“Learn”, “Horses”, “Ride”
Three words that tell what this article is all about. I had a gentleman ask the question, “Is there some way that you could tell us how to learn to ride a horse”. He found the horse training articles interesting, but he had never even rode a horse. That just goes to show, that horses are just naturally interesting to almost all of us. They display a beauty, and a sense of freedom, that seems to appeal to everyone.
I’ve said it before; Many times I’ve just enjoyed going out to the pasture and watching the horses as they grazed and walked around, just admiring the beauty of God’s creation. And we’ve all seen movies that show a horse galloping across the screen, just as free as nature intended. It’s no wonder that we find horses so interesting and fun to watch and be around.
Just look at the picture at the top of the page. Is that beautiful or what?
It makes us want to learn more about horses, and it makes us want to be a part of their world. And it makes us want to have a “partnership” with them, and even to “build a relationship” with horses. If you were fortunate enough to have been raised around horses, you have really been blessed. But if you’re like me, and wasn’t quite that lucky, it’s never too late to begin your adventure. I began riding when I was 18 or 19 years old. I really can’t quite remember. But what I do remember is that once I got started, I didn’t want to quit!
I’d like to urge you to take a look at the page on this website titled “About Me”, and read some more about how I got started with horses.
You’ve heard the saying haven’t you, that someone “learned by the seat of his pants”? Well that’s exactly how I learned to ride. Let me tell you a story… We’ll go back about 47 years.
A friend of mine named Debbie, suggested that I go riding with her some weekend. And so we found a place out in the country that rented horses, a livery stable is what it was, (we lived in the city). She had ridden before, and so she just sort of told me what to do, and since she was the “expert”, I did what she told me.
The first thing she told me, was that when we got there, we should tell the managers that we wanted to ride “English”. I really didn’t know anything back then, so I gladly went along with it. Debbie told me that an English saddle was so much more comfortable, and that’s why we should ride English. Well, the barn people did have English saddles as well as western, and so they were glad to accommodate us.
Now if you’re familiar with an English saddle, you know there’s not a whole lot to hang on to, when you’re riding. You know, I mean there’s no saddle horn to grab, to help you stay on if you get off balance. Well, being brand new to riding, I did need to grab on to something at times, so I found that there was a nice little area at the top of the front of the saddle that had a “space” underneath it. It’s just kinda’ like a “gap” between the horse’s back, and the underside of the saddle up in front there.
So I would just take my left hand and tuck it under the saddle, in that gap, and grab hold of the front of the saddle that way. It would have been the same as grabbing the saddle horn on a western saddle, but instead, I just stuck my hand under the “pommel” of the saddle, (see the picture) instead of around a saddle horn. And I had to agree with Debbie, the English saddle was quite comfortable.
One thing we used to like to do with the horses, was to gallop and race them. So we would get a ways, away from the barn, on the other side of a big row of trees, and we’d race them, just as fast as they’d go. It was really cool galloping so fast like that. I’ll never forget one day we were galloping like that, and it had rained the night before, so there were some muddy patches left, that hadn’t dried yet.
Well, we were on a dirt road, and the horses were running as fast as they could go, and the road turned slightly to the left. right in the middle of that turn was a big muddy spot. My horse started around the turn, and all at once his feet went right out from under him, as they slipped in the mud. Well, he went down, and I went flying through the air, and landed about ten yards out in front of him. I gathered myself up as quick as I could, and looked back at the horse, and he was still sliding on his back, all four legs almost straight up in the air.
I still remember that horse’s name, it was “Green”. Don’t ask me why someone named him Green, but old Green was just as startled as I was over what had just happened, and when he got up to his feet again, he just stood there looking bewildered. Luckily, that gave me time to walk over to him and take hold of the reins before he decided to run off to the barn and make me walk back.
Don’t Do This !
Here’s something you should never do. When we would first get on the horses and try to ride off from the barn, they would never want to leave, because they were “barn sour”. So we usually got a small tree branch, more like a big twig, and we used that as a riding crop to get the horses to leave the vicinity of the barn. Well, I guess I couldn’t find a twig that day, so I took off my belt and used that as a riding whip.
After we had gotten the horses out across the road and actually into the forest on the other side, I rolled up my belt and just stuck it down in front, under the waist of my blue jeans, between my jeans and my stomach, just in case I needed it again. Well when I went flying off the horse that day, I landed right down on my stomach, with that belt tucked in there. Wow, it felt like someone punched me right in the belly.
What’s the moral of the story? I’m not sure, maybe don’t use you belt as a riding whip? How ’bout, leave your belt around your jeans, not inside them?
I Learned The Hard Way
I guess I learned a lot, “the hard way”. But I’ll never forget it! We had a blast back then. But the point of it all is; You can learn to ride, “by the seat of your pants”, (or by your belly), or you can learn the “safe way”.
