More “Beginning Basics”
In lesson #1 on “How To Learn To Ride A Horse”, I began to give you a list of “Beginning Basics”, and I really just focused on the proper posture, and position that you should try to maintain, while riding. And I mentioned that this is important, because by being in the proper position, you’ll be able to maintain the proper control of your horse, at all times. In this lesson, we’ll continue with more “beginning basics”. But first…
A Short Review
You’ll be in a “balanced” position, sitting upright in the saddle, and will have your weight firmly in the saddle, through your butt and upper thighs. Your hands are free to use as needed, and your legs also, will be free to be used to give “cues” to your horse, and also to aid you in your balance. I mentioned that the ball of your foot should be in contact with the stirrup, with your heel down, and your toe slightly up. Now I want to say something about that subject, that is VERY important.
Very Important !
Please, NEVER put your foot all the way through the stirrup, so that the stirrup is “locked” against the heel and the sole, of your boot or shoe. If you were to have an accident with your horse, and you fell off; It is very possible, maybe even likely, that your foot could get caught in the stirrup, and you could get dragged by the horse, if he should get spooked and run away. I have not seen this happen, but I have friends who have, and the results are not good.
So, Please, do NOT ride with your foot all the way through your stirrup. Put the toe of your boot, through the stirrup, and place the ball of your foot, ON the stirrup, with just enough pressure to hold your foot in position there. PLEASE, don’t take this piece of advice lightly. It could some day be the difference between simply falling off your horse, and the possibility of getting dragged, with a very poor outcome. Remember, heel down, and toe up, and pointed straight ahead. Resist the tendency to allow your toe to point outward. Heel down, toe up, and pointed straight forward. This is the proper position for riding.
Beginning Basics #2.
Now lets talk about your hands. The position of your hands is also very important. There are proper ways to hold the reins, and there are improper ways of holding them. Your hands should always be held with your thumbs at the top, and the back of your hand facing outward.
Imagine there’s a rope hanging down in front of you. Reach out and grab hold of the rope with your hand. You’d wrap your hand around the rope, and your thumb would be on top, right? That’s how you should hold the reins. The reins should come back from the bridle, and come up from the bottom, into your hand, and come out at the top, and then lay forward or to the side, just like in the pictures.
I don’t want you to have the reins coming in from the top like in this picture on the left. You will not have the subtle control that you want, if you hold the reins this way, as opposed to bringing the reins up from the bottom, and out the top of your hand, as in the pictures above.
(I realize that if you’re viewing this on a smart phone, the pictures won’t be on the right or the left. So just look at the pictures and see which one applies to what I’m saying)
Let me show you the difference. If you are holding the reins like in the picture on the left, how are you going to pull back slightly to put pressure on the bit? You’re going to pull your whole arm back aren’t you? But if you hold the reins as in the above pictures, you can simply flex your wrist downward and towards you, and you will create a little pull on the reins. Just this slight movement with your hand and wrist, will accomplish what you want.
It’s such a natural movement to just flex your wrist, and create a little pull on the reins. You’ll have a much more delicate and subtle control this way, than any other way of holding the reins. You may want to bring the reins up between your little finger and the next finger for a little better “feel”, of the reins, and you’ll still have the same control. (see the illustration on the right)
In some Dressage riding, where a double set of reins is used, the manner of holding the reins becomes a bit more involved, by we surely don’t have to be concerned with this kind of stuff right now. But I do want you to get used to holding the reins properly right from the start here, so that it becomes “second nature” to you.
For some advanced video lessons on how to hold double reins, click on the image on the right to be brought to “Equestrian Coach”. Once you take a look around, you might just want to join. Click here to join “Equestrian Coach”.
Beginning Basics #3.
For our third beginning pointer, let’s consider your leg position. Your legs should hang comfortably down, without being “forced” forward or back. Once again if you view this picture, you will see how the rider’s leg naturally hangs down so that the heel of the foot falls in line with that line drawn down from her shoulders, through the hip, and to the heel.
This is just the natural position that your leg will follow, when you sit upright on your horse. Notice that the leg is hanging just behind the girth of the saddle. Your heel will be behind the girth, and your toe will be in line with the girth. When you are in this position, you are “balanced”. If your legs are too far forward, your upper body will be prone to lean to the back. If your legs are too far back, your body will lean forward. You can always “use” the position of your legs to create a little more forward or backward lean, if needed while riding. But this “balanced” position, is the proper one to be in for starting out, and for most of your riding.
