You can’t learn to ride a horse from a website, book, or video. The best way to learn to ride a horse is with a competent coach or instructor, who can catch bad habits before they become ingrained, advise you of mistakes you may be making, encourage you, and offer advice to keep you safe and comfortable.
But you can prepare and learn what you’ll be learning once you’re on a horse whether you plan to learn to ride English or Western. Here’s what you’ll need to learn to competently ride a horse.
Before You Begin Your Ride
The first thing you’ll learn about riding may not be actual riding skills. You may come across riding schools where you’ll simply get on the horse and start riding. But learning to tie, groom, and lead are essential skills that help you learn to understand horses, stay safe, and increase your enjoyment. This is especially important if you plan to head out alone once you’re able.
With your horse safely tied and groomed, it’s time to saddle up for your ride. Learn how to put on an English or Western saddle and bridle, and how to do up the cinch on a Western saddle.
With your horse waiting, groomed, saddled up, and ready to ride, you’ll want to get going. But don’t rush things: It’s important to understand how to mount your horse and once you’re up there how to sit correctly in the saddle as you ride.
When you first begin riding, you will feel awkward and unbalanced. You may feel unable to make all your body parts do all the things they are supposed to at the same time. You may be using muscles not familiar with the job you are asking, and have difficulty remembering all you are supposed to do. The key is practice.
Walk, Halt, and Turn
How to walk and halt: The first thing your instructor will explain is how to cue the horse to walk. If you’ve never ridden before, it will take a little time to get used to the motion of the horse.
How to turn (English):
How to turn (Western): Most Western riders will likely learn to neck rein.
Trotting, Jogging, Cantering, or Loping
As your confidence and skill increase, it is time to learn to ride at faster paces. Challenge yourself, but never feel rushed. Learning to ride is supposed to be fun, not scary.
Posting the trot: Trotting can be a lot of work to learn, especially posting the trot. Again, practice is key. Soon it will become the natural thing to do.
Sit the trot: Learning to sit the trot can be tricky. These tips can help get the bounce out.
Canter or lope: The canter/lope is a lot of fun, and once you are secure almost easier than trotting.