While it’s not possible to learn how to ride a horse from a website, book, or video, you can still educate yourself on what to expect when you start taking lessons. However, the best way to learn how to ride is to work with a qualified instructor who can provide personalized guidance, help you avoid bad habits, correct mistakes, and keep you safe and comfortable.
Whether you choose to learn English or Western riding, there are certain skills you’ll need to master to become a competent rider.
Before you start riding
Before you start learning actual riding skills, it’s essential to learn some basic horse care and handling skills such as tying, grooming, and leading. These skills will not only help you understand horses better but also ensure your safety while riding. Some riding schools may skip these important skills, but they are crucial for your overall horsemanship, especially if you plan to ride alone in the future.
Once you’ve ensured that your horse is safely tied and properly groomed, the next step is to prepare for your ride by saddling up. It’s important to learn how to correctly put on either an English or Western saddle and bridle, as well as how to properly fasten the cinch on a Western saddle.
Once your horse is groomed, saddled up, and waiting for you, it’s tempting to jump right into riding. However, it’s crucial to take your time and learn how to properly mount your horse. Once you’re up there, it’s essential to sit correctly in the saddle for a comfortable and safe ride.
As a beginner rider, it’s common to feel unsteady and unsure in the saddle. It may take some time for your body to adjust to the new movements and coordination required for riding. You may find it challenging to coordinate all the necessary body movements and remember all the instructions at once. But with regular practice and patience, you’ll gradually become more comfortable and confident in the saddle. Remember that building riding skills take time and dedication.
Walk, Halt, and Turn
Your instructor will typically start by explaining how to cue the horse to walk, which can take some getting used to if you’ve never ridden before.
In English riding, riders often use a direct rein to turn their horses, while in Western riding, neck reining is a common technique used for turning.
Cantering, trotting, jogging, or lolling
As you gain more experience and confidence, you can start learning to ride at faster paces. However, it’s important to take things at your own pace and not rush into anything that may make you feel scared or uncomfortable. After all, learning to ride should be an enjoyable experience.
Trotting: Trotting can be a challenge to learn, especially when it comes to posting. Practice is essential, and eventually, you’ll find yourself doing it naturally.
Sitting trot: Mastering the sitting trot can be tricky. However, there are tips you can follow to help you eliminate the bounce.
Cantering or loping: Once you’re confident and secure in your riding, cantering or loping can be a lot of fun and easier than trotting.
Although not actual riding skills, prioritizing safety with horses is essential. Your coach can assist you in recalling these safety guidelines while riding since it can be challenging to remember so many new things.
Arena safety and etiquette: Similar to traffic rules that prevent chaos, arena etiquette ensures that riders maintain a safe distance from each other and avoid cutting one another off.
Trail safety: Riding on a trail is an exciting experience that comes with several hazards. Be aware of what to look out for to be prepared.
Riding safely at night: Riding after dark requires extra caution, whether you get caught or intentionally ride out in the dark.
Roadside riding safety: Horses and traffic don’t mix well, but if you must ride along roadsides, take the necessary precautions to stay safe.
Beyond the Basics
In addition to the fundamental riding skills, it’s important to learn some advanced techniques to improve your riding abilities and safety. Under the guidance of an experienced coach, practice how to perform an emergency dismount and fall off safely. Remember to always wear a helmet, proper boots, and consider additional safety gear like a chest protector and mouth guard.
Backing up or rein-back: Knowing how to back up your horse can be useful in various situations.
Ride bareback: Riding bareback is a fun and warmer option during the winter season.
How to fall off: Although accidents and injuries can still occur when riding, learning how to perform an emergency dismount and fall off correctly can be helpful if your horse spooks, bucks or misbehaves.