Horseback riding, also known as equestrianism, is the skill sport of riding a horse, whether it’s for travel purposes or competitive horse racing. There are two kinds of horseback riding: the English style (which originated in England and is prevalent all over the world) has a lighter saddle in comparison to its counterpart, Western style (which originated in American, on many of the ranches). The heavier saddles were made with the cowboy’s comfort in mind, who spent a lot of time gathering herds of animals.
Horseback riding does not come without serious dangers, since horses are extremely heavy and large in comparison to humans, and we can be thrown off and/or trampled. Also, the sport requires one to be at a considerable height, which makes being thrown off even more dangerous. But, if one trains well, like with any other sport, the risks involved can be mitigated.
The first step to riding a horse would be to mount the horse, which consists of putting your foot in the left stirrup, swinging your right foot over the horse, and putting your right foot in the right stirrup. Beginners should use a mounting block, as this would make getting on the horse easier. Also, it would be a good idea to choose a well-trained calm horse, instead of a younger one, who might be antsy if you have to try mounting multiple times. While mounting the horse, one should hold the reins in their left hand tightly, but not too tightly as to hurt the horse. Beginners should preferably have someone to hold the horse’s head as they mount. Horses are always mounted from their left (near) side because most riders are right handed and they can leave that hand free to do other things.
After mounting the horse, you should ensure your balance is alright. You should keep your back straight and most of your weight should be on your buttocks. Once the balance is okay, one should put their legs in the correct position. Keep your legs pointing inwards, not outwards, as most beginners tend to do. This is to ensures that your legs are also holding on to the horse, which helps with balance. Your toes should be pointing upward and your heels should be downward. Beginners can practice keeping their feet in this position by putting their feet on a higher surface than the ground, such as a step, and push their heels downwards.
The next step before riding the horse would be to hold the reins properly. An English-style rider would hold the reins in both hands, with the reins going through their fists and the loop facing upwards, their thumbs securing the reins in place and their little fingers resting on the outside of the rein. A Western-style rider would hold both of the reins in their left hand, like they would hold a bouquet. The reins are knotted at the end and the rider would hold the reins loosely.
Once you’re comfortable with mounting the horse and holding the reins, you can start riding. Pulling at the reins usually prompt a horse to start walking, but if that doesn’t work, you can gently kick the horse with your left to signal it. Their may be noises you can make that the horse has been trained to listen for to indicate movement, and you can ask the trainer if there are any. First, start with following the horse’s movements with your arms. A horse’s head indicates as to which direction it is going to move in. Let the reins move with his movement, as this will help you learn how to steer.
To steer, the rider pulls the right rein to indicate to move to the right, and vice versa. Moving in the seat toward the direction also helps to give the horse an idea of what direction to go in. Once you are comfortable with steering, you can start with trotting (if you’re an English-style rider), or jogging (if you’re a western-style rider). One has to gently press their legs into the horse’s sides to indicate to them to trot/jog. There are two kinds of trotting, which are sitting and posting. In posting, people raise their body as the shoulders of the horse go back, and sit down as its shoulders go back down. This helps to avoid bouncing heavily on the horse’s back.
English-style riders, after they have mastered trotting and it’s several kinds, can move on to cantering. Move your outside leg back and press gently to cause your horse to canter. It’s a 3-step movement that comes naturally to all horses. Beginners should hold on to the neck strap or saddle to be safe, as it’ll help with their balance. As you feel safe with these riding techniques, you can move on to more difficult and advanced riding methods.
Horse Riding Equipment
- The most basic horse riding equipment that one has to have are:
- Safety stirrups or boot (1-inch heel)
- Saddles with girth or cinch
- Saddle pad or blanket
Taking Care Of The Horse
Grooming – Ensure that your horse is always well brushed. Use a comb to remove tangles in its mane and tail, and trim its fur as needed. You’ll need a dandy brush to remove the dust from its fur, and a body brush to keep its fur well groomed. Use clippers to trim your horse’s hair. Keep its hooves well cleaned and give it baths when needed.
Feeding – Always ensure your horse has a good supply of water and fresh hay throughout the day. Depending on the horse’s requirements, you can reduce or increase its supply of hay. You can also give it carrots occasionally. In case you want to change anything or add anything new in its meals, make the change progressively, little by little. Ensure that you always feed your horse an hour before or after riding it, and not while riding.
Bonding – Spend time with your horse even when you’re not riding them. Let them come to you when you’re outdoors and gently stroke them. Your bond with the horse is an extremely important factor when it comes to your riding experience.
Horse riding is a quite risky sport, where there is the possibility of death or lifetime paralysis. Because of the horse’s unpredictable nature, there’s no sure-shot way of being safe while horse riding. This risk is especially high for children. Horses tend to kick people when they are unhappy, and due to their weight and power, a kick can be potentially fatal if the horse decided to kick hard enough. An important factor in ensuring safety around horses is how you behave with them. When conditions are right, horseback riding can be so much fun for you, while the horse is getting a nice amount of exercise as well. It can be a beautiful relationship!