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Learn to Ride a Horse


Here's what you'll need to know as you learn to ride a horse safely. You can't learn to ride from a website, book or video (in fact, it's inadvisable). The best way to learn to ride a horse is from a competent coach or instructor. A coach or instructor can catch bad habits before they become ingrained, advise you of mistakes you may be making, encourage you and offer advice to keep you safe and comfortable. But these articles will help you understand what you'll be learning once you're on a horse--whether you plan to learn to ride English or Western.

1. Before You Begin Your Ride

Photo: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

The first things you'll learn about riding may not be actual riding skills. You may come across riding schools where you'll simply get on the horse and start riding. But learning to tie, groom and lead are essential skills that help you learn to understand horses, stay safe and increase your enjoyment.

First Steps When Learning to Ride:

  • Why Learn to Ride? It may be obvious, but there are many benefits you may not have thought of.
  • Lead Your Horse or Pony: This will probably be the first thing you do with a horse!
  • How to Tie Safely: You'll probably have the horse tied for saddling. Here's how to do it safely.
  • How to Groom: Before you ride, you should groom your horse so there's no dirt trapped under the saddle.

2. Saddle Up

Photo: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

With your horse safely tied and groomed it's time to saddle up for your ride. Learn how to put on an English or Western saddle and bridle, and how to do up the cinch on a Western saddle.

Putting on a Saddle and Bridle:

  • How to Put on a Saddle: Whether riding English or Western, follow these steps to saddle safely.
  • How to Do Up a Western Cinch: Learn to tie your western cinch and how to tighten it once it is tied.
  • How to Put a Bridle on a Horse: Your bridle is an important aid to communicate with your horse. But at first glance it looks pretty complicated with all those straps. Bridling,  like any riding skill, becomes easier with practice.

3. Mounting Up

Photo: 2007 K. Blocksdorf

With your horse waiting, groomed and saddled up ready to ride you'll want to get going!  These articles will help you understand how to get on your horse and once you're up there how to sit correctly in the saddle as you learn to ride.

How to Get On a Horse:

  • How to Mount a Horse: It can look like a long way up to get into the saddle, but take heart, like most riding skills, with practice mounting will become second nature.
  • How to Sit Correctly in the Saddle: You will want to sit on your horse correctly, so that you are secure and able to cue your horse clearly.

4. Walk On!

Photo: 2008 K. Blocksdorf

When you first begin riding you will feel awkward and unbalanced. You may feel unable to make all your body parts do all the things they are supposed to at the same time. You may be using muscles not familiar with the job you are asking, and have difficulty remembering all you are supposed to do. The key is practice.

How to Walk, Halt and Turn:

  • How to Walk and Halt: The first thing your instructor will explain is how to to cue the horse to walk. If you've never ridden before it will take a little time to get used to the motion of the horse.
  • How to Turn - Direct Rein: Most English riders will learn to use a direct rein to turn thier horses...
  • How to Turn - Neck Rein:...and western riders will likely learn to neck rein.

5. Trot or Jog, Canter or Lope

Photo: 2007 K. Blocksdorf

As your confidence and skill increase it is time to learn to ride at faster paces.  Challenge yourself, but never feel pushed. Learning to ride is supposed to be fun, not scary.

Trotting, Jogging, Cantering or Loping:

  • Posting the Trot: Trotting can be a lot of work to learn, especially posting the trot. Again practice is key. Soon it will become the natural thing to do.
  • Learn to Sit the Trot: Learning to sit the trot can be tricky. These tips can help get the bounce out.
  • More About Trotting - Diagonals: What they are, why they are important, and how to 'get them'.
  • How to Canter or Lope: The canter/lope is a lot of fun, and once you are secure almost easier than trotting.

6. Riding Safety

Photo: 2006 K. Blocksdorf

These aren't riding skills, but safety with horses is always first priority. Your coach can help remind you of these safety tips as you ride, because it can be difficult to remember so many new things.

Ride Safely:

7. Beyond the Basics

Photo: 2007 K. Blocksdorf

These skills go beyond the basics. Learn how to fall off and do an emergency dismount with the supervision of a knowledgeable coach. Always wear a helmet and proper boots or safety stirrups. Consider using a chest protector and a mouth guard as well.

Extra Riding Skills:

8. After Your Ride

Photo: 2005 K. Blocksdorf

Being a good horseman/horsewoman means you look after your horse even after its job is done. You don't want your horse to be uncomfortable, and you do want it to think that being ridden is all work and no play. Here's how to get out of the saddle and reward your horse.

Care For Your Horse After You Ride:

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