How To Learn To Ride A Horse – Part 3





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.


thTXK7NFWXToday 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.


invest 2Either 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.


imagesBFJB8VX5But 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.


2016-04-10 41016 001Zanes’ 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.


images7HWHVOH6Now 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.

imagesTry 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


WhoaOK, 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.


hard mouthYou 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.





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18 thoughts on “How To Learn To Ride A Horse – Part 3

  1. Awesome Jim. Really great tutorials. Really! I’m actually excited about trying horse riding. I’ve only ever done it once and it was on holiday without much instruction. It’ll be nice to know how I do now that I’ve followed your instructions. You’ve got me very interested 😉

    Thanks again for all this wonderful info. I’ll be sure to let you know how I do once I get started. Of course, though, I’m going to continue with your other tutorials to continue to learn before I actually begin. But I’ll make sure that when I do, I have someone who knows what they’re doing with me and a seasoned horse.

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Liz. a seasoned horse is really important for any beginner. I know because I didn’t have a well behaved horse to learn on. But then when I learned, I was a teenager and I didn’t know any better. I just went out and rode some livery horses and had a ball. We used to like to race the horses. The stable owners probably wouldn’t have approved. Oh well, kids will be kids I guess. Seriously though, I’d really like to see all beginners, especially youngsters, to be able to learn on a good reliable and gentle horse. It will make the whole experience that mush better, and the learning will go so much better and faster too. Fall is here in Wyoming, and this is one of the most beautiful times of year to ride. Spring is also a beautiful time of year, but the fall ahs all the bright golden colored leaves on the tress, and the smell of fall in the air is wonderful. Just to be outdoors is such a blessing. I really am fortunate to live in this part of the world. what’s it like in Belgium where you’re at? Are you in a city or in the country? I’m sure that the mountains there are eveyr bit as beautiful as they are here. Thanks again for visiting and for telling me about what you’ve learned. Talk to you soon, Jim

      1. I agree Jim. I wouldn’t like to learn on a wild horse or want any child to either. It’s quite dangerous, I assume.

        Sounds like a dream Jim! It must be beautiful!

        In Belgium, the leaves are starting to fall, but it’s still quite warm. Not in the evenings of course, but during the day it gets warm enough to just wear a t-shirt still. It’s great! I love the heat. But soon, it’ll be rainy and cloudy and cold 🙁

        I live in the city. Belgium is a very small and very flat country. The country is a hop-skip-and-a-jump away.

        1. I would have thought that there were some small mountains there. There’s are lots of people who live in hilly country, and they call it “mountains’ until they come out west and really see a mountain. I would have to say, I live in the country. But then almost everything out here is the country. We live about 6.5 miles from town, but town is only about 5,000 people. The next nearest town is 35 miles north. There’s another about 70 miles east. And to the west, just mountains. It’s about 60 miles to the bottom of the other side of the mountains, and there’s a little town there of about 1,ooo. then it’s another thirty miles to a bigger town, again about 6,000 people. Billings Montana is a pretty big town, about 50,000 people maybe. It’s 170 miles north. Casper Wyoming is about 50,000, and it’s 110 miles south. Rapid city south Dakota is about 200 miles east, and it’s pretty big, maybe a couple hundred thousand. There’s a couple of saying out here; When the elevation of the town is higher than the population, you must be in Wyoming. When the antelope population is ten times the human population, you must be in Wyoming. I needed a hip replacement some years ago, and I didn’t have insurance or the money. I owned an auto repair and tire shop, So the orthopedic surgeon offered to trade me for tires for him and his partners. Only in Wyoming! Talk to you soon Liz. Thanks for visiting, Jim.

          1. WOW! You REALLY do live in the country!! Belgium is less than about 400 kms all around! So the “country” really isn’t so far from, well, anywhere! LOL

            Those are some funny sayings 😉

            Are you serious about the hip replacement? Well, that’s a pretty good deal! Lucky you owned a business 😉 New tires for a new hip! Good deal I think!! Luckily, it only happens in Wyoming! LOL

          2. Hi Liz. We do live out in the country. That’s why it’s so nice here. It’s quiet and relaxed. I had to look at a map to see just how small Belgium actually is. It’s really small. Would you say that Belgium is influenced more by Germany, or France, or the Netherlands or who?

