Basic Horseback Riding Tips You Need Before Riding a Horse For the First Time: A blog about general horseback riding tips.
Brush the horse down.
When you arrive at the stable, the groom will explain how to take care of your horse. You may be told to give him a bath and brush him before taking him out for a ride. It’s important that you know how to properly brush a horse because brushing his coat will remove dust and dirt. If these are left on him, he can develop skin irritations. In this blog post we will discuss what you need to know about brushing your horse before taking him out for a ride.
First, you should use the right kind of brush for each step in washing and grooming your horse:
- The soft brush is used after giving the horse a bath or after he has been ridden in dusty conditions on hot days. It helps remove dust from his coat, as well as dried mud or sweat from his legs and belly (the area under his saddle).
- The stiff brush is used only when necessary: when there is dried mud all over his legs or if he has gotten sweaty due to being ridden hard on a hot day and needs an extra-good scrub down with water first before applying conditioner (which softens up everything nicely).*Note: if there’s any excess hair left over from shedding season (springtime), it may require cutting off with scissors before brushing begins!
Neaten your hair up.
The next thing you should know is that you have to neaten your hair up. Tie that glorious mane of yours into a ponytail or braid and make sure it’s safely tucked away. Or if you prefer, pull all of your hair back and tuck it under a helmet; just make sure that whatever headgear you’re using has a harness or chin strap to keep it from falling off when the horse starts moving!
It’s also best to keep any other accessories, like jewellery or scarves, at home for this first ride: they could snag on one of the straps when you mount the horse and fall off in front of its hooves (not an ideal situation).
Finally, make sure your clothing fits snuggly enough that nothing will get caught in the stirrups—no loose-fitting tops or loose-flowing skirts.
Wear practical clothing and boots.
It is important to wear clothing that is appropriate for horseback riding. You should wear long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and boots with a small heel. Avoid loose-fitting clothing that could get caught in the saddle. A helmet is also essential for your protection in case you fall off of the horse or it panics, which can happen even when you are an experienced rider.
If you are going on a longer ride with your guide (or independently) you may want to bring along a backpack full of snacks and water. Even if you are just going out for an hour or so, bring some bottled water because it can get very hot while riding.
Ensure saddle fits well.
Saddle fit is essential for your comfort and safety. It’s also important to the horse’s well-being, because it affects how he moves, so if he feels discomfort from a poorly fitting saddle, it can affect his performance.
Before you ride, ask your instructor what time they usually do their tack check – this is when they make sure everything is put on correctly and the horse isn’t feeling any ill effects from its tack. This should be done by all riders before every ride, but especially beginners or riders getting onto horses they don’t know well. Also ask someone to double check that you’ve done it right! If your instructor isn’t available at this time, you’ll have to do a brief self-check yourself:
- Make sure the pad is clean and dry (the saddle will slip around if there’s sweat underneath!)
- Check that the saddle is level (it should sit slightly higher in front of the withers)
- Adjust it accordingly – first loosen the girth completely to slide it forward or back as needed (if moving forward brings up wrinkles in the pad under the pommel then you need a longer saddle) and then retighten properly (see below).
Tightening Your Girth To The Proper Tension:
Your girth should be snug – not too tight or too loose – for proper balance in the saddle. This can be tricky for beginners to figure out; here are some common mistakes people make when tightening saddles:
Get to know your riding instructor.
Find out how experienced the instructor is. This person will be responsible for your safety and proper horseback riding technique, so his or her level of experience is crucial. If you don’t feel as though you can trust this person with your life, this isn’t a good sign. Ask questions about the facility at which he or she teaches—are there sufficient rescue equipment and medical facilities on-site? What precautions are taken in case of an emergency? Is a nurse or doctor readily available?
Find out how safe the horse is. A spooked horse can result in death or serious injury to both rider and animal; therefore, it’s important that you know your horse’s personality. Does the instructor have any information on this particular animal’s history? Find out if the horse has had any past behavioral incidents, as well as what measures are taken to prevent injury during riding lessons.
