Riding a horse is definitely one of the things that never gets old. It can power you up with refreshing energy that will help you, both physically and mentally, to get over the day’s burden. Horses are also magnificent creatures to possess as pets; they can teach you so much about patience and loyalty, even though they are no more than just animals. Riding a horse has an ancient history with Mankind and due to that history, the strong bond between Humans and Horses has been maintained through the years.
There are some rumors saying that Riding a horse is one of the difficult activities, whether as a sport or just for leisure, but this idea is completely WRONG! Horse riding is, simply, just like any other kind of sport; at first, it may seem a bit difficult but once you get to know the basics everything will become easy.
In the following article, Riding a Horse, we will inform you about easy steps that should be done before and while riding a horse, the different techniques and riding styles, and some of the wrong practices that Horse riders do unconsciously. Before we jump into the article let’s start with some history and how Man established their relationship with these magical creatures.
1. MAN AND HORSES
5,000 years ago, horses were wild animals that hunts to survive. Horses, 60 million years ago, were about the size of a small dear; this small animal was called HYRACOTHERIUM. Hyracotherium was evolved as mammals that came after the extinction of dinosaurs.
This particular type of horse lived in North America and their food source was tree leaves. Of course, like any other animal, Hyracotheriums evolved physically to what we now know as Horses. Soon, they were spread widely in Asia and the Middle East; and because of climate change, entire horse packs disappeared. A long time ago, humans used to hunt down horses as a source of meat. At first, they didn’t pay attention to what can horse offer other than providing meat, because at that time Man was physically strong and he could travel for days on his feet without getting tired.
Drawings were found in caves in France, China, and North America that illustrate the importance of these animals back then and how much they were significant for Man to survive. Man tribes were moving constantly to were horses located, so the constant observation of Man to these creatures helped them learn several ways to drag their attention; for example, they used to provide fodder so they get closer; and then they found out that they can milk the lactating mare to have it as another source of food for their families. The most famous story about raising horses as domesticated animals were documented in, what we know now as, Kazakhstan 5000 BCE. They found knife marks on hundreds of horse bones, ankle part in particular, as a sign that they used to mark them in order to not mix these tribes with other wild horses. Other than this story, no one knows exactly when did Man started to perceive horses as more than just meat; but we can infer that after raising them as a source of food, they used them for cultivation and also for pulling wheeled vehicles long before they learn how to ride them. Horses, in general, have a unique history with Man’s evolution from just seeking to survive to decision-makers through expansion wars that would have been impossible without horses’ power.
The man started to like these animals for what they offered from food to the fights they had together in wars; therefore, they developed their relationship from just owners to friends. They invented sports such as racing, which was popular back then, for entertainment and also to keep the horse fit and healthy. However, the value of horses decreased with the invention of the steam engine, there is no doubt that they measured the engine’s capacity in HORSEPOWER; after that horses remained as domestic animals to take care of for pleasure. For other physical facts about horses check out our article ‘facts no one told you about your horse’ for further information.
2. HOW TO RIDE A HORSE
Riding a horse can be as fun as it can take a great deal of time and training. Only excessive training makes the person more aware of the various techniques used and most of all more comfortable when riding. Before we head to the next part, we would like you to bear in mind that the relationship between the horse and the trainer or the owner is very important, the horse must feel at ease with the person trying to ride it; therefore, we advise you to know the horse first and spend some time together before attempting to ride it in order to maintain that relaxed mood and sense of familiarity for smooth riding.
1. Mounting the horse
before you try to actually ride a horse, the first thing to be done is to practice on a horse model, a fake horse made from wood or plastic, to help you train without fear. For beginners, it is better to use a mounting block so you can stand in a position that allows you to mount the horse without falling; just until you master riding from the ground, with the supervision of a trainer of course. Put your foot on the stirrup, remember you need to be calm and steady to not fall down, then lift yourself upward, just after that you swing around the other foot to mount the other side of the stirrup. You need to have the trainer or any other experienced person hold the head of the horse for you until you got it right.
2. Balance position
Once you mount the horse and you are in the saddle, wait for a few seconds and make sure that you won’t fall down by tiding your feet in the stirrup, and then keep your head and back straight and also your shoulders should be even because your weight should be divided equally so you can maintain your balance while riding a horse.
3. Legs in the right position
As soon as you feel that your weight is equally divided on the horse saddle and you are balanced, get your feet into the proper position. For beginners, this step is a bit hard so you need to practice it frequently. Your legs should head inward; with the legs curved inwards, towards the horse, the ankles should be stable along with the heels pointed downwards.
4. Holding the reins properly
After you get your legs in the right position, holding the reins would be much easier. The way you hold the reins depends on what style you are following, the British or the Western style. For the English style, make a fist first so you can pass the rein through the fist, so the loop of the rein will be faced upwards. Both pinky fingers should be placed outside the rein and place your thumbs on top, on the top of the rein. As far as the Western-style is concerned, the reins do not form a loop. The Western bridle has reins that are knotted at the top, so you keep the reins loose all the time and you must hold it with your two fists and the thumbs are always up.
5. How to signal your horse to move
There are, of course, various ways that you can adopt to make your horse move. The famous movie, or signal, is squeezing your horse’s waist with your legs so the horse starts to walk. If the horse didn’t respond to the squeezing, you can kick your horse with your heels, but gently so it can be noticed as tapping rather than actually kicking it. Another way depends greatly on how well the horse knows you and to what extent you both are familiar with each other. You can try to produce verbal cues like whistling or clicking of the tongue that the horse responds to. Once you know the sound that makes it react, then you can start using it as a signal to start walking.
