Horses are beautiful animals, and the opportunity to ride them is exciting. If you love horses but have no riding experience, you are in the right place!
We will share valuable tips to help make your first experience memorable and enjoyable. Here are 6 tips for those getting on the saddle for the first time.
1. Dressing appropriately
Take the cue from equestrians who wear form-fitting clothes. Wear form-fitting trousers (such as breeches or jeans) and tops that cannot get caught by the saddle.
Your pants should reach your ankles to protect the skin from friction from the leather saddle. Thick pants will protect your legs from insects, poking branches, and sunburn.
Wear closed-toe shoes like riding boots to protect your feet from getting stepped on by the large horse. The boots should have a comfortable heel that does not slide in the stirrup. Tuck the laces in so that they do not get caught by branches, nearby trees, or the saddle.
- Hanging or baggy clothing such as scarves or loose shirts
- Inappropriate footwear such as sandals, clunky boots, wedges, sneakers, and heels that can get caught in the stirrup
2. Use protective gear
The helmet is the most important attire for a rider. It will reduce your risk of serious head injury in the event of a fall.
If you have scheduled a riding lesson, ask ahead of time if they will provide the helmet. In case they don’t, please purchase one of your own. Check that the helmet is ASTM/CEI approved before buying.
3. Maintain the right posture
It is vital to keep your back straight. Ensure that you are balanced on the saddle and that your legs fit firmly in the stirrups.
One way to gain balance is to feel the horse’s movements and align your body movements with their gait. Avoid riding off-balance because it affects the horse too. If you feel that the saddle is moving, notify your trainer.
Keep your heels down and avoid moving the lower leg. Loosen your knees so that they do not pinch the horse and cause your lower legs to move aimlessly, confusing the horse to go faster. You’ll have a runaway horse in your hands! Steady your legs so that the horse becomes steady.
4. Ride the horse as trained
Get a trusted trainer to show you the ropes. This training should include how to stay on a horse, mount, hold the reins, start or stop a horse, and ride at a comfortable pace.
- Follow the trainer’s instructions on how to lead a horse using the reins and control their movements. Hold the reins properly by closing your fingers around the rope.
- Listen and memorize the physical and verbal cues for starting, stopping, and controlling the horse.
- Practice at a walking pace so that you know how to communicate with your horse to maneuver bends and turns.
What to avoid:
- Tying yourself to the reins, saddle, or the horse because if you fall off, you will be dragged.
- Panicking when riding the horse. Take deep breaths and follow the trainer’s instructions.
- Riding a horse against your trainer’s recommendation. Trainers know how to match horses with their riders. Trust his/her choice of horse for you.
- Taking the trainer’s feedback personally. Trainers are there to help you become a good rider. Their criticism will teach you to know when you are doing something wrong.
5. Keep your gaze ahead
Keep your head up and avoid looking down at the horse or your hands. This is because looking up means you will know where you want to go and will guide the horse accordingly. If you keep looking down, you may get caught by something unexpectedly and fall off.
Also, the horse can feel how your body moves when you sit on their back. If you turn your gaze to the right, your neck will turn the same direction. The horse will feel that movement and think that you are giving the signal to go right.
Looking ahead signals the horse to continue going straight while looking down signals the horse to halt. If you find trouble getting the horse to begin moving forward, check your body language. You are most likely facing downwards.
6. Learn the horse’s language
Horses give different cues using their bodies to communicate with their rider. The trainer will teach you to pick up on this body language to protect yourself from harm. For instance, a horse swishing the tail means that they are annoyed while upward-pointed ears signal attention.
The beauty of horseback riding is that it is a journey. The first ride may not turn out as the sunset riding you had dreamt about. Do not be discouraged. With regular practice, you will become better and more knowledgeable in handling and riding horses.