Here are some basic horse riding tips to help you prepare for your next adventure.
The Meet & Greet
Approach your horse in a calm, confident manner and make sure he sees you coming. Horses are very adept creatures; they will sense if you’re nervous or scared, and your mood can greatly affect your horse’s attitude.
Always remember to relax. A well-trained horse will not try to hurt you on purpose. More often than not, he is just a little scared. It’s your job as the rider to assure him that everything is OK and that you mean him no harm. If you’re feeling comfortable, stroke him gently on the withers, the high point of the shoulder where the neck meets the back, to show him you’re friendly.
Getting on Top
Once you’ve introduced yourself to your horse, it’s time to mount him. Before hoisting yourself up, have your riding instructor check the stirrups to make sure they are the right length for you. This is essential for a comfortable ride.
To mount your horse, stand on his left side, grab hold of the reins with your left hand, and put your left foot in the stirrup. Now grab the back of the saddle with your right hand, and bounce of the ground with your left foot while simultaneously pulling yourself up. When you feel balanced, swing your right leg over the saddle, put your right foot into the stirrup, and gently lower yourself into the saddle. Congratulations! You’ve mounted your first horse.
Going for a Walk
Many horses are trained to respond to the pressure applied by your legs. To get your horse to walk, squeeze both legs against the sides of the horse. This should signal to the horse that you want him to start walking forward. If he doesn’t respond, you can give him a little incentive by gently kicking his sides and making a clucking sound with your tongue.
Now you’re on the move. Wait! What’s that ahead? It’s a low-hanging branch, and it’s about to sweep you right off your horse’s back. You need to learn to stop. But don’t worry—it’s easy.
Putting on the Breaks
When you want your horse to stop moving and stand still, pull back on the reins firmly and say “Whoa” like the cowboys do in movies. Once your horse has stopped, ease off on the tension; otherwise, he’ll start walking backwards!
Leading the Way
Steering your horse is like steering a car. When you want to go to the right, pull the reins to the right. When you want to go to the left, pull the reins to the left. Your horse will feel the rein’s pressure on his neck and will move accordingly.
Depending on the horse’s training, you may need to apply pressure on his sides in addition to pulling the reins. This technique is a little more confusing, but it only takes a couple of tries to learn. If you want your horse to go right, pull the reins to the right and apply pressure to his left side. Think about it this way: When you pull the rein to the right to signal a right turn, you’re actually applying pressure to the left side of the horse’s neck—it’s kind of like you’re pushing your horse in the direction you want to go.
Hit the Trails with Confidence
So there you have it—the basics of riding a horse. Of course, this is only the beginning. There’s a lot more to horseback riding that a trainer would be happy to teach you.
If you’d like to take horseback riding lessons from an experienced rider and instructor, come on out to BlissWood at Lehmann Legacy Ranch. We offer horseback riding lessons for kids and adults. It’s a ton of fun, and there’s plenty to see on our 650-acre working ranch when you’re sitting high.