Ten Tips For New Horseback Riders

Riding is quite a demanding hobby, and one in which you never stop learning and developing your skills and techniques. If you’re just starting out in riding, you are on a long road indeed, but we’ve compiled some easy pointers to set you off in the right direction.

  • Safety is paramount – you’re riding a big animal and you could fall quite a long way, or fall at speed. You need to protect yourself against these possibilities. Once you know you’re as safe as you can be, you can enjoy your experience and learn more.

  • You need to wear the right clothes. At a minimum, you should be wearing jeans and heeled boots – a heel of at least 1” is ideal. We’re not suggesting you go off and spend a small fortune at Dubarry, but make sure your boots are heeled, have good traction and a decent heel. This is important, as you need to have a good grip on the stirrup. Don’t bother with shorts and open-toes shoes, as your legs will be rubbed raw by the saddle and you stand a good chance of having your toes stood on! By a horse. A horse wearing metal shoes.

  • You absolutely must wear a special riding helmet. If your instructor or school doesn’t seem concerned about this and says the one you use on your bike OK, it’s a sign that you should leave immediately!

  • Riding is more about balancing on top of the horse than gripping on for dear life! Sit squarely in your saddle and move along in rhythm with your horse. If you tense up, you’ll bounce and get a sore bum and back. It’s also more likely you’ll get thrown off balance.

  • Sitting back a bit helps if your horse stops suddenly – think of being in a car and the driver suddenly hitting the brakes. Don’t sit too far back though as you can slide off behind!

  • Horses are very intuitive, social creatures and are very sensitive to the minute cues a rider gives them, even unconscious ones! If you want to turn left, start looking to the left, and your trusty steed will already start thinking about it before you use the reins to guide him.

  • Keep your heels down and your toes towards the sky. If you don’t do this, your entire foot could slip through the stirrup and you run the awful risk of being caught up if you fall. Not good. Make sure the ball of your foot rests on the bar of the stirrup.

  • Hold your reins without too much slack. This means you’re keeping constant contact with the horse’s mouth and can make corrections in direction at a second’s notice. Don’t pull so that you can feel resistance from the mouth, though, as this is very painful for your horse.

  • Breathe! New riders can often hold their breath and tense up when the horse starts off. This can lead to unpleasant aches and pains and send stress messages to the horse.

  • When you greet your horse for the first time, give him or her the back of your hand to sniff at. This is similar to the way horses greet one another, and the horse will instantly see you as a friend!

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