Let’s Recap Lessons #1 and #2
The first lesson titled “How To Learn To Ride A Horse”, got us going with some horse stories, and some “proper posture” advice. Then in Lesson 2, we got into quite a bit of detail about your upper body position, your hands, legs and foot position. We also covered some important advice on how to hold the reins, and even the proper way to get on your horse. If you want to go back and review anything from these previous lessons, just click on the links. You won’t loose your place here.
Today we’re going to start riding. Hurray! Chris Ledoux has a song that tells of jumping onto the back of a wild horse, grabbing some mane, and “hangin’ on”. That would be exciting, wouldn’t it? But I don’t think I’ll try it, especially not at my age now. Please visit the page made in Chris’s memory, that tells about Chris and his music. Click on “Chris Ledoux Music”.
Choosing The Right Horse
I haven’t said anything about this yet, but when a person is first learning to ride, it’s always advisable to start out on a horse that’s “seasoned”, in other words, well trained and gentle. In the beginning, at least one of you needs to know what you’re doing. No offense meant to anyone, but an untrained horse, and an untrained rider, don’t go together very well.
If you’re thinking of buying a horse to learn how to ride on, consider this… Don’t buy the first horse you see, even if it’s gorgeous. But rather, find the most well-trained, and most gentle horse that you can find, even if it cost a bit more money. When it comes to the price of a horse, consider the value you place on yourself, or possibly the value you place on your child. First of all, you don’t want to get hurt by a horse that isn’t gentle for a beginner. Second, think about the purpose for buying the horse.
Either you, or as I said before, possibly your child, is investing in something that means a lot to you. You’re going to have “upkeep” in any horse. It doesn’t cost any more to keep a good horse, than it costs to keep a “cheap” horse. But here’s where the real “value” comes in. How is the horse going to contribute to your success?
If you’re not real familiar with horses, and training, and riding, you might not realize how much a well-trained horse can teach a rider. It’s truly amazing. If you’re just learning to ride, you’ll be giving cues to your horse to move out, and to stop, and to turn, or to back, or whatever. And since you’re just learning yourself, you won’t really know if you’re doing it right or not unless your horse is responding properly. A poorly trained horse won’t BE responding very well to your cues, and you won’t know if you’re doing something wrong, or if your horse is doing something wrong.
But a well-trained horse will already know what it is that you’re asking him to do, and he’ll be ready and willing, to do exactly what you ask. So your horse’s willingness to please you, will be helping to reinforce the lessons that you’re learning, and it’ll give you the confidence that you need in the beginning. You’ll progress so much faster this way, and you’ll have so much more fun while you learn too. How much is that worth?
What A Horse Taught Me
Let me tell you a little story about what one of my horses taught me.
When we were first getting into Missouri Foxtrotter horses, I wasn’t real sure about what the foxtrot gait was. I knew that it was smooth and comfortable, but that’s about all I knew for sure. Shortly after I had gotten a couple foxtrotters, my wife and I were at a friends ranch, and they probably had about twenty foxtrotters, including two stallions. I took one look at this dark palomino stallion that they had, and I fell in love with him. He was without a doubt, the best looking foxtrotter I had ever seen.
Well it turns out that they weren’t as fond of him as they were their other stallion, so they offered to sell him to me “cheap”, if they could get several breedings to him for their mares. I didn’t hesitate, and we made a deal.
Zanes’ Lad was the stallion’s name, and he was what you would call, “old time bred”. By this I mean that his parents were what the breed association calls “Foundation” horses. In other words, when the breed was first being formed, it was built upon the bloodlines of a select group of horses, who had the natural ability to perform the “gait”, that came to be called the “Foxtrot”.
This horse could Foxtrot ! Boy, could he Foxtrot. And at a time when I was trying to figure out, exactly what a Foxtrot was supposed to look like, and feel like to ride. Along came “Zane’s Lad” who could perform, what was the epitome of a natural Foxtrot gait. He taught me so much about Foxtrotters, and about the Foxtrot gait.
Ready, Set, Ride
OK, let’s get ready and ride our horse. Get up on your horse, and get into the proper position, Sit straight up, you want to be able to draw an imaginary line, down from your shoulders, through your hip, and down to the heel of your boot. Have a slight bit of weight in the stirrups, but most of your weight, firmly in the saddle. Your toes are slightly up, your heels are down, and the ball of your foot resting on the stirrup. Your hands are comfortably in front of you, just above the saddle.
Now you’re ready. If this is truly your first time to ride, have someone holding your horse with a lead rope, and as your horse moves forward, they can walk along, leading the horse, until you’re sure that you feel safe.
Here’s what you’ll do to “ask” your horse to move forward. You want to legs against the sides of your horse, especially your upper legs, from your knees up. As you do this, you want to raise yourself up slightly, along with the tightening of your leg muscles. So you go from sitting firmly in the saddle, to kind of “lifting” yourself up a bit. I don’t want you to get up off the saddle, but just lift your weight slightly. Your horse will feel the difference.
