New to riding? All cowgirls have to start somewhere. Whether you scheduled your first riding lesson or plan to ride on vacation, you should know a few things before you put your foot in the stirrup. Make your first experience with horses a positive one! And don’t worry, you’ll be hooked like the rest of us.
Helpful Tips for First-Time Riders
1. Wear proper riding attire: Jeans and a long-sleeved shirt with close-toed shoes or a low heel boot are perfect for your first riding adventure. Leave bulky clothes, jewelry, and scarves in the car! And make sure you either borrow a helmet or have your own.
2. Arrive early and prepare to help: Learning how to tack and groom is just as important as riding! Don’t miss these crucial steps by showing up to a saddled horse.
3. Introduce yourself: Greet the horse by allowing them to sniff the back of your hand. If accepting of you, go ahead and scratch their neck. It’s a great idea to get comfortable and build a relationship with your horse on the ground.
You’ll also want to greet the instructor or person leading the ride. Let them know your experience level. Be honest!
4. Mount up: When you’re feeling confident, get ready to climb into the saddle. You can use a mounting block or mount from the ground. Put your left foot into the stirrup and bounce on your right leg. Use that energy to push yourself up and over the horse’s back. Make sure to sit down gently on the horse. It’s advisable to ask someone to hold your horse as you mount.
Check out ‘Safety Tip: How To Mount & Dismount Properly‘ for more information.
5. Sit tall: Once in the saddle, sit up straight. Your heels should be pressed lightly down in the stirrups, your eyes forward, shoulders back, and hands low. The most important thing to remember is to stay relaxed and calm.
6. Gentle on their mouth: Despite what western movies show, your hands shouldn’t be in the air or pulling the horse every which way. It’s better to stay light and gentle with the reins.
7. Listen to the horse: Horses may not be able to speak words, but they can communicate if you listen. Does your horse appear tense? Has something caught their eye? You should be aware of your surroundings, as well.
8. Go slow: Now’s not the time to show off. Your first ride should consists of walking, steering, and stopping. Keep it simple.
9. End on a good note: Try to accomplish a small goal while riding. It could be to turn your horse left and right, weave them through cones, stop and back them, or just to feel more relaxed.
10. Help with the cleanup: The process of untacking is also helpful to watch. The horse may need a hose down or cooler (blanket) depending on the weather. Ask your instructor what you can help with.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on the right path!