6. Your hands should be in harmony with the horse’s head
You need to observe the horse’s movements, especially the head. When the horse walks, gallops, and canters, you will notice that his head keeps moving back and forth as it coordinates with his body; therefore, your hands should be flexible with this movement. Allow your hands to go back and forth in harmony with the heads’ swings and try to be loose; pulling the rein harder will confuse the horse and make it uncomfortable.
7. How to steer your horse
For beginners or professionals, steering the horse is one of the important steps that should be learned. Some may find it easy, others may find difficulties, again we remind you, it all depends on the type of the horse and how much it feels comfortable with you on board. So, the basics are as follows:
- – Keep contact with the horse’s mouth.
- – To turn right, pull slightly the rein back with your right hand.
- – To turn left, pull slightly the rein back with your left hand.
- – If there is no response, try a bit harder but you need to make sure that the pulling prose is as smooth as possible, so you won’t scare the horse or cause him confusion.
- – Use your legs as well as your body to make the horse move, because just pulling the rein won’t be enough.
- – Also squeezing your legs each at a time in the opposite way will help in moving towards the right direction. For example, if you want to go right, pull slightly the rein back to the right and squeeze your left leg, so the horse will try to run away from the pressure.
8. How to trot Once you feel
comfortable at the walk and mastered the cues for direction, you can now start trotting. While you walk the horse, try to squeeze gently on the sides so the horse starts walking faster, if we may say. Keep your elbows relaxed, try to sit deep in the saddle, and don’t forget to control your feet. Also, you can try ‘posting trot’. Contrarily to the sitting trot, posting trot can be more comfortable for some riders.
To do it, you need to rise when the horse’s outside shoulders move forward then sit down gently on the saddle in order not to bounce hard on the horse’s back.
9. How to canter the horse
When the horse canter means that the horse is going double his speed. For catering, you need first to maintain your sitting position as usual; in other words, you need to master both Sitting Trot and Posting Trot. Catering should be done according to the following steps:
- – To help you keep your balance, hold onto the saddle when learning to canter.
- – If the horse goes too fast then you can handle it, signal it to walk by pulling slightly the rein backward.
- – After making the horse walk, try again to canter by squeezing your inside legs and the rein to give him a push forward.
10. Further riding tips
- – Practice makes perfection. The more you practice your basic poses, how to ride the horse from the ground, holding the reins, posting trot, sitting trot, the more you will become ready for more advanced stages.
- – Take riding lessons in actual stables where you can interact more with horses and have some time getting to know their nature, so you won’t have problems when riding any horse for the first time.
- – Try to learn how to groom the horse, the workers or the trainers at the horse stable you are learning in can teach you how to groom the horse according to their nature, indoors or outdoors horses.
- – Learn how to dress up your horse, the saddle, the bridle, and also how to tack up the horse for horse riding.
3. WRONG PRACTICES WHEN RIDING
- – Do not lift your hands up to balance yourself on the horseback, keep your hands and elbows at hip level so you can control the horse’s movements easily.
- – Do not be anxious and try to relax, all of your muscles will be active while riding; therefore, you need to let your legs and arms less tense. Let your legs hang from the hip and your heels must be jammed inside the stirrup. And try not to swing your legs back and forth to not confuse the horse.
- – Don’t stand on your tiptoes when you trot. The legs position should be practiced before trotting. The lower legs must standstill as if you are standing on the ground. Bent your knees so you will be able to control your legs’ power easily.
- – Wear the appropriate boots for riding. The position of your feet in the stirrup is very important, so make sure they are at the right length by making it hit your ankles when you hang your feet down and also make the widest part of your leg rest in the stirrup.
- – Don’t slouch!! It might seem a bit odd but it’s very necessary advice to keep you balanced on the top of the horse. SIT UP STRAIGHT and RELAX, don’t look down or behind, keep your head up high, and always look forward to where you want to go.
- – Let the reins slide a bit, loose. The horse is in constant movement, especially the head part; therefore, let the reins loose so you can keep up with his movements. However, you also need to pay attention to when you need to shorten the reins and when to pull them back or on the sides.
- – Keep breathing! Most beginners hold their breath when riding the horse or breath heavily because of stress. Remember that the horse can feel your stress from your heavy breath because when you do, all your muscles freeze and got heavier on the horse. So, try breathing in harmony with the horse following the same beat.
4. BENEFITS OF HORSE RIDING
Many consider that Riding a horse is not fit to be called exercise or workout, but in fact, it is.
- While you are riding the horse, all of your muscles are stretching. It can help you with abs building and also with legs and arms’ flexibility.
- React quickly and possess much more effective coordination between your arms and legs.
- It can teach you more than just how to ride, but it will teach you how to control your body along with your mind.
- The ability to feel free and throw away all life’s burden. Once you get on that horse and start running and breathing that fresh air, you will be pumped up with a positive energy and a wonderful experience.
- Help you make new friendships, not only with horses but also with the trainers and stable owners which is always a good thing.
- If you have family, it would be a great idea to have picnics with horses, so you can spend some time with them and also teach them the value of taking care of such animals.
I’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse. Ronald Reagan