse trail riding is only truly enjoyable when you start viewing your horse as a partner and not a tool for you to control. Horses are living creatures and have feelings as well. It could be tired, scared or nervous to have a stranger ride him. For this reason, you should take your time to establish a relationship with him from the start. The best way to do this is by greeting him when the two of you are introduced to each other.

So now the question is, ‘how do you greet a horse?’ And just in case you are wondering, no it’s not crazy to greet a horse. Actually, it is a normal thing to do. Here’s how you do it. Stretch out your arm and offer your horse the back side of your hand for him to smell. Wait for him to cover the remaining distance and touch your hand with his nose. What I’ve just described is known as the Horseman’s handshake (look at you already learning the lingo. Exciting huh?). You could think of it as a way of requesting permission to mount him.

Mount With Confidence

mount with confidence

Horses can sense when you are nervous and scared. When they do, they will either take advantage of you or get scared themselves. Typically, horses are trained to be mounted from their left side. Ideally, your guide should be holding the horses head to ensure he doesn’t move while you mount. But if he doesn’t, get someone else to do this for you.

Mounting is easy. First, place your left foot in the stirrup and get hold of the reins with the left hand. Use your right foot to propel yourself onto the horse’s back. Try and make the spring onto the horse’s back as smooth as possible. As you mount, your hands can be on the horses back. But this should purely be for balance. Do not push down on the horse.

Don’t Slouch

don’t slouch

You probably watched the derby prior to your horse trail riding session and got all kinds of ideas of how you can ride fast. Well, while the tips you picked up on may be accurate, you should tone down the excitement for now. Remind yourself you are on a calm horse trail and not horse racing on a Breeder’s Cup.

With that said the best position to assume is sitting upright and tall. Have your arms relaxed and have a gentle grip on the reins. Remember to hold your balance otherwise, the horse will feel like its carrying an even heavier load.

Be Gentle On The Rails

be gentle on the rails

The riding technique you employ will depend on the style you are learning – either Western or English riding. In western riding, you’ll have both reins in one hand and in English riding; you have each rein in each hand. But regardless of the technique, your arms should be relaxed. You should not pull too hard on the horse.

There’s no good reason to lift the reins above your shoulder’s or even your head. The perfect position is to have your arms form right angles at the elbows. To direct the horse, move the reins in either direction (depending on which you want him to turn). The movement should resemble that of opening a door. To stop, push the heels down and pull back the reins. These movements should be gentle.

And there you have it – five tips that will guarantee you an enjoyable horseback trail riding experience. As you strive to put these tips into practice, remember, to embrace every moment. After all, you’ll only be a newbie once.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.


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