After I met my wife, I would go with her out to the country where she kept her standard bred horse, at a boarding stable, which was also a training farm for Thoroughbred race horses, and an English riding, training and showing facility. We both took proper lessons there, on acquiring a “good seat”, and on a lot of other basic areas of “horsemanship”. This is where I learned to “jump” also. Jan was already showing and jumping some, but she went on to do lots more while she boarded her horse there. We got to know the “stable hands” really good there, and had a lot of fun with them, and with all the horses that were there.
So what are the main things you’ve got to “learn”, when considering “How to learn to ride a horse”? Let me give you a short list of “Beginning Basics”, for learning to ride a horse.
#1. Sit up straight with proper posture.
Once a person knows how to ride, and has lots of experience, posture doesn’t seem very important anymore for just pleasure riding. If on the other hand, you are going to pursue showing, in either English or Western events, good riding posture is a must or the judges won’t take second look at you.
Let’s just consider pleasure riding for starters though. If you’re riding for “pleasure”, you want it to BE a pleasure. You’re not concerned with your “posture”. At least that’s how I feel. I just want to be relaxed and comfortable, and enjoy my horse and the beautiful outdoors. If I get into a situation on the trail, where some real “riding” is required though, I can instantly assume the good posture and control that I need, to be IN control.
You see, to be “in control”, you need to be in the proper “position”. Let me give you an example. If you go out with a friend, or with your kids, and play a little “catch”, with a baseball and glove, you just want to be relaxed, and toss the ball back and forth, and enjoy being out together. But on the other hand, if you’re involved in a “game” of baseball, and you’re the catcher, you want to be “in position”, right?
Well, it’s the same with riding. If you’re just out for pleasure … relax and enjoy. But if you really want to have complete control, you want to assume some kind of position, where you can BE in control. Doesn’t that make sense? So if you learn from the start, to have good riding posture, you’ll be able to “take control” whenever you need to. Not to say that you don’t want to have control ALL the time, but you can see my point, can’t you?
Take a look at the pictures again
If you are sitting correctly on your horse, you should be able to draw a straight line, from your shoulders, down through your hips, and down to your heel. But you should be sitting “comfortably”, not “rigid” and “locked” in position. Your weight should be in your seat, not in the stirrups. The ball of your foot should be in contact with the stirrup, with your heel “down” and your toe slightly “up”, and pointing forward.
Be careful not to put much of your weight in the stirrups though. In order to develop a “good seat”, your weight needs to BE in your seat. And just what is meant by a “good seat”? Well, to put it very bluntly; A “good seat” simply means that your butt stays put in the saddle, and doesn’t bounce all over the place. If you put too much weight in the stirrups, you will actually tend to lift your butt up OFF the saddle. If you want to stand up in the stirrups to get a better look around, for instance, well that’s OK. But you shouldn’t be riding with your butt off the saddle.
Here’s an exception to what I just said though. (there’s always exceptions aren’t there?) Almost always.
Are you familiar with what “posting” means? “Posting” is a method of riding your horse at the trot, where you lift your butt off the saddle, with every forward and upward step, of your horse’s front leg. (either leg) And when you’re riding, it’s difficult to see your horse’s front leg, so the way you time your “posting” is off his shoulder, which you can see clearly.
When the shoulder begins to come up, that’s when you begin to “post” upward along with your horse’s movement. Then when you come “down”, off the “post”, you meet the opposite front shoulder, which is now on it’s way up. The purpose for “posting” is take some of the “bounce” out of the trot. If you’ve ever tried to just sit still on a horse while he trots, you know that YOU’RE the one that gets “bounced” all over.
You can either “post” off the left front leg, or off the right front leg. If your are “posting” off the right front leg, you will be “posting” on what is called “the right lead”. If you are “posting” off the left front leg, you will be “posting” off “the left lead”. I won’t go very deeply into this right now, but that is about the only time that you want your butt coming off the saddle. Otherwise you want your butt “glued” to the saddle. THAT is what a “good seat” is.
What NOT To Do
Now let me tell you HOW you’re going to keep your butt “glued” to the saddle. You are NOT going to grab onto the saddle horn, and try to “hold yourself down”. And you are NOT going to try to wrap your legs and feet around your horse’s belly and “squeeze tight”, to hold yourself down.
What you ARE going to do is this; You’re going to squeeze, or “grip” with the upper portion of your legs, against the sides of your horse. By that, I mean from your knees, up to your butt, you apply pressure to “grip” against your horse. Basically, you’ll be gripping with your inner thighs. This will take some practice, to not be gripping with your lower leg as well, as you grip with your upper leg. And if you practice this “gripping” diligently, you can expect some sore muscles to go along with it, at least until your muscles get “toned up” for this.
When you get more skilled at riding, you’re going to want your lower leg to be free to give “signals”, and “cues” to your horse, so that you can control his movements, and get him to perform the way you want him to.
We’ll Continue Our List of “Beginning Basics”
I’ll have to end this lesson here, but we will continue with my list of “Beginning Basics”, in the next lesson titled, “How To Learn To Ride A Horse – Part 2”
Thanks for staying with me for this first lesson on how to learn to ride a horse. Keep watching for the next lesson coming very shortly. But in the meantime, thanks for visiting, and “Happy Horse Training” and “Happy Riding”, Jim.