Essential Horseback Riding Skills For Every Rider


Learning to ride is a lifelong pursuit because horses are individuals. The most basic skill any rider should have and constantly strive to perfect is communication. Observing your horse and learning his or her expressions and body language is the most important part of being a good rider.

Work with your horse on the ground a great deal. Become proficient in thorough grooming and hoof care. This will help you and your horse become acquainted, and it will teach your horse to trust you (provided you are trustworthy). If you can give your horse the sense that he or she is always safe when you are around, you will face far fewer challenges when riding. You will be able to handle those challenges that do come up much better if your horse trusts you and believes you are competent.

When riding, always look ahead. No matter where you are, never become complacent. Watch out for anything surprising that may come up and startle your horse. This could be a child, cat or dog rushing up unexpectedly. It might be a plastic bag blowing in breeze. Stay alert so that you can take proper precautions in advance to prevent having your horse bolt or shy.

Learn to use your hands properly. Keep light contact with your horse’s mouth. Don’t pull back unnecessarily hard on the reins or make sudden, jerky moves. Stay calm and relaxed and convey your wishes to your horse in a gentle and understandable manner.

When you do this, your horse will be more responsive. If you do come upon a situation where you need to react quickly to turn or stop your horse, you will be able to. If you haul at the reins and saw at your horse’s mouth when you ride, your horse will not be able to tell the difference between your usual style of riding and urgency.

Learn how to redirect your horse. Sometimes a horse just wants to go back to the barn, go see that other horse or otherwise do something you don’t want to do. When this happens, you may need more than your basic “whoa”. Just pulling back on both reins may not stop a determined horse, and he may not want to respond to neck-reining (assuming that he usually does).

When this happens, gather up your reins with one hand and slide your other hand down one rein to turn your horse away from the object of his desire. Bring his nose back toward your knee. Press firmly with the opposite calf and thigh to encourage your horse to turn away. Understand that you may need to circle him a few times to convince him that you are in charge and he needs to change his mind.

Calmness and consistency are key in any interaction with a horse. Always avoid sudden, unexpected moves, shouting and other activities that may startle your horse. Work with him or her regularly to develop a sound relationship because this is the basis of all riding skill. And join the horse riding association too, to keep you up to date and interested.

And if it all gets a bit too much sometimes, then just take some time out and relax with a great horse movie instead. Sometimes you both just need break!