At the same time that you do this, you will also give your horse a verbal command. You will want to either, “cluck” to the horse, or say “come on”. Now depending how well trained your horse is, this may be all it takes to get him moving, or maybe if he’s not trained so well, you may have to add even more “cues” to ask him to move out.
Try this method of “asking” a couple of times, at least. We don’t want your horse to get into the habit of NOT responding to these very subtle cues to walk forward. So if your horse hasn’t started to walk forward yet, have a friend begin to “lead” the horse forward, as you give the cues to move out. This way, you are maintaining your proper position in the saddle, without too much moving around, and your horse will be walking forward, as your friend leads him.
If you feel comfortable with your horse walking around, just let him go like this for a couple minutes. If a friend is leading him, that’s just fine, keep going like this. If you didn’t need someone leading your horse, and he is walking ford on his own, let him keep going, as I said, for at least a couple minutes.
Relax Back Down In The Saddle
Now, let’s say you’ve gotten your horse to walk forward, and you’re “riding” your horse. Just as soon as he has taken a couple steps forward, you want to allow your full weight to go back down in the saddle. Remember, you had “lifted” your weight up a bit, when you asked him to out. Now, just as soon as he has responded to your command, you relax your weight back down again. Your horse has obeyed your cue to move forward, so you take the cue away, by letting your weight back down into the saddle.
Does all this sound sensible to you? It’s not very complicated, is it? It’s very simple actually. When you ask your horse to move out, you tighten up your legs, especially from the knees up, and you “lift” your weight slightly, and you give your verbal command, “come on”. That’s all there is to it. And as soon as your horse is walking, you relax your weight back down into the saddle, but of course you maintain your good posture all the time.
You’ve not only taught yourself, how to ride your horse, but you’ve also taught your horse to respond to your command to move out. How does it feel? Feels good doesn’t it? What’s the next logical thing to learn? How about stopping?
Repeat After Me, Whoa, Whoa
OK, let’s stop our horse. You’re walking along with your horse. You’re sitting in an upright position, with just a slight bit of weight in your stirrups, and you’ve got the reins in your hands. The reins are coming up from the bottom of your hands, and coming out the top. I want you to give two cues at the same time, to stop your horse.
First I want you to quit sitting so upright. Kind of drop your body weight down, and sit back a little. More of your weight can drop to your stirrups as you do this. Second, I want you to give the verbal command, Whoa. Just these two things will be enough to stop your horse if he is already fairly well trained. If you are having a friend walking in front of you, leading your horse with a lead rope, they can simply stop at the same time you give the cues to your horse. This will make it obvious to your horse what you want.
Are you seeing how your posture, and your body weight are being used to communicate your desires, to your horse? Your horse can feel the difference when you shift your weight. He can feel, if you’re sitting upright, expecting something from him. And he can feel when you drop your weight back down. It’s like you’re no longer asking him to do something, and he should stop what he was doing. You lift your weight slightly to get his attention as you ask him to move out forward, and then you drop your weight slightly, telling him that it’s over, and he should stop now.
Horse are NOT dumb. They can pick up on these things rather easily. Here’s where it really pays to have a nice calm horse, so that he is paying attention to YOU, as you give him these directions. A horse that’s paying attention to everything BUT you, won’t be picking up on these subtle changes in your body position, and to your weight in the saddle. Pick a good horse to learn to ride on. Pick a well-trained horse, and it will pay off with big dividends.
You may have noticed that I didn’t ask you to pull on the reins to stop your horse. By pulling on your horse’s mouth too much, you will create a “hard mouthed” horse. That phrase, “hard mouthed”, simply means a horse that doesn’t pay attention to the bit like he should. He’s become “hardened” by too much pulling on the bit. So, since we’re just walking around slowly, in the beginning here, there should be no reason to be pulling on the bit right now. Your horse should be able to understand whatyou are asking of him, just by the shift in your position and body weight, along with the vebal commands.
Things To Remember
Here’s a short list of things to remember when first learning to ride your horse. And these things should be adhered to during these beginning riding lessons.
#1. Be in a safe place, like in a round pen, or a corral, for these initial lessons.
#2. Have a helper there with you, to help hold the horse when needed. To lead the horse if needed. And just to have someone else there. You should never do any of these exercises alone.
#3. Make sure the horse you’re using is safe and gentle. Remember what I said about an untrained rider and an untrained horse, not making a good combination. If you start off on the right foot, you’ll enjoy horses for the rest of your life.
#4. Understand these lessons before you go out and ty them. In other words, get the routine firmly in your mind. so you know exactly what you’re going to do. If you do this, learning to ride is going to be so fun and easy. You’ll love it !
Learning to Rein Your Horse
That’s the next step in this series of lessons on “How To Learn To Ride A Horse”. We’ll cover reining in detail in our next lesson. Look for it coming shortly. For now, thanks for being here and following with me as we learn to ride a horse. “Happy Horse Training”, and “Happy Riding”, Jim.
Don’t forget, Equestrian Coach, for the best in video training. From beginner to advanced, Equestrian Coach is the place to learn.
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