Riding Essentials

Riding a horse takes patience, practice, and the help of a well-trained instructor. There are many things to learn about riding styles and horse care. The most important thing to remember is that horses behave like horses! Most horses are loving and gentle. They like to please people who show them kindness, but even the tamest horse can be unpredictable. Horses must always be approached calmly and treated with respect.

One of the keys to riding a horse is staying on the horse. Good riders learn to balance themselves on the saddle as their horse moves.

Controlling your horse combines many skills. Sometimes you use your reins. Sometimes you use your voice. Sometimes you use your legs. Sometime you use your seat. Many times you use all these at once.

Saddle Smarts:

What are some basic horse riding skills?

Answer:  Basic skills include approaching, mounting, and dismounting a horse. Next comes learning how to walk, trot, and finally to cantor.


Follow the links below to learn more about each skill:

Approaching Sitting
Mounting Jumping

Approaching a Horse

Horses like to know who is coming to say hello. Getting close to a horse is called approaching. Approaching has to be done carefully. You never want to run quickly or make loud sudden noises when approaching a horse. Horses can’t see directly behind them.

If you are meeting a horse for the first time, walk slowly to his head and place the back of your hand out and let the horse sniff you. Let the horse get used to your scent. This will keep the horse relaxed.

Jack says: 

A horse’s eyes are the largest eyes of any land mammal.


From the ground a horse can sometimes look as big as a mountain. Maybe that is why climbing into the saddle is called mounting? Actually, mounting a horse is not difficult once you learn how.By following a few steps you will soon find that reaching the back of a horse is as easy as getting on an elevator.

Step One: Have your instructor hold the horse so that it stands quietly.

Step Two: Use a mounting block. A mounting block is a small set of stairs that lets you get level with your horse. 

Step Three: Mount from the left side. Most horses are trained for riders to mount on this side. Why? For hundreds of years men wore swords that they swung with their right hands. Mounting on the left gave soldiers the chance to use their sword if they needed to fight.

Step Four: Put your feet in the stirrup and grab hold of the reins. 

Step Five: If riding Western style say “Yahoo!”  If riding English style say “Tally Ho!”

Sitting On A Horse

Sitting on a horse is not like sitting on a couch -- unless your couch has four legs and a tail. On a horse, how you sit is extremely important. It tells the horse that you are relaxed and helps you control how they move.

Grace says:

The way you sit on your horse is called your “seat.” 

Balance and posture are the two most important things for a good seat. You want to sit tall, straight, and square. Make sure your bottom is in the middle of the saddle and your legs hanging loosely on each side. Have a foot in each stirrup and your hands on the reins.

Horse Jumping

Jumping a horse. Imagine riding fast on your horse and coming to a fence. Instead of stopping you get in position and your horse jumps. WHOOSH! Suddenly you are flying through the air and over the fence. You land gently on the other side without ever stopping.

Horse jumping is one of the most exciting parts of learning to ride. Jumping is something that any rider can learn, but it takes time, practice, and a qualified instructor to teach you and your horse how to do it safely.

Jack says:  

The highest jump ever recorded is 8 ft. 1 1/4 inches. The horse was named Huaso and he was ridden by Capt. Alberto Larraguibel.

The record for the longest jump over water is 27 ft., 6 3/4 inches. The horse was named Something. Something was ridden by Andre Ferreira.

Horse competitions are filled with many kinds of jumping events, but all feature obstacles. Obstacles are the different types of things you and your horse need to jump over.  Obstacles have interesting names. Some obstacles include the coffin, the bullfinch, and the arrowhead.

Riding horses lets people be as close as they can to the wonder of the natural world. What it feels like is hard to put into words. Everyone describes the experience differently.  Some say riding a horse is like flying. Some say it's poetry in motion. Some say it's pure happiness. 

The truth is, riding a horse is all those things and more. So what are you waiting for?