Establish a relationship with your instructor before getting on a horse for the first time; it could save yourself from possible catastrophe in the long run!
Understand how horses communicate.
Horses communicate through body language, sounds, smell and touch. They are very expressive and will let you know what they’re thinking with their ears, eyes, tails and body posture. If you have the opportunity to spend time with a horse before your ride it is a good idea to learn about his personality and how he communicates.
If you’re riding for the first time at a stable, ask them about the horses in their care – some may be more experienced for beginners than others. But don’t forget that there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ horse; some just need to be trained differently or have different needs than other horses.
Have confidence in your approach to the horse.
As you approach the horse, make sure you are confident in your movements. Horses respond to confidence, so take a deep breath and be sure not to let any nerves show. If this is your first time riding a horse, don’t be afraid to ask questions. The instructor may have asked you several questions already such as what type of experience you have on horses, but they will also be happy to answer any questions of yours. If you have trouble getting on the horse or staying on the horse, don’t let that get the better of you for too long. Horses are animals that can pick up fear or nerves an individual may have and it can cause them to act out more than if a calm rider was in control. Always remember that it takes time for anyone to get good at something new and give yourself time before judging your performance on a horse too harshly.
Mounting the horse safely and correctly.
Before you mount the horse, make sure that your helmet is firmly in place. Ask an instructor to help adjust your stirrups or bridle if necessary.
Mounting a horse for the first time can be intimidating, but it’s fairly simple once you know what to do.
- Put your left foot in the stirrup by bending your knee and placing your foot on it.
- Reach up as high as you can with your right hand, gripping onto the saddle horn.
- Bring up both feet at once and plant them firmly on the horse’s sides.
- Once balanced and confident on both feet, swing your right leg over the back of the horse so that you are all together sitting in the saddle. If you are struggling to complete this step, ask an instructor to help lift you into place!
Sit up straight, hands relaxed and soft on reins.
Now that you understand key horseback riding tips and definitions, here are the basics of the proper riding position:
- Sit up straight.
- Keep your hands firm but soft on the reins.
- Sit deep in the saddle, with your upper body held in a straight line above your hips.
- Keep your heels down! This is important to avoid damaging a horse’s mouth and to keep yourself balanced while riding.
Steering a horse using the reins and voice commands.
Steering a horse, while not the most difficult of tasks, is a challenge for beginners. It’s made simple, though, once you understand how to use your voice and reins effectively.
To give your horse instructions about where to go next and when to stop:
- Hold onto the end of the reins gently behind your horse’s ears so that you have an even amount of both reins in each hand.
- Use these basic commands with the corresponding rein(s):
- Heel — Nudge your left heel against the horse’s side just slightly until he moves forward. To stop him from moving forward, either stop nudging or pull back on the left rein slightly until he slows down or stops completely.
Riding a horse on different speeds — trotting, cantering, and galloping.
The next speed is the canter or “lope”. The canter is a three beat pace (but not as perfectly smooth as the trot) and you can easily count it by saying, “One-two-three… One-two-three…” Again, you don’t want to hold onto the saddle horn but instead grip with your thighs on either side of the horse to keep your balance and form. When you are ready to stop, softly pull on the reins until your horse slows down.
The last speed is called “galloping” or simply running. This pace is a four beat gait and will be very fast for beginners. It’s best not to try this one until you have had several riding lessons under your belt—especially if you plan to go out for trail riding!
If you’d like more information about learning how to ride a horse and basic horseback riding tips, check out our beginner series, where we’ll cover all of these topics in more detail: https://www2.horsejournals.com/tips_blog
Horseback riding is a great skill to add to your repertoire! Enjoy it!
Horseback riding is a great skill to add to your repertoire! Enjoy it!
As with any new skill, you’ll want to make sure that you are prepared for the experience. Luckily, horseback riding is something that you can do in a number of different ways, so take your time and enjoy the process of learning at your own pace. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re safe when you’re out on the trail; wear appropriate clothing and bring water and sunscreen along if necessary. Make sure that both you and the horse are fit enough for the ride, and remember: The most important thing about learning how to ride a horse is enjoying yourself!