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Horseback Riding Basics

Photo Courtesy of HorseTrailDirectory.com

Here are some basic horse riding tips to orientate yourself and to help prepare you for that horseback riding adventure. For more complete instructions, be sure to checkout The Beginner's Guide to Horseback Riding."

Approaching Your Horse

Always approach your horse in a calm and confident manner. Horses sense when a rider is nervous or scared and the way you approach can greatly affect your horse's attitude. It is unlikely a horse would hurt you intentionally, but you still need to use caution to prevent the possibility of injury. Always have a clear path to get out of the way of your horse should unexpected circumstances cause him to panic.

Mounting Your Horse

In order to sit properly and have a comfortable ride, check the stirrups to make sure they are an appropriate length. To do this, simply place your arm on the saddle. Grab the stirrup and put it under your arm. The stirrup should be the length of your arm. The length of your arm is also the length of your leg.

A proper mount will go a long way in establishing trust between you and the horse.

  • If you are an inexperienced rider, have someone hold the horse steady while you get on.
  • Begin by standing on the left side of the horse.
  • Hold the reins in your left hand (drape any slack over the horse's right side) while also grabbing hold of the horse' mane with your left hand as well.
  • Use your right hand to turn the stirrup out and place your left foot into the stirrup, parallel to the horse's side. If you are too short to reach the stirrup, stand on a box or other object that will enable you to reach.
  • Now grab the back of the saddle with your right hand.
  • Bounce off the ground with your right foot putting weight onto your left foot in the stirrup, while simultaneously pulling yourself up using the back of the saddle and the horse's neck.
  • Once you are balanced on your left foot in the stirrup, swing your right leg over the horse as you release your right hand from the back of the saddle and gently lower yourself into the saddle.
  • Place your right foot into the other stirrup.
  • Make sure your weight is distributed over the center of the horse.
  • You will dismount from your horse by reversing the steps you took to get on. Hold the horses neck and remove your foot from the right stirrup. Stand up and swing yourself up and off of the saddle and finally to the ground.

You should maintain good posture, and your legs should be relaxed so they can move easily. Pull your spine and lower back in slightly, but make sure you are not sitting too stiffly. You want to be able to maintain balance without clamping down hard on the horse with your legs or having to grab the saddle horn.

Your knees should lie flat against the saddle. The balls of your feet should rest on the stirrup with your toes pointing slightly upward, with the heels down. Your feet need to be able to fall out of the stirrup, so you can land free of the horse should you be thrown.

Hold the reins loosely down and over the front of the saddle. Don't hold the reins tightly as this will only confuse the horse making him think you want to stop.

Walking Your Horse

Many horses are trained to respond and move based on the pressure applied by the rider's legs. Because your leg movements can confuse a horse, be sure and keep your legs relatively still and only use them to provide signals to your horse.

To get your horse to walk, squeeze both legs against the side of the horse. As the horse starts to move, relax the pressure of your legs. If your horse does not respond, you can give a gentle kick into his side while making a clucking sound with your tongue.

Your horse can be thrown off balance when you go up or down a hill so you will need to adjust the way you sit in the saddle. When going downhill, you need to lean back in the seat, and you need to lean forward when you are going uphill.

Steering Your Horse

A majority of trail horses are trained to neck rein. This means you hold both reins in one hand. Then when you want the horse to turn right, simply pull the reins to the right, so that the left rein lies across the left side of the horse's neck. To turn left, pull the reins to the left so the right rein lies across the right side of the horse's neck.

When turning your horse, you may also need to apply pressure from your right leg while pulling the reins to the left to signal your horse to move left. Likewise, apply pressure from your left leg while pulling the reins to the right to signal you horse to move right.

So in other words, to turn your horse right, you will be applying pressure on the left of your horse's neck and side (using the rein and your leg), and will be applying pressure on the right of your horse's neck and side to turn left.

Or maybe another way of thinking is you apply all pressure to the outside of the turn.

Stopping Your Horse

When you want your horse to stop moving and stand still, simply pull the reins firmly back toward you, and say, "Whoa."

What to Wear

Select clothing that will help ensure your safety. Your clothes should not get in your way or be able to get caught on anything, such as a branch or saddle horn. Your clothes or anything you wear should not be able to flap around to avoid scaring the horse.

Avoid wearing dangling necklaces, purses, scarves, bracelets or anything that can get caught on the saddle, in the horse's mane or tail, or branches, and also to avoid potentially scaring the horse. Horses have extraordinary peripheral vision and any flashing jewelry from the sun could startle them. Also if you have long hair, you should tie it back to avoid it from flying around in the wind.

Wear your shirt tucked into your pants to avoid it from flapping in the wind or getting caught. Loose and un-tucked shirts have a tendency to get snagged on the saddle horn when mounting or dismounting, or when leaning down to avoid getting hit by a branch. A button shirt is preferred because if you do get it snagged on something while the horse is moving, and for some reason you are unable to stop her, the buttons would come off to help free you.

Do not wear shorts. Wear long pants made of tough material, such as jeans, to avoid getting scratched or gouged by branches, and to avoid tearing. Your pant legs should be long enough so that they do not ride up when you are mounted on the horse, and your legs stay protected.

Most importantly, wear the correct type of footwear when going horseback riding. Sandals simply are not a good choice! Your entire foot should be covered to avoid any injury, such as getting stepped on by a horse. Your footwear should also have a heel to prevent your foot from accidentally sliding through the stirrup and getting trapped - it's possible you could be dragged if you were to fall off. Boots are preferred as they also offer protection around your ankles and shins, should you brush up against a tree or post.

Check out "The Beginner's Guide to Horseback Riding: easy steps to enjoying your ride" to learn all of the horseback riding basics and to feel better about horseback riding in no time flat.




How to Ride a Horse | Horseback Riding Basics