Learn the basics of western riding. How to mount, hold the reins, move forward, and stop. Read about trail riding, and more.
If you have chosen to ride Western then be prepared for a great time with your horse. The first step is always learning about horses. What they are, how they behave, how to care for and, handle them.
A general tutorial about horses is the first recommendation. Once you have brushed up on the do’s and don’ts around horses your ready to begin riding.
1. The Basics
The basis of all riding begins with communication between horse and rider. Horses are trained to respond to a riders signals through a process called pressure and release. Pressure is what we use to tell the horse what to do. Release is what we use to tell the horse he has done what we asked correctly.
2. Mounting Up
First, horses do not care what side you mount from. If you are left handed then mount from the right side. If you are right handed mount from the left side. The only one reason riders insist on mounting from the left, is because most of the population is right handed. If your horse acts up when you try to mount from the right side, then simply get the horse used to you handling him more from the right then the left. Use a mounting block if you have a hard time swinging yourself up into the saddle. This will keep the saddle from shifting out of place.
3. Holding the Western Reins
When riding Western, the reins are held together in one hand. If you are left handed it is completely acceptable to hold the reins in your right hand. if right handed, then hold the reins in your left hand. This will leave your dominate hand free for other things.
The reins should be held just above the saddle horn and should have just enough slack for the horse to move his head and neck freely.
4. The Stirrups
Your stirrups should be even on both sides of the saddle and long enough for your leg to be bent a little at the knee. Only the ball of your foot should be placed into the stirrup. Do not try to stuff your whole foot into a stirrup, if you fall from the horse your foot may become stuck and you will be dragged by the horse.
5. Moving Forward
Sit straight and tall in the saddle. Squeeze the horses belly gently with your lower legs. The squeeze you give the horse is the pressure that tells him to go forward. When the horse begins to move forward, stop squeezing (release the pressure). This tells the horse that he is moving forward at the desired speed. If you would like the horse to move faster apply just a little more pressure with your legs. Stop squeezing the moment the horse is moving at the pace you like.
At some point you will want the horse to stop or turn left or right.
Again the horse will respond with the use of pressure.
To get the horse to stop, keep your legs still and pull back gently on the reins. When the horse stops, release the pressure on the reins and give the horse a pat. if you continue to pull back on the reins the horse will think you are asking him to back up. If you pull to hard on the reins and squeeze with your legs, the horse will very likely rear up. This is dangerous and should be avoided.
To get the horse to turn the same pressure and release is used. While the horse is walking in a straight line, pull the reins lightly to the left. The horse will begin to turn left. Once the horse is going in the direction you want, stop pulling on the reins or the horse will think you want him to turn in a circle.
The simple act of applying and releasing pressure is how we communicate with the horse. Our voice, our touch and our emotions can enhance the communication.
Use a calm voice when riding, touch your horse affectionately when he has responded correctly and keep your emotions in check. Horses can sense a riders mood and will act accordingly. A happy, calm, confident rider will get the best results out of their horse.
When horses don’t respond to our signals, it is almost always because the rider has not learned how to effectively communicate using pressure and release. The horse becomes confused and insensitive to our signals because the rider may be slapping the horse with his legs while pulling back on the reins. Or maybe the rider is holding the reins to tightly while asking the horse to move forward.
Once these basics have been learned, things like proper seat position, balance and timing will come with practice.
6. Tips to Western Rider
Heres a few tips to help you become a better Western rider faster.
Pleasure or trail is one of the staples of Western riding and can be a lot of fun either on your own or with a group. It’s also one of easiest ways to become familiar with riding horses. Go on a few trail rides at your local trail riding facility. Keep an eye on and ask questions from the lead rider. These riders usually have lots of experience and you can pick up some really good tips.
Another great way to learn how to ride and care for horses is either through volunteering your services at a local riding stable or to work weekends and evenings in exchange for some lessons. You will learn about feeding, grooming, safe handling, proper saddling, bridling and even a bit about stable management. These places are a wealth of knowledge and will even let kids as young as 8-9 help out.
Riding lessons are essential for anyone who would like to compete in shows or just improve their riding skills. Most kids love to taking riding lessons because it gives them a sense of accomplishment and they can compare their skills with others their age. Lessons can foster a competitive nature in children which will help them reach their riding goals.
Go to some local amateur horse shows and ask the riders, if and where they take lessons, why they like or dislike their instructors, and, ask about any horse training people in the area.
Observe the way others ride and always try to do it a little better.
Be confident when riding and don’t worry about falls. All riders fall of their horse at some point. Wear a helmet to help keep injuries to a minimum. When you ride with confidence the horse will sense it. Horses like to feel secure and will act much better when their rider is calm and relaxed. An insecure rider on a insecure horse is a disaster. When buying or riding your first horse get a well trained, well mannered mature horse.
Practice and understanding of how horses are trained are what make a rider good or bad. Learn everything you can about horses. Question everything you read on the Internet. Many people will give advice, who have never rode or owned a horse. Consider a good book on the subject.