How to Ride a Horse: Getting Started

Learning how to ride a horse is fun. Once you get started, you'll learn how to prepare yourself for a discipline that interests you.

One of the top questions equestrians receive concerns how to ride a horse. While those who are new to the world of horses often interpret the act of riding as a person simply sitting on the back of a horse while it carries them around a ring or along a trail, there’s a lot of communication happening that’s very difficult even for some experts to see. So, how to ride a horse? Come along for a look.

Learning How to Ride a Horse

Just about anyone can learn to ride a horse. Look back in history, and you’ll find that nearly everyone knew how to get from one place to another with a horse’s help, either mounted or via a wheeled conveyance such as a buggy or wagon.

The first step is to find a place where you can safely learn. Look for stables that offer riding lessons, or ask an experienced friend or acquaintance if they’re willing to help you learn.

Next, you’ll want to equip yourself safely for riding. Pick clothing that fits fairly snugly, but without any uncomfortable pinch points. Wear shoes or boots with low heels. These will help keep your feet from sliding out of the stirrups or even worse, going all the way through.

If you are taking a riding lesson, you’ll probably be required to wear a helmet. Some stables furnish them while others ask that students bring their own. If no one mentions a helmet to you, consider picking one up and wearing it anyway. Your first ride isn’t likely to be technical at all, but it’s a long way from a horse’s back to the ground.

Your riding instructor or friend will help you mount up. Don’t worry – nearly everyone feels a little awkward the first time they get up on a horse’s back. You’ll probably feel a little movement beneath you as the horse adjusts his stance to accept your weight. Try to relax a little and settle your weight into the saddle as you place your feet in the stirrups. This is another step you may need some help with.

When it’s time to move off, you might be led around or your friend or instructor might let you guide the horse by yourself. Sit squarely in the saddle and feel the horse moving beneath you. Allow the horse’s movements to transmit to your body and try to move as one. Doing this will make you feel more comfortable, help the horse to relax, and help prevent you from losing your balance.

Try to keep your weight toward the back of your pelvis, where your back pockets would be if you were wearing jeans, but keep your upper body erect. Keep the balls of your feet in contact with the stirrups, and drop your heels slightly.

Pick up the reins so that they don’t have much slack, but so that they don’t feel tight in your hands. Your instructor or friend will help you understand what it feels like to have the right amount of contact with the horse’s mouth.

As the horse moves, look at the spot where you want him to go. This puts a slight amount of pressure on his back and sides, helping him to pick up cues. Leg and rein aids are something you’ll learn as you go; there are many different ones to know for various situations, but every discipline calls for the rider to look where he or she wants to go!

These are just the basics. Learning how to ride a horse is something you have to actually do! Have fun, and be safe!