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First Ride Horse Training:
6 Tips for First-Time Riders
It takes courage to ride a horse for the first time. Whether you’re riding a horse on vacation or starting to ride horses as a new hobby, here are six tips to help you feel confident as a first-time rider.
1. Wear the proper attire for Western riding—jeans and boots. Dressing for the occasion will ensure you’re both comfortable and safe on your ride. A safety helmet would also be a great option for a first-time rider. Ask if you can borrow one from a riding facility or invest in a quality riding helmet. Don’t fear looking goofy wearing a helmet, either; veteran riders know the importance of safety.
2. Ride relaxed and with proper posture. Sit up straight, keeping your ear, shoulder, and heels aligned (imagine a straight line from your ear to your heel). Maintaining your posture during your ride will help to keep you balanced in the saddle. Also remember to relax. This is important for two reasons—first, your horse will feel your relaxation and stay more relaxed, as well. Second, the two of you will feel more comfortable throughout the ride.
3. Remain calm and confident both on and off your horse. Your horse will be able to sense if you aren’t confident and may try to take control. This doesn’t mean pull your horse around everywhere; rather, be confident in your ability to get your horse to do what you want with minimal effort.
4. Take things slowly at first. It’s okay to just walk, as gaining speed requires a deep level of horsemanship. Learn how to ride your horse at a walk before advancing gaits; this will keep you safe and on the right track to learning horsemanship skills.
5. Get a trainer, mentor, or horse-savvy friend. Having someone knowledgeable helping you along your journey will make your first riding experience an enjoyable one. And, if you plan to ride more than just one time, these people are resources to help you learn all you need to know about Western riding.
6. Set goals for your rides. Goals keep you improving and help you ride with a purpose. Your goals can be long-term or short-term. Set goals that fit your levels of ability and confidence as a rider.
How to Walk on a Horse for Beginners
Once you’ve successfully gotten up into the saddle, you’re ready to cue your horse to walk. Remember to relax as much as possible. Tight muscles will make everything more difficult.
Make sure you have both of your feet placed comfortably in the stirrups.
Hold the reins in your hand or hands, as your instructor directs. (Western riders usually use one hand, while English riders use two.)
Sit deep and relaxed in the saddle, and keep the reins slightly loose. You don’t want to pull back on your horse’s mouth as you ask them to move forward.
Give your horse a gentle squeeze (not a kick) with your lower legs to signal he should begin walking. If you have a very quiet or lazy horse, you may need to give him a couple of soft bumps with your heels.
Sit up tall, hold your head up straight, and look between your horse’s ears (not at the ground).
Try not to squeeze repeatedly with your legs once the horse is walking. Keep your legs long, quiet, and with weight firmly down in your heels.
Listen to your instructor about how to steer with your reins and legs.
How to Stop a Horse for Beginners
As fun as your first ride will be, you’ll want to bring your horse to a stop at some point. Just remember — you’ll be slowing down and then stopping. There shouldn’t be any “slamming on the brakes” while you’re in the saddle.