Horses are majestic, energetic, and intelligent creatures, which can form a life-long friendship with humans. No wonder equestrianism (horseback riding, horse riding) is such a popular sport. Plus, this sport will benefit both your mental and physical health in several ways.
However, horses can also be intimidating when you approach them for the first time. They are large, easily frightened animals that can sense your fear and insecurity. If you dream of galloping on a horse, you probably wonder how to ride a horse and which are the first steps to becoming a rider? Let’s see.
Step by Step Guides on Riding a Horse
Before Getting on Horse
The chances are that you will take some time thinking about riding a horse before booking the first training. You should watch the video tutorials, read a book, or talk to a friend with riding experience. Still, there are two things you need to consider before getting on the horse.
1. Select the riding equipment
A comfortable saddle is not the only equipment you need to ride a horse. In most cases, the training center provides bridle reins, girth, and bit, as well as the horse. Make sure to learn how to use and adjust this equipment to satisfy both your and equine needs.
Next, pick your riding outfit. You probably don’t want to look like a cowboy from Toy Story, so find the right, comfortable helmet, long pants, and boots with small heels. The proper footwear can prevent catching your feet in the stirrups, resulting in a horse dragging you around if you accidentally slip from a saddle.
2. Befriend a horse
A horse is a living, breathing creature that feels just like humans do. Remember that the animal can also have a bad day, get tired, moody, or scared. Once you approach your horse, give it time to get to know you, smell, and lick your hand.
You should always talk to a horse in a calm and peaceful voice. Say its name and get acquainted before petting it. Offering a treat such as an apple or a sugar cube is a bonus point.
3. Mounting Horse
In theory, mounting a horse is a piece of cake. You come to a horse, put one leg in a stirrup, stand up, switch the other leg over the horse, and, voila, you did it! Right? Wrong!
In real life, mounting a horse for the first time takes time, and the animal can get impatient, try to walk away, or move enough from you to disturb your balance.
Ask your trainer or an experienced friend to hold the horse and keep it still. Typically, trainers hold the horse to its right side, and they learn animals to expect riders on their left. So, approach the animal’s left side and take the reins in your left hand.
Once you set your foot in the left stirrup, place your weight on it and swing the other leg over the horse’s back as smoothly as possible. Sit in a saddle and put the right foot in the stirrup.
Your trainer will adjust the stirrup’s length if that is necessary. Don’t make sudden moves, but make sure you are comfortable and secure in a saddle. Gently hold the reins, relax, and carefully signal the horse once you are ready to go.
3. Practice Your Posture
There are two things you can hardly avoid once you start riding. You will feel pain, and you may fall. Horseback riding is both a physically and mentally tiring sport, and it takes time for your body to get used to it. Muscle inflammation, back pain, and minor injuries are usual in the first weeks of training.
However, you can learn to maintain proper posture during horse riding. This skill can improve your stability in the saddle and your balance and prevent injuries and pain. Most beginners are nervous, hunched over, move their hands around, or frantically hold the saddle horn.
Don’t worry. You can quickly catch on to the elementary riding posture. The simplest way to set your body is to imagine a straight line that touches your ears, shoulders, hips, and heels.
Sit comfortably in the saddle and place shoulders and back ideally in line. Your elbows need to be at a 90-degree angle to the horse’s back.
Use your hands to control reins and your legs to apply pressure on the horse body as needed. At the same time, you should safely place your behind deeply in the saddle.
Once you are ready to ride your animal, you should slightly change the pressure on the reins, or give it a voice command, gently squeeze with your legs, or lean forward. Some stubborn equines sometimes only react to a light kick with your whip.
Most horse trainers learn animals to respond to neck rein. That means you need to move a left rein to direct the horse to go left and vice versa. Keep in mind that these pieces of equipment are in direct contact with the horse’s mouth, and don’t pull them hard.
Such movements can only result in animal injury. Keep in mind that an injured horse won’t be in the mood for cooperation or obedience.
Keep your gaze between the horse’s ears and use the reins and your legs to control horse movement. However, it is better to leave the reins loose enough for the horse to have a little freedom and not restrain every step it takes.
Plus, don’t squeeze horse hips all the time since it can annoy the animal. Once it follows your command, relax, and enjoy the horse ride to the moment when you need to change direction.
5. Stop the Ride
No matter how enthusiastic you are, your riding lesson is time-limited. Slow down the horse before stopping it completely. It has no brakes like a bike or a car, so avoid surprising it because it can scare and react abruptly.
Instead, slowly lean back in your saddle and pull the rains towards yourself. You can also say its name and a phrase like ‘stop’ or ‘halt,’ depending on its training.
