Riding horses has been a favorite activity among horse enthusiasts for hundreds of years. While it is important to take lessons in order to become truly efficient in riding, an afternoon of taking trails with friends can be accomplished by reviewing the tips below on how to ride horseback:
- Get to know the horse: Find out as much as you can about the horse you will be riding. What is he afraid of? What is his temperament like? Does he have any sensitive spots to avoid? Horses are individuals, much like riders, and have preferences and dislikes. Learning as much as you can about how your mount reacts in certain situations will go a long way in making your afternoon an enjoyable one for the both of you.
- Do not overestimate your ability: If you have never been on a horse, say so. If you have ridden recreationally, but only in enclosed areas, don't pretend that you are an expert rider. It is this type of behavior that gets inexperienced riders into trouble on a horse. Horses are trained to be sensitive to a number of cues and can easily get confused and frustrated at a novice rider's attempts to cue him if the cues are wrong. This can cause a runaway, a buck off, or a rearing situation that can all be dangerous and possibly fatal to the rider. A novice rider can be given instruction before, during and after the ride to ensure safety and fun for all.
- Stay balanced: It is important to stay balanced and keep your center of gravity in the center of the horse so that you can react when your horse moves unexpectedly. Keep your weight balanced in the balls of your feet, and grip either side of the saddle with your knees to keep your balance centered.
- Do not pull on the reins: The reins are meant as a guide for your horse, not as a way for you to stay on. If you are not giving your horse direction, the reins should be slack, allowing the horse full range of motion with his head and allowing the bit to sit comfortably in his mouth. Unnecessary jerking on the reins will cause the bit to bump into the horse's teeth and cause him pain.
- Nudge, do not kick: In order to get a horse to move forward, it is not necessary to kick, but to nudge his sides with your heels. Lean forward slightly, keeping your balance, and nudge him gently on both sides equally. You should never lose contact with the horse's sides with your legs. Turns should also be a combination of rein movement and heel nudging.
- To stop, sit back: When stopping your horse, shift your weight back in the saddle, and pull slightly back on the reins in one smooth motion. The horse should respond by slowing to a stop almost immediately. Brace yourself for the forward motion you will experience as the horse slows, and keep your balance.