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How to Ride a Horse: A Comprehensive Guide

There’s nothing quite like enjoying the world from the back of a horse. If you’re considering taking up horseback riding, there are a few important things to learn before you hop in the saddle. We’ve put together some information that will help you learn how to ride a horse?.


Horse Riding Disciplines

The equestrian world is split up into two disciplines: western and english.

Both disciplines use different equipment (known as tack), and take different approaches to riding.


Western Riding

The Western discipline makes use of a large, heavy saddle that features a saddle horn at the front of the saddle.

Historically, western style tack was designed for the iconic American western cowboy, perfect for long hours in the saddle wrangling cows and other livestock.

Western style riding places an emphasis on cues given to the horse by use of the reins, making contact on both the left side and right side of the horse’s neck to emphasize which direction to move. This is known as neck reining.

In the western discipline, the horse’s four speed gates are referred to as the walk, jog, lope, and gallop.

Western riding encompasses sports such as barrel racing, roping, cutting, and trail riding.


English Riding

The front of the saddle in the English discipline features no horn, and the saddle itself is small and light.

The small and thin english style saddle allows for more direct contact through leg cues to guide the horse’s movement; unlike western riding, english riding places a strong focus on maintaining contact with the legs. Contact is also made with the horse’s mouth through the bit.

In the english discipline, the horse’s four speed gates are referred to as the walk, trot, canter, and gallop.

English riding encompasses sports such as dressage, show jumping, hunter jumping, and cross country.


Riding Lessons

Whether its your first time in the saddle or you’ve had a few encounters with riding before, taking riding lessons at a local barn or riding school can be extremely beneficial for developing your riding skills and progress as an equestrian.

During your lessons, you’ll learn various aspects of horsemanship that will help you learn how to safely and positively interact with your horse.

One of the first things you’ll learn is that you’ll always lead and mount the horse from it’s left side, keeping the horse on your right side.

You’ll also be taught how to tack up your horse; this is the process of placing the saddle, bridle, and saddle pad on the horse. You’ll be taught how to tighten the girth, which is the supportive leather strap that keeps the saddle snugly in place on the horse’s back.

You’ll then be taught how to line your horse up with the mounting block. Taking the reins in your left hand on the front of the saddle, you’ll place your right foot in the stirrup and hoist yourself up, swinging your left foot over the side of your horse and into the stirrup.


Your First Ride

If it’s your first time riding, your instructor will likely have you move your horse forward in a straight line at a walk to allow you to get a feel for the motion for your first ride. You’ll be asked to keep your vision straight between your horse’s ears, keeping your shoulders in the same direction as your horse’s shoulders.

You’ll learn how to make use of both your left rein and right rein to turn the horse’s head and change direction; if you’re riding english style, this will be done lightly in touch with the horse’s bit. If you’re riding western style, this will be done by placing the rein on the horse’s neck and neck reining.

You’ll then be taught how to properly dismount; keeping your left hand gathering the reins on the front of the saddle, you will remove your right foot from the stirrup, swing your right leg back over your horse, and in one sweeping motion you will remove your left foot from the stirrup and allow yourself to come away from your horse and onto the ground at your horse’s side.

Eventually, you’ll work your way up to trotting, cantering, galloping, and competitively showing.

It’s never too late to start riding. Learning horsemanship and riding skills now has the potential to help you build a lifetime of enjoyment and achievement as an equestrian.

For more riding tips and information on building a connection between horse and rider, be sure to keep up with our blog.

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