Keep in mind that you are a beginner, and make sure you are well balanced in a saddle before stopping the horse. If you feel insecure, hold the saddle top or horn, and ask your trainer for help. Always wait until your horse is entirely still before dismounting.
6. Practice Trotting
Initial enthusiasm is dangerous and can make you want to gallop as soon as you feel safe enough in the saddle. However, it would be better to learn how to trot on your horse first.
Once you learn to control a walking horse, gently bounce your horse using heels to make it start trotting. Many beginners describe trotting as an uncomfortable, bouncing experience that hurts their back and muscles.
Luckily, it is relatively straightforward to learn to follow the horse’s rhythm and move in harmony with it. You need to relax, loosen your legs, and keep them calmly hanging in stirrups.
Although your natural reaction is to panic and pull reins when the horse starts trotting, it is not an option since it is the sure way to hurt the animal. Instead, ensure your position in the saddle by grabbing the horn or a strap.
You can slow down your horse, back to walking at any moment. Do that by simply leaning back slightly and pulling reins carefully. Remember that it is you who are in charge, not an animal.
7. Riding a Galloping Horse
Galloping is fun, but it requires profound experience. Any professional trainer will advise you against riding a full horse speed until mastering other lower rhythms and learning to control your horse.
The warm-up is crucial when it is time to start galloping. It would be best if you walked and only then started trotting ten minutes minimum. That way, both you and your horse will prepare your bodies for speed and adrenaline rush. Otherwise, one of you two may get seriously injured.
Never forget to check if other riders are nearby before starting galloping for the first time. Both you and the animal should get familiar with the terrain to ensure there are no obstacles such as low bushes, bumps, and holes in the ground.
Many situations or even small animals can confuse and frighten your horse, triggering its sudden moves that may result in throwing you off balance. Galloping requires that the rider knows the horse well, understands its reactions, and can control it and calm it down when necessary.
Make sure to have a stable position in the saddle before rushing to galloping. Forget about movie scenes when a character practically lies on the horse hugging its neck. You want to keep a proper posture and avoid bending.
Try to relax your hips while fixing your back and shoulders straight. You can signal your horse it is time for spicing things up by increasing pressure with your legs and slightly leaning forward.
If you usually use voice commands, you can click or say a specific phrase the equine has learned to recognize.
Once your horse starts galloping, loosely hold the reins and use your legs to make sweeping movements, following its rhythm. From that moment, galloping will become another pleasure you share with your horse.
8. Dismount a Horse
Once you learn proper mounting, dismounting won’t come as a challenge. It is enough to reverse the process. Stop the equine, keep it calm, and place both reins in your left hand.
Next, pull your feet from the stirrups, lean slightly forward and swing your right leg over the animal’s back.
Carefully slide to the ground while holding the reins loosely. Don’t pull them hard to avoid harming the horse’s mouth. Once you finish the riding and stand next to the animal, pat it on the neck or give it the treat to reward its patience.
More Ridding Tips for Beginners
The first decision you need to make once you decide to take riding lessons is to pick a professional trainer. Ask about training centers in your area and book an introduction class.
Remember, there are no stupid or silly questions, so you should ask for all the info you need. Your trainer can provide you with individual lessons, or you can horse ride in a group. Plus, there are some tips you can get from experienced riders you meet, such as:
- Helmet – Always wear a certified riding helmet without exceptions and even after years of practice.
- Riding boots, pants, and gloves – Quality clothes and footwear can make a difference in your experience, especially in the first few months.
- Stay alert – Keep in mind your horse riding lessons and all the details requiring your attention. You need to stay focused on your horse, surrounding area, posture, and balance at the same time.
- Never grab reins too hard – If you need something to hold to stay secure, you should grab a saddle strip, have its horn, and horse’s mane. It is not fair to injure the animal while trying to maintain stability and comfort.
- Don’t kick the equine – Use your legs to direct your horse and speed it up. Take care to only gently squeezing its body with your knees and consistently control your strength. Otherwise, you can hurt its ribs or stomach, irritate it, and provoke an undesired reaction.
- Relax – You should always remain confident, calm, and peaceful and watch your breath. The goal is to enjoy the ride, but always keep in mind that you are on the back of a living creature. Therefore, it is necessary to treat it with respect and ensure both have fun.
- Take small steps forward – If you expect to gallop on the first day or even the first month of training, you will be disappointed. Plan your riding lessons one by one, and trust your trainer. You can’t start practicing new skills and riding styles before mastering the previous levels.
Learning how to ride a horse takes time, discipline, and dedication. You need to befriend the animal, get the proper equipment, and learn basic skills. Practicing the correct posture is vital and can save you from accidents.