The Basics of Horseback Riding

A lot of people think of horseback riding as a simple activity. After all, it’s the horse that’s doing all the work, right?

If you’ve ever tried riding a horse, you know this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, horseback riding is a physical and demanding sport. That said, it can also be a very enjoyable one—if you take it seriously.

Not sure which skills you’ll need to ride a horse? Here are the four basics of horseback riding that you absolutely need to know.

Following Safety Rules

Before getting into horse riding techniques, you’ll need to consider your safety.

First, it’s imperative to wear a horse riding helmet. Make sure it fits well, as it can save your life during an unplanned dismount. Wearing boots made of leather or synthetic leather is also a must.

Other than proper equipment, you should stay alert at all times. Animals can be unpredictable, especially if you haven’t gotten to know them. While on horseback, keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings.

Getting on a Horse

Before getting on a horse, have your trainer hold him. While standing on the horse’s left side, take the reins in your left hand, and put your left foot in the stirrup. The stirrup should support the ball of your foot—not the heel.

Now, put your weight on the left foot and swing the right leg over the horse. Gently sit down in the saddle and have your trainer adjust the stirrups to their proper length. Put your right foot in the other stirrup, and you’ll be in position for riding horses!

Walking on a Horse

Walking on a horse is the simplest form of horseback riding. That said, you may still want to do some groundwork for horses before getting to it.

Once your horse is confident, give him a gentle squeeze with your lower legs. This serves as a signal he should start walking. If the horse doesn’t respond, give him a few soft bumps with your heels to get him going.

While your horse is walking, sit up and hold your head up straight. You should be looking between your horse’s ears, not at the ground.

Trotting and Cantering

The two main equestrian techniques you’ll want to learn are trotting and cantering. Galloping is fun as well, but leave it to experienced riders.

While your horse is walking, gently squeeze him to have him move to a trot. If it keeps walking, bump him with your heels a bit. Feel free to hold on to the front or horn of the saddle to steady yourself.

Trotting can feel awkward and bouncy at first, so don’t get frustrated. Try to relax and sink into the saddle, with your legs hanging on the heels.

Compared to trotting, cantering makes it easier to stay seated. Cantering is all about the three specific footfalls (or beats). Make sure to ask the trainer about which cues the horse will understand.

Other Basics of Horseback Riding

Many beginners horse riders try to do too much too soon. If you’ve never ridden a horse, the above tips will be more than enough to get you started. Once you feel relaxed on a horse, you can move on to to the real challenges.

Feeling ready to learn about the advanced basics of horseback riding? Keep checking out our horse-related content!