Horseback riding can be a rewarding experience and an interesting hobby. Like any other hobby though, the proper skills and know-how are required in horseback riding as well. Horseback riding is divided into two categories – English and Western. Although each riding style has its own distinct characteristics, both share a few common ones.
Mounting a Horse
Determine the horse’s girth before mounting every time. It should be snug but still loose enough to let two fingers slide between. Lead your horse out of the stable and put the reins over his head for the correct mounting position. During your first few mounts, it is best to ask someone to hold your horse.
Mount from your horse’s left side while holding the reins with your left hand. Using the other hand, turn the stirrup to face you as you place your left foot in it. Hold the saddle’s waist with the right hand with the left one on the withers. Bounce once or twice before springing up with your right foot.
As you reach the top, swing your right leg over the back. Avoid hitting your horse with your toes. To counteract your weight, ask someone to hold the right stirrup. Land gently on the saddle with the reins on your hands and put your feet in the stirrups. Pull on the rein a little bit so your horse does not move forward.
Using a Mounting Block
Most riding schools teach beginners to mount a horse using a mounting block. This makes it easier to mount with the extra height. The mounting block is placed on the left and the steps are pretty much the same. The reins are held with the left hand as you put your left foot on the stirrup. Swing your right leg over and gently land on the saddle.
Sitting in the Saddle
Horse riding beginners are literally in a new place in the saddle. Follow these tips to get comfortable.
Control over your horse depends a lot on your sitting position. After mounting, sit squarely in the middle of the saddle with your legs hanging on each side. Slouching to one side is absolutely prohibited.
Both feet should be placed in each stirrup. Upon looking down, you should not be able to see your toes or heels. Both feet should be pointed in the same direction without jamming them too far.
Hold the reins with each hand, or just one in Western riding. The end is attached to the bit of the horse and should come out under your little finger and the loose end out of your thumb.
Sit tall and relaxed but do not stiffen your back. You should be relaxed but not so much to cause slouching. To avoid this, put your head up and look past your horse’s ears.
Finally, be sure to take some time to practice. Be patient as you slowly get used to this new feeling until sitting on the saddle becomes second nature.
Basic Riding Skills
Once you are comfortable mounting your horse, the next step is to master horse riding to ride effectively and safely. After mounting and saddling up, you should focus your attention on walking, trotting, cantering and stopping and steering. These form the basics of horse riding.
Hold the reins and squeeze the horse with your lower legs behind the girth. At the same time, cue for a walk by pushing lightly forward on the seat. As soon as the horse responds, stop cuing. Relax your muscles as the horse walks with a slight rocking motion.
Steering your horse can be done in two ways. Direct reining means holding the rein in each hand with turning cues coming from one hand. Neck reining on the other hand makes use of only one hand to steer.
Trotting starts off as a walk but you need to sit correctly for this one. Your back should be up and straight with heels down and hands close. Begin by squeezing both legs on your horse and kick only as a last resort.
Begin with a trot and sit a few beats. Slide your outside leg and gently apply pressure behind the girth. Keep this pressure on as he raises his shoulders while allowing your hands to follow this motion. Be sure to sit deep in the saddle and correct the lead.
Horse riding skills are best learned from a qualified instructor with years of experience. This, combined with practice, will improve your skills in no time.