Riding a horse for sport or leisure takes skill and patience. Horses are such gentle creatures but the smallest mistake on the rider’s part can turn them from gentle to not so gentle. For your safety and for the safety of these animals, it’s important that you learn how to properly mount and control them.
Here’s some professional tips to remember when going horseback riding.
Wear proper attire
Cowboy boots and riding gloves aren’t just for show; they
actually serve an important purpose. For safe horse riding, The Spruce Pets
stated that boots secure your feet in the stirrup and prevent chafing on your legs. Gloves
give you a better handle of the reins in case a horse pulls. Add helmet,
stirrups, crash vests, mouth guards and chaps to the list of gear you need for
safe riding and you and your horse are well on your way to covering some
Initiate a friendly approach
Never approach a horse from the back and avoid direct eye contact while approaching it at an arc or at a straight line, depending on which it is comfortable with. When you’re close enough, greet and let the horse smell your hand before doing anything else. You can even pat it. Once you feel that a rapport has been established, mount the horse from the left side only - never form the right. Naples Equestrian College Program Director Missy Saracino explained that this custom dates back to when horses were used in the war and the way soldiers drew their weapons. Modern horses are still trained this way and it’s one tradition that will likely remain.
Maintain proper posture
Mistakes are often made when sitting on the saddle and as the rider, your posture significantly affects how the horse moves, so you want to correct it and ensure you are doing it right. Avoid slouching, relax your shoulders and keep your chin up. Grab the reins with even tension and keep it at hip level with your elbows to the sides. If the horse pulls away, continue readjusting to this position. Make sure that you are not clenching the horse with your legs unless you want it to giddy up. Instead, keep your legs relaxed and keep them from swinging forwards and back.
Eyes on the trail
Another common mistake is keeping your gaze fixed on the horse. While they are indeed majestic creatures, imagine yourself driving a car without looking at the road. It is the same thing with riding horses; you want to focus on the trail in order to maintain safety.
Talk to your horse
It may seem silly but try talking to your horse. Professional equestrienne Lizzie Kelly revealed to The Independent that she got into the habit of talking to her horses not just to greet them but to also guide them through races. It has obviously worked wonders for her as the young jockey has several wins under her belt including a Grade One race win in Britain, something that had never been done by a female jockey prior to 2015. Kelly believes that talking to your horse leads to a better understanding of the animal and reinforces the bond. You need to be able to trust your horse and your horse needs to be able to trust you.
It was show jumper Geoff Billington who said, “You must have a relaxed horse before you can ask any questions of it.” Being gentle is not just in the way you talk to your horse. And as we previously mentioned here on LV Performance it’s also about making sure that their gear is properly mounted and not too tight. It also pertains to how you sit on the horse, how you handle the reins and squeeze with your legs. Like we said, horses are gentle creatures but they won’t be if you aren’t.