Riding horses can be great fun, but as a beginner, there are some important things one needs to be aware of before starting to work with a horse.
1. Be Careful when Approaching a Horse
Approaching a horse cannot be done from any direction; there is a special technique involved. The horse needs to be approached from the side near the shoulder. Coming straight at a horse means it cannot see you because of its blind spots.
2. Keep Your Heels Down
‘Heels down’, though not mandatory, is an oft repeated command beginner riders hear from the trainer. A beginner needs to keep the heels in the down position to be prepared for an occasion when the horse for some reason stops suddenly. This is to avoid the possibility of the rider flying over the horse’s head when unprepared.
3. Keep Your Shoulders Back
Maintaining posture where the shoulders roll back and not forward helps to keep the rider’s back straight and avoid the horse pulling the rider forward. With the shoulders back, the elbows sit at the sides of the body giving the rider better control of both horse and rider.
4. Use a Mounting Block
Mounting a horse from the ground especially for beginners is not recommended as it puts a strain on the rider’s back, physical pressure on the horse and also dislodges the saddle. Whenever a mounting block is handy, it is recommended that beginners use the block.
5. Dismount Carefully
Dismounting safely is just as important as mounting correctly and needs to be performed without discomfort to horse or rider. The trainer normally holds the horse still; the rider begins to discount by first removing feet from the stirrups. Holding the reins with the left hand, the rider leans forward, raises the right leg high to clear the horse’s haunches and the saddle, and pushing forward jumps to the ground. Landing on bended knees helps to absorb the shock well.
6. Keep Your Elbows by Your Side
Keeping elbows slightly back and bent is the right posture. It should be possible to draw a straight line all the way from the rider’s ear to the shoulder, on to the elbow to the hip to the knee and ending at the ankle. This is a comfortable and correct body posture a rider needs to attain.
7. Don’t Look Down
Eyes up is something beginners need to follow; for some reason new riders are tempted to constantly look down at the horse. When the ‘eyes up’ rule is followed, the rider can plot the course and steer around obstacles better.
8, Work on Your Balance
Maintaining proper balance on a horse comes with practice and needs to be developed over time. Balance is related to correct posture; for example, if the rider slumps forward or sits too far back in the saddle, maintaining balance is going to be a problem.
9. Wear the Right Clothes
Wearing the right clothes is important; generally riding instructors will inform new riders about the most suitable attire to be worn. Helmets can either be purchased or borrowed from the riding school; boots are the preferred footwear with a 1-2 centimetre heel as small heels prevent slippage from the stirrups. Jodhpurs are better than jeans because jeans tend to slide on leather saddles.
10. Hold the Reins Properly
For better control over the horse, the rider’s hands need to be still to maintain continuous contact with the reins. The right way to hold the reins is to take one in each hand and hold them between the little finger and the third finger. Keep thumbs on top, facing upward with fingers gently curled around the reins.