Y ou’ve probably been thinking of taking up this sport for quite some time now, and if you’ve stumbled upon our website before you know that we’ve gone over the benefits of riding a horse quite a few times. It will help you both physically and mentally, but you need to be prepared in some aspects before going for your first lesson.
Consider whether you’re in this for the long haul, because this sport implies investments that translate into lesson payments, equipment purchasing, possibly a membership, and you should even set aside something in case of an accident.
Start by making a budget.
A budget will help you see how much money you can spend on this new activity and also search for ways to add to your income if necessary. Some schools will even allow you to work for your lessons after you’ve frequented them for a while by tending to the stables or the horses.
Find a reputable riding school.
To make sure that you’ve found the right fit, consider every aspect:
- Location – Is this school near you or do you have to also factor in the price of gas or public transport?
- Pricing – Are their prices reasonable or do they offer alternative payment methods?
- The number of trainers/horses – Do they have enough resources to cater to the number of students they take in?
- Reviews – Don’t overlook other clients’ opinions. Find out if there are unsatisfied customers and why (some might be right while others might not).
Be prepared to answer questions about yourself.
Age, height, and weight are three of the details that your trainer will need to know to find the right-sized horse for you. Whether you’ve ridden before and if you are comfortable around horses is what the trainer needs to know for a good fit behavior-wise.
What to Expect from Your First Lesson
If you are a genuine beginner, the first lesson can range from 30 minutes to one hour depending on what your trainer decides, and – in some places – on your preference as well. You will start by learning the basics:
- How to mount
- The go command
- The left and right commands
- The fast and slow commands
- The stop command
- The emergency stop
You will begin by slowly leading the horse until you are confident in the movements and the pace will most likely be a walking one. If you’re doing really well, your trainer might add in a little trot, which is a faster pace between a walk and a run. Some trainers might even teach you how to tie the horse saddle so that it can keep both you and your steed comfortable when you ride, while others might give you some time to bond with the animal in different ways, like grooming them or offering treats.
What to Wear for Your First Lesson
During the first lesson, minimal protection gear should be offered by the school at first, and that consists of a good horseback riding helmet that will be able to absorb any shocks that your head can be subject to in case of an accident. The reason why it should be offered is that this piece of equipment can be quite expensive and if you decide that you want to stop riding at any point, buying it will mean a considerable dent in your budget. Other equipment, like gloves or boots, is something you should have yourself.
Something to remember when picking your clothing is to avoid wearing bright colors, clothes that flap in the wind, or garments with embellishments that shine or make noises as you move because all these details can be distracting or even scary for a horse, enabling the possibility of a dangerous reaction. We have an article that caters to this exact topic of what to wear and you can find it here.
Tips for Beginners
To wrap up this article, we will leave you with a few tips on what to do both before and during riding:
- Learn how to hold the reins – The proper hold is grasping with the three fingers between the thumb and little finger, placing the thumb over the part that goes up, and using your little finger as a block for the part that goes down.
- Know that you should always mount from the left side – Unless your trainer says otherwise.
- Don’t use the reins to balance yourself – The added irregular pressure will disturb the horse.
- Don’t exaggerate when pulling on the reins and don’t keep a continuous pressure – Again, horses respond to pressure and will keep responding if the pressure doesn’t stop.
- Don’t hold your horse with your heels or your knees – This can cause you to fly out of the saddle if the horse bucks.
- Keep a straight line in your posture for more control and keep your elbows bent
- Keep the ball of the foot planted on the stirrup, not the middle of the sole – Although a proper pair of horse riding boots will come with a heel that won’t let your foot fall off of the stirrup, it can also cause an improperly positioned leg to get stuck in case you fall off.
- Keep your eyesight forward
- Be as relaxed as possible – But keep your weight down on the saddle.
- Know the emergency stop – If you can tell that the horse is about to buck or sprint, use your right hand to reach out to about half the length of one rein and pull it back to your hip to cause the animal to stop and walk in a circle.
Things You Can Do Beforehand
To wrap up this article, we will leave you with a few insights on how to be able to tell how the horse you’re riding is feeling. This will also help if you’re the type of person who likes to be prepared beforehand, even when it comes to unknown topics. The body language of horses – namely, the basic behavioral cues, are the following:
- Ears – the location towards which they angle shows where they are paying attention, and the amount of tension in them tells how relaxed or tense the animal is
- Eyes – similar to humans, the eyes of a horse can be a clear indicator if the animal is scared (wide eyes) or relaxed (half-closed lids)
- Mouth – this part can show tension (tight lips), boredom (repetitive chewing), or relaxation (droopy lips)
- Neck – the height at which it stands shows what they are preparing to do (e.g. a high neck can mean a jump; a low neck can mean a buck) or how dominant they are trying to be; the position can also show whether the animal is trusting of you (by not moving) or not (by blocking you)
- Tail – it can show tension, apprehension, or boredom depending on the type of swishing it does
- Legs – the legs will be among the first parts to show the fight or flight response through fidgeting or planting
A More Detailed Explanation
If the animal is:
The ears will be perked a little, but they will fall to the sides and move around rarely by using slow motions. The eyelids will be relaxed, almost droopy and the case will be the same with the mouth – it could also be lazily chewing a treat or releasing a prolonged sigh. The neck will rest in a lowered position, the tail will be loose and relaxed, and the legs will show no sudden movements. One hoof might even stay in a resting position, further behind compared to the other three.
A bored horse will show little to no interest in what you are doing or saying. The ears will drop to the sides and the eyes will lack focus or stare into nothing. The jaw can present some signs of tension in the cheek area, or absent-minded chewing can be observed. The neck, however, will show no tension, the tail will either be lifeless or show a pitiful swishing motion, and the legs will be dragged along if the animal moves.
An anxious animal will show multiple signs of fidgeting. Prey animals, in particular, are bound to move around when they can sense danger, therefore a horse’s ears will either dart around or they will fixate on the danger source and so will their eyes, which can be wide or even bulging. The mouth will be tight and the nose can be flared or make a snorting sound to express unease. The head and neck can be held high or they can perform blocking movements to protect the vulnerable areas. The tail will be either tucked or it will stay high up, while the legs fidget or dart back and forth.
Finally, if the animal is mad, the ears will stay tensed but flat against the head, while the eyes become wide or fixated on the object, animal, or person that is being perceived as a threat. The mouth will, again, show tightness, and the head could either perform blocking movements or it can be held high and the chest could be puffed for dominance. The tail will be tense and it can flick around, and the feet will either stump or be planted firmly to the ground.
To wrap it up
Remembering at least some of these details can be very useful during your first ride and you might even manage to impress your trainer with your beginner skills. All that’s left for us to say is that we hope you have fun and that we’ve managed to provide information that was useful to you.