As I’ve said previously, if you are simply out pleasure riding, you will no doubt relax this position to a degree, but it will still be the most balanced position to be in even then. Look at these pictures of me in three different riding situations, and check the leg position in each picture.
Are We Ready To Ride Now ?
So now we’ve talked about your upper body position, your hands, and your legs and feet. Is that about it? Well, that does cover how you’re supposed to “sit” on a horse. But it occurs to me that all this “positioning”, is done after we’re already up on the horse’s back. But how do you GET on the horse’s back? Maybe you think that’s a “no brainer”. And maybe it is. But maybe I should just explain, the proper way to get up on your horse.
Is there a proper side of your horse to get on from? Well, most of the time, you’re going to be told to mount from the horse’s left side. In “English” terms, this is called the “near side”. The right side is commonly referred to as the “off side”. I guess that simply goes back to some early days of “horse etiquette”. But I’m not much concerned with “horse etiquette”, so I’ll just tell it like it is, in the everyday world of horses.
Yes, the left side, is by far the most common side to mount from. But there’s absolutely nothing “wrong” with getting on from the right side either. As a matter of fact, I want you to purposefully, get on from both sides equally. I want to train “you” to be able to coordinate yourself properly, so as to get on with ease from either side. And I want YOU, to “train” your horse to feel equally comfortable, with you getting ON from either side. You wouldn’t want to teach your horse to only turn to the left, would you? Well, why teach him to only allow you to get on from the left? Or to only feel “comfortable”, when you get on from the left?
Not the Right Way !
Now, while these all may very well be, ways of getting on a horse, none of them are what we’re going to call the “proper” way, at least not proper for our purposes here today.
Here’s some pictures of the “proper” way of getting on.
OK, Let’s get serious
Above is a simple little series of pictures that really just about say it all.
#1. Step up to your horse and stand at his shoulder. Have the reins in your left hand (assuming you’re getting on from the left) and have the reins pulled just enough to take out the slack. Just in case your horse decides to walk off, you’ve got a hold of him.
#2. Put your left foot in the stirrup, and get it positioned so that the ball of your foot is resting on the stirrup pad. Your left hand still has a hold of the reins, and with that same hand, you can also take hold of the front of the saddle, to steady yourself. If you’re using a western saddle, you can grab the saddle horn with your left hand.
#3. Using your left hand and arm, and left leg, lift yourself up into an upright position, so that in essence, you will be standing in the stirrup with your left leg. At this same time you can take hold of the back of the saddle with your right hand, again to steady yourself. Now your left leg will be standing in the stirrup, your left hand will have hold of the reins and also be holding the front of the saddle (or the horn), and your right hand will be on the back of the saddle.
#4. You will now lean forward, over your horse’s neck, and swing your right leg up and over your horse’s back. At this same time of course, you will take your right hand off of the back of the saddle, so it will be ready to take hold of the front of the saddle if needed.
#5. As your right leg gets over your horse’s back, you will gently sit down into the saddle and allow your right foot to find the right stirrup. You will probably have to look down on your right side to see the stirrup, but find the stirrup right away, so that both feet are in the stirrups, and you are sitting comfortably in the saddle. Now you can adjust your weight in the saddle, and check again to make sure both feet are in the proper position in the stirrups. Remember, the ball of your foot should be on the stirrup pad, heels down, toes up, and forward.
Here’s some more pictures of people getting up into the saddle.
Follow the simple steps involved, until you can get up on your horse, from either side, in one fluid motion.
I Think We’re Ready To Ride Now
Yep, I think we’re ready to ride. But, that will have to wait till next time. In the next lesson, titled “How To Learn To Ride A Horse – Part 3”, we’ll do just that. We’ll start riding. Do you have any questions so far? We’ve actually covered lots of ground, even though we haven’t started riding yet. I’ve got to close for now though.
Please, if you have any questions or comments, leave them in the comment area below. And if you enjoy this site, please refer your friends to visit also. For now though, “Happy Horse Training”, and “Happy Riding”, Jim.
Thanks so much for following along.
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