A Beginners Guide to Horse Riding
Although people may not think of horse riding when they hear the word ‘fitness’, riding actually offers a full-body workout. As one of the oldest activities in the world, it is a hobby that is perfect for animal lovers. Additionally, those who simply enjoy the great outdoors are right for horse riding. But it also takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
As a horse rider there are a lot of factors to consider and some important lessons you need to learn. These lessons will help ensure both you and the horse are safe. With a little practice and expert advice, horse riding will soon be like second nature to you. You’ll be able to enjoy all the rewards that come with it!
In this article, we’ll explain some of the most important things you need to know as a horse riding beginner.
Horse riding styles
The first thing you need to decide is which riding style you want to try. Most stables teach English style and Western style or both. Each style uses different tack which affects the rider’s communication and position with the horse. English tack is much smaller as this creates closer contact between the horse and rider. The saddle is smaller and lighter and the rider has direct contact with the horse via the reins.
In comparison, Western riding involves little to no contact between the horse and rider. Instead, the rider’s weight is used to control the horse. However, if you would like to pursue other areas such as dressage or jumping, you will need to use an English riding style for these events.
- Helmet – Before you get on the horse you should always wear a helmet. Remember, horses are animals and their behaviours can be unpredictable at times so protective gear is not negotiable. Make sure you buy a good fitting helmet that feels secure and always keep it fastened. Horse rising helmets do the same job, acting as a barrier between your skull and whatever impact it experiences. Any force is then dispersed over a wider area, reducing the pressure from just one spot.
- Boots – You’ll also need the correct riding boots to help you drip on to the stirrups. Never wear open toed shoes when horse riding, even if you’re just hopping on few a few minutes. Not only do these types of shoes fall off easily but they provide no protective if the horse were to accidentally stand on your feet.
Horse riding tack
- Riding equipment – As mentioned, the main difference between horse riding style is the type of tack that’s used. Tack is a collective term that refers to everything you need to use when riding your horse. Your tack may include a saddle, saddle blanket, stirrups, girth and cinch (strap on the saddle), martingale (strap from the girth to the head piece), reins and a bridle. If you’re a little unsure about what you need your riding instructor will be able to help and any professional horse riding shop will be able to guide you too.
- Stable gear – You need to maintain your horse’s stable and for that you’ll require a few tools. A pitchfork for moving bedding around the stable, a manure fork for keeping the bedding clean, a broom, a wheelbarrow and feed buckets.
No matter how comfortable you are with a horse you always need to be alert. Remember, you are dealing with an animal and even a few seconds of distraction could result in a serious incident. Horses communication with us through their behavior and body language, so it’s important that we look out for any changes. Being aware of signs of distress will prevent you mistaking these behaviors, keeping you and the horse safe.
The Four F’s are something you should look out for – flight, freeze, fight and fidget. These can happen in isolation or as a combined response.
- Flight – Fleeing from danger, for example bolting or trying to escape
- Freeze – Refusing to move forward could be a sign that your horse is nervous of frightened
- Fight – Bucking or rearing
- Fidget – Incapable of staying still
A big part of horse riding is learning how to care for your horse such as keeping them well-groomed. Grooming keeps your horse clean and tidy and gives you an opportunity to check out their body for any physical changes such as cuts or lumps. As a beginner, you will need to purchase a good grooming kit complete with brushes, a hoof pick, fly repellent and sponges.
When grooming you horse always stand to the side of their body, never directly in front or behind them as you may get hurt if they decide to kick out. As well as looking after the horse’s skin and coat, grooming provides great one on one time with your horse. Developing trust between you and the animal will further cement your bond, and this can make a big difference in how you ride.
Like all activities, horse riding need practice so it’s important that you learn the basics before moving on to the next step. There are several common mistakes that beginner riders make, but they’re nothing that can’t be fixed. Here, we just a few common mistakes how to fix them!
- Holding your hands too high – As humans, it’s normal to use our hands to balance but when horse riding this can make this difficult. Instead, keep your arms at hip height, keep your forearm down to your arms straight and aim to shorten the reins as soon as they get too long.
- Looking down – Some beginners will concentrate on the horse’s head or neck instead of focusing on what’s ahead of them. Get in the habit of looking forward as this will improve you positioning and keep you well-balanced.
- Not relaxing – Getting on a horse for the first time can be nerve-wracking, but if you’re confident in yourself you’ll do well. Tension in your body or holding your breathe can make it harder to sit properly and generally control the horse, sit up straight, relax and you’ll soon notice a difference.
If you’re a beginner when it comes to horse riding and horse care, you may need a little help finding the right boarding facilities for your horse. Here at BarnHop we’re here to help, offering years of experience that can make the process a whole lot easier. Perhaps you’d like answer to a few questions or maybe you don’t know where to start, get in touch today and find out more about our services.