When you saddle up for an afternoon of western horseback riding, you want to be able to trot off with confidence in yourself and in your equine partner. These helpful beginner horseback riding tips will help you know how to mount a horse, what to wear, and the essential tools an equestrian needs.
Tip #1: Wear Proper Clothing
The best attire for riding horses is a pair of comfortable pants and a great pair of boots. Your pants need to be durable but with enough stretch that you can move easily in them, and your boots should have a short heel. The heel will help your foot remain secure in the stirrups as you ride. You wear any closed-toe shoe, but a boot with heel will help you maintain proper form more easily.
Avoid any clothing or accessories which may dangle and get tangled in either horse or equipment. Scarves and necklaces that could get caught in the reigns are a major safety risk, and also have been known to spook a horse if they blow in the wind.
Consider dressing in layers if you plan to be outdoors, and riding gloves if the weather is cold. A helmet is always a good idea for expert and beginner riders alike.
Tip #2: Relax Before You Ride
Your horse knows when you’re happy, he also knows when you are stressed. Arriving to ride feeling nervous or fearful will definitely be transmitted to your horse. This can make your horse jumpy, anxious, and more difficult to communicate with. Take a few deep breaths and ask any questions you have about your ride or lesson before you greet your horse for the day.
Tip #3: Show Affection The Right Way
Make sure to talk to, pet and enjoy the company of your equine companion. Talk to him and become friends. Your horse will get to know the sound of your voice and he can recognize when you’re approaching from the other end of the barn. Let him know you are excited to see him. Horses know their name, don’t be afraid to talk to him and call him by name. If you are riding a horse you are unfamiliar with, or meeting a new horse for the first time, remember to approach with caution. Over exuberance can make a horse shy away. To introduce yourself for the first time:
- Speak softly.
- Extend your arm in greeting.
- Offer the horse the back of your hand to sniff.
- Watch his signals to see his reaction-if he touches you with his nose, he’s ready for you to pet him.
Tip #4: Mount With Confidence
Remember that your horse is likely trained to be mounted from the left side. If you’re nervous at all, remember to breathe deeply and don’t be ashamed to ask someone to hold your horse for you while you mount.
- Lift your left foot into the left stirrup.
- Hold the reins in your left hand.
- Use your strength to lift your right leg up and over the horse’s back.
- Be careful to settle yourself slowly, avoid “plopping” down into the saddle.
Tip #5: Ride In The “Pro” Position
So, what is the pro position in horseback riding, you ask? Well, you want to mimic the look of a real cowboy when you are riding. Western riding is supposed to be relaxed and comfortable for both you and your horse.
- Sit up straight but let your weight be distributed deeply in the saddle.
- Allow your hips to move with the movement of your horse.
- Keep your back relaxed.
- Relax your arms and hold the reins gently.
- Remain centered in the saddle.
Tip #6: Hold your reins in the Western style
Western style riding dictates that you hold the reins in one hand only. (English style has a two hand hold.) This allows your horse to have a more relaxed control of his own head, and lets you relax your arms a bit too.
To be successful you will hold both reins in one hand. When you want to signal your horse to turn simply move your hand slightly forward and in the direction you wish your horse to go. You can adjust your body slightly in that direction as well to give your horse a clear command.
Tip #7: Use Your Tools Properly
It is important to have the correct tack and equipment when you begin riding. The right horseback riding gear is essential for success. You want to make sure that your saddle is properly fitted to your horse and that your stirrups are the correct length. Additionally, the type of bit you are using matters, as does the length of reins.
You may want to learn the proper use of a riding crop or riding whip. Riding whips are an excellent tool for the horseman to help with communication from rider to horse. Wonder Whip horse whips are used to cue the horse during any stage of your training, and can be used by beginner riders and experts alike. They are typically made with fiberglass covered in a braided poly material for comfort and come with or without a strap for your wrist as you ride.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun!
The most important part of horsemanship, truly, is having fun. Western horseback riding should be fun and relaxing for you and your horse. As a beginner, you may feel overwhelmed, this is completely normal and will fade with practice. We were all beginners once. Enjoy getting to know your horse, and embrace the learning process!