Getting onto the back of a horse for the first couple of times can be a nerve-wracking experience. You want to do well, but you lack the knowledge and experience that others around you may have. It’s easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself, especially when others make horseback riding look so easy. But this shouldn’t stop you from getting onto that saddle! With the right information in mind, you can make the most out of your first experiences as an aspiring horseback rider.
8 Tips to Introduce You to Horseback Riding
Your instructor will give you a lot of great advice when you begin horseback riding. But it pays to have some additional tips in mind before you even sign up for horseback riding lessons. Here are some things that you should know, so that you will have an easier time reigning in your fears and taking to riding with confidence.
Pick a Great Stable
The stable that you choose to learn in – and, by extension, the instructors accessible to you – will make a world of difference in your learning experiences. Look for stables that host certified horseback riding instructors. Take a trip to prospective stables before you commit. Make sure that the stable is clean (as clean as a stable can be, of course) and in good repair.
A good place to start your search is online. Online reviewers are incredibly honest about their experiences.
Get Dressed for the Part
Even when the weather is hot, you need to wear long pants for horseback riding. This will prevent painful irritation and chafing. Keep your footwear in mind, too. Closed-toed shoes are the standard, preferably shoes with a small heel to help stabilize your feet in the stirrups.
Also, avoid wearing anything that can get tangled up. Scarves, draping jewelry and billowing fabrics are three examples of things you shouldn’t wear while horseback riding.
In regard to riding helmets, make sure to inquire as to whether you will be responsible for bringing your own or if the stable provides them. You should never ride horseback without head protection.
Get Acquainted with Your Horse
If your lesson is scheduled for 1 o’clock, you should consider showing up at 12:30 or 12:15. This gives you the opportunity to get to know the horse that you will be spending time with. Approach your horse from the front, as a startled horse will kick backward.
You might not realize it, but horseback riding is actually a very strenuous activity. Riders can build up quite a sweat even though they aren’t doing the walking themselves. So, make sure to drink water before, during and after your horseback riding lessons. Dehydration is a very real threat, even on a cool day, and it can make you dizzy or disoriented – which you definitely don’t need under any circumstances.
Sit Up Straight and Be Relaxed
You know the jockeys that you see during horseraces? You’ve probably noted how they hunch drastically forward on their horses during a race. Don’t do this! You’re not a jockey and you aren’t racing. The best posture for controlling your horse is a straight back and relaxed muscles. If you are very physically tense, your horse will likely sense this. And it could make them nervous. You do not want to be poised atop a nervous equine.
Don’t Grip onto the Saddle Horn for Balance
Many saddles come with saddle horns, which are located at the front of the saddle. You might be tempted to use the saddle horn to bolster your stability, but this leaves you more vulnerable to falling off if the unexpected happens. Instead of holding onto the horn, consider adjusting your posture or position if you feel unbalanced in the saddle.
Avoid Startling the Horse
We’ve already talked about how approaching a horse from behind can startle it, but there are other ways that you can freak out your new riding buddy. Horses, even the most mild-mannered ones, will run if they sense danger. Turn off your phone’s ringtone, avoid making loud noises, and don’t make sudden movements that the horse could view as predatory and you’ll be fine.
It’s OK to Ask Questions
You might feel sheepish to ask questions of your instructor, but keep in mind that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Ask everything that comes to mind. Chances are, your instructor has heard it time and time again during their experiences as a teacher. If you’re learning as a part of a group, someone else might have the same question but felt ashamed to ask it out loud. Asking the right questions can make horseback riding a safer and more comfortable experience for you and the horse.
When you keep this information at the back of your mind prior to getting onto the horse for the first time, you will have a much more easy-going and enjoyable experience. Be sure to listen to the instructions given by your teacher, as well, to ensure your safety and enjoyment.