            I did get the hip replaced back about 6 years ago. And I didn’t have to trade for tires either. Wyoming Vocational Rehabilitation paid the bill. I applied for help because I could hardly get around at work anymore, and they accepted me and paid for the surgery and the hospital, and almost everything. Now that was a real stroke of luck. It was actually the surgeon who suggested Vocational Rehab. Now I have to get him to rebuild my knee. Then I’ll be good to go for another 30 yrs. (Yeah, I wish) I’d only be 95 then, that’s not too old is it? Tell me more about Belgium please. Talk to you soon, Jim

          3. Yes, Belgium is very small! LOL In comparison to North America. The country is really influenced by the Dutch and the French and very separated, north from south.

            Did you know that Belgium is famous for French Fries (called FRENCH fries cause it was the French who took the idea to the US), chocolate, waffles, beer, Jean-Claude van Damme, The Smurfs and many other comics? I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot, but Belgium has a lot to offer!

            Hope you get that new knee Jim! 95 isn’t old at all!! I’m sure you’ll still be riding at that age 😉

          4. I didn’t know the Smurfs are from Belgium! That’s cool. Do they have Belgian traits too? lol (I hope I’m not the only one laughing) And you thin 95 isn’t too old to ride, huh? I actually couldn’t ride for a couple years before I had my hip replaced. It was just too painful to put my leg in that position. I’m sure glad that’s long over with! We’ll have to see how the next 30 years go I guess. What about the Basque? Are you familiar with them?

          5. Yup, they are! Maybe they’re blue cause the people in Belgium are blue from all the rain 🙁 Often very sad…That might be a trait! LOL I laughed so don’t worry 😉

            Anything is possible Jim! I bet there are people still riding at 90. Why not? If you’re still in good shape at that age, go for it!

            You told me about them but I don’t know anything more about the Basque people…

          6. So is the smurf’s skin all wrinkled too, from being out in the rain? I didn’t know it was so rainy in Belgium. Is that true? Sounds like the state of Washington, or maybe England. Or do I have to say the UK? What’s you’re annual average rainfall there in Belgium? Our is about 12-14 inches a year. Not very much is it?

            I know people who have been riding at the age of 90. Not many people, but some. There was a video of people performing in an Icelandic event, and one older man had one of those portable oxygen packs on his back as he rode. Never say die, right? Also I had a friend who is passed on now, but when he was in his upper 80’s, he would still ride in 20 miles to a hunting camp. One of the really funny things was that he couldn’t control his bowels vey well, and so he told the rest of the guys that went with him; When I say I’ve got to go, you better help get me off that horse in a hurry! But I’m not kidding, that’s how much of a “die hard” hunter and horseperson he was. Some things just “get in your blood” I guess. Thanks again Liz, for visiting. I’ll talk to you soon I trust. Jim

  2. I never really thought about which horse I was picking. Both of my daughters started riding last year. This would’ve been useful advice then. We did exactly as you said, picked the first horse we visited. Why? Because my girls thought she was pretty (which she was). Unbeknownst to us, she had very little training. We were not seasoned enough to know the difference. Within minutes of her first mount and ride, my youngest was thrown from the horse, breaking her ankle. We ended up spending thousands on having her trained and learning to train ourselves.

    1. Hi Jason. Thanks for your very candid story. Unfortunately, many people have ben through the same thing. I hope this didn’t turn your daughter off from riding, or you either. The right horse can be a real joy. One note about “pretty”, A lot of gaited horses are very beautiful, but a lot have been known for being not so pretty, and for having a long and course head. One common saying among older gaited horse people though is, Oh well, you’re not going to be seeing his head anyway. All you’re going to see is his butt out in front of you as he passes you by, gaiting down the trail. Just a joke, don’t anyone get excited now. Thanks for your comments. I wish you all the best, Jim.

    1. Hi Adam. I’m sorry to say that I do not know who that is. That particular picture is just one that I found and thought that it represented well, the thought I wanted to convey. But thanks for taking a look and for your question Adam. Please come back. Jim.

  3. Your article brought back memories when I use to ride myself, keeping in shape is a must or you will pay the price in many ways

    Most people will know they are not in good shape after their first horse riding adventure, your entire body will tell you this with all your aches and pains

    1. Thanks for visiting the site. Yes, aches and pains are common untill your body gets timed up. The first couple rides in the spring are like that. Thanks for commenting. Please refer others who may like horses.

  4. what a unique and interesting article on learning to ride a horse, it seems there is much more to know then just how to get up on a horse to ride them after all.

    I have rode horses as a boy, just old farm horses but to me they were purebred racing horses. Very gentle easy to ride, even though most do not think of a horse as a pet mine was the best pet I ever had.

    1. I always thought of my horses, just like I think of my dogs, they’re part of the family. we can just get on and ride, and have lots of fun. But I just want to start people off knowing a little more so they can take their passion for their horses, just as far as they’d like. Thanks so much for comnenting.

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