These are my top 5 horse riding tips for the equine loving rookie. Horseback riding is a popular romantic fantasy that goes something like this:
You imagine yourself boldly riding a powerful steed. A long wind whipped mane dances in the wind. Prancing hooves announce your arrival. Then, in a whirlwind of explosive energy you spin your horse around and thunder off into the wild blue yonder...
Hold your horse there, Cowboy! You'll look like a bungling idiot on horseback if you don't know what you're doing. You can avoid looking like a fool (and landing in the dirt) if you avoid these common mistakes.
As soon as the horse takes a step, new riders often cling to the saddle horn, lean forward and let their heels rise up to the sky. Don't do that. It's a recipe for disaster. You will fall off.
Instead, sit up straight in the saddle. Press the balls of your feet in the stirrups and press your heels down toward the ground.....calf stretch! Let go of the saddle horn and take the reins in your hand.
Why? Three reasons. In horse lingo, 'leaning forward' means 'go faster'....so sit up straight. Pressing your heels down and slightly forward will firmly plant your butt deep into the saddle. You can't steer a horse by the saddle horn, so let go of it.
The saddle horn is not what keeps you from falling off. You stay in the saddle using your feet and legs. Remember: heels down, deep seat and sit straight.
You can spot a rookie the instant their butt hits the saddle. You know why? Because they sit there on their butt with their legs dangling loosely in the stirrups. Horsemen don't ride with all their weight on their butts. A good 25-30% of their weight is distributed to the balls of their feet in the stirrup.
This allows you to use your knees as shock absorbers and gives you faster reflexes to correct your balance. Transferring your weight to your feet keeps you from bouncing all over the saddle when the horse is moving, especially at a trot.
New riders are often unseated when the horse begins to trot because they don't transfer any weight into the stirrups and try to ride it out on their butt. Bad idea.
The stirrups are your ground. Use them to carry some of your weight and to keep yourself centered and balanced on your horse. Otherwise you will be top heavy, making it much more difficult for your horse to carry you.
Do you want to know how else you can always spot a new rider? By their hands and the way they hold the reins. New riders tend to hold their reins too long and hold their hands way up high toward their chest, rather than their bellies.
When you are holding he reins your horse should have enough slack in them that they can walk relaxed without you pulling on their mouth; but not so loose, that when you do pull back you end up with the reins around your ears.
When you pull the reins to slow or stop the horse, pull toward your belly button, not your ears. Your horse will appreciate it and respond better. It has to do with the way the bit fits in the horses mouth.
Some new riders have figured out how to stay in the saddle but they have not mastered giving the horse proper signals. It's terribly frustrating for a horse to have a rider that is always pulling on their mouth to ask for every little thing. It's just rude and unpleasant.
Use your body weight to ask your horse to stop, turn, slow down or go faster. The more you use your body weight, the less you have to pull on the horses mouth. Horses very much appreciate a rider with a light hand!
When you want to stop; lean back, lower your heels, make a deep seat... think 'lead butt' all while pulling gently on the rein toward your belly button.
When you want to turn; look the direction you want to go, move your foot away from the horses body in the direction you want to turn, press the opposite leg to your horses side to 'push' them into the turn, ask for a turn lightly with the reins.
Horses respond to shifts in body weight. Don't just ride with your hands like a goon. Use your legs and body weight to give your horse directions.
Learn to ride a walk and trot before you run. Every rider dreams of galloping on horseback. And why not? It's a thrill of a lifetime. A word of warning...it's not as easy as it looks. Some horses are smooth while others have terribly choppy gallops. If you haven't learned how to use your stirrups, ride without holding the saddle horn or master the stop, don't be in a big hurry to run.
Horses are a bit like school kids. They just can't help but take advantage of a substitute teacher. Horses know when they are carrying a newbie and many will take advantage of that fact. They'll do things like, refuse to break out of a bone jarring trot or jump quickly to the side at a dead run in an attempt to unseat you.
You've got to be confident enough in your balance and reining skills to deal with it. Horses will 'test' you to see what you're all about. And if you fall off...the horse says, "Hey, not my problem!" Just call it a little sick horse humor, as they find it terribly funny.
So that's it! My 5 top horse riding tips to keep you safely in the saddle and looking good.