21 May How to Prepare for Horseback Riding Lessons
If you’re about to start horseback riding lessons, congratulations! I still remember the excitement of when I first entered the world of equines, and it’s something I wouldn’t trade.
As a beginner, there is definitely a lot to learn, but lessons from a great instructor will put you on the fast track for success. If you’re feeling nervous or you just want to be extra prepared for your first lesson, here are a few of my best tips.
How can you prepare for horseback riding lessons? You can prepare by:
- Doing some research on the basics
- Learn common horse terminology
- Get the correct clothing
- Begin exercising in advance
- Communicate with your instructor
- Have the right attitude
- Relax and remember to have fun
Now that you have an idea of how to prepare, let’s look at each individual tip in more detail.
Preparing for Horseback Riding Lessons
Do Research On the Basics Before Your First Lesson
Before your first lesson, you should familiarize yourself with proper form riding form as well as important safety tips for being around horses.
Many people that get on a horse for the first time have the tendency to lean too far forward or slouch, but neither is correct.
When riding a horse, your back should be straight, your shoulders pulled back slightly, your eyes should be up looking where you’re going and not where your horse is stepping, and your heels should be parallel with your shoulder line.
It can be difficult to keep track of all of these things when you’re first starting out, but not to worry. A good riding instructor will be able to tell you if you need to make any adjustments to your position.
There’s a lot to know when it comes to horse safety, so much in fact, that we wrote an entire article called 26 Horse Safety Tips for Beginners that you can click here to read. But in this article, I’ll just touch on a few of the main things to keep in mind.
My number one tip is to stay alert. The majority of accidents relating to horses can be prevented simply by staying vigilant when you’re around them.
Staying alert can help you avoid walking in front of a galloping horse, or accidentally sneaking up behind a horse because you’re looking the other way as you walk. Both of these instances can be very dangerous and result in serious injury.
Another important thing to be mindful of is how you’re holding your lead rope. The lead rope is the rope attached to a horse’s halter that you use to guide them while you’re not riding.
Some people have the tendency to wrap the rope around their wrist and grip it, rather than just holding it in their palm. A good rule of thumb is to never wrap anything that is attached to your horse around yourself.
If the horse were to take off, they could cause serious injury to your arm and potentially drag you. Holding instead of wrapping allows you to quickly let go if the situation demands it.
The last safety tip I’ll mention here is to be aware of the danger zones on a horse. A horse has a blind spot directly in front of it and behind, meaning you should never sneak up on a horse from either of these angles, rather, it’s best to approach a horse at an angle from the side so you can be certain they know you’re coming and won’t harm out of fright.
Learn Common Horse Terminology
Like any specialized hobby, there are plenty of words used almost exclusively in the world of horses. While your instructor while likely cover some of these basic words, it can be helpful for you going into a lesson to be familiar with them.
Having a large vocabulary of horse-related words will allow you to easily communicate any questions or concerns you have to your instructor.
Here are some of the most basic words to get you started. We compiled a full list of ALL the horse related words you might want to learn in an article you can find here.
Equine: The word equine is the scientific term used for the horse species. Hence the name of my website, “Equine Helper.”
Tack: Tack is the word that refers to all of the equipment used for riding horses. Some pieces of tack would include a bridle, saddle, saddle pad, and girth.
Hand: A horse’s height isn’t measured in inches and feet like we’re used to. Rather, it’s measured in hands. 1 hand is 4 inches long.
Forehand: The word forehand refers to the front half of the horse and how it carries itself on its front legs.
Haunches: The word haunches refers to the back half of the horse and how it carries itself on its back legs.
Withers: The withers is the ridge that is between a horse’s shoulders. It is typically the tallest point of the horse and is the point where a horse’s height is measured from.
These are just a few of the words you will likely start hearing as you’re around horses more and more. You can check out my in-depth list of common horse terminology by going here.
Get the Correct Clothing
Clothing is a very important component in horseback riding. Wearing the wrong clothes can be both irritating and dangerous, so let’s look at some of the basic clothing guidelines for choosing riding clothes.
First things first, baggy clothing of any kind won’t do. You’ll need properly fitted clothing that won’t flap around too much, bunch up in your riding boots, or get caught in any of your tack.
The best and most comfortable pants for riding are jodhpurs or breeches. For your shirt, a nicely fitted polo shirt or tee-shirt will do just fine.
I recommend that all riders wear an ASTM approved riding helmet. This is because some helmets are just for show and it can be hard for beginners to tell the difference between a legitimate helmet and a just for looks helmet.
As for footwear, most riders prefer riding boots because they offer plenty of protection for your leg from being rubbed by English saddle straps or being stepped on by a horse. They also make you feel very official, which certainly doesn’t hurt anything.
There are some important safety considerations for your riding shoes that I’ve discussed in detail in my horseback riding shoe guide.
Begin Exercising in Advance
Many new riders are surprised to find that horseback riding can be quite the workout! So it’s a good idea to get yourself into a good physical condition in the weeks and months leading up to your first lesson.
The main areas you will engage as you ride are your legs, core, and lower back. Utilizing exercises that strengthen these areas will be a big help as you begin riding. Cardiovascular exercises are great supplemental exercises for horseback riders because they will help in each of these.
After spending a few hours in a saddle, your body will suffer from soreness. To decrease the severity of the soreness, I suggest that you implement a basic stretching routine at the end of each of your workouts to help get you ready.
Communicate With Your Instructor
No one wants to show up half an hour late, wear the wrong piece of clothing, or forget some other type of gear required by your new riding instructor.
Because of this, you should make sure that you maintain an open channel of communication with your new instructor or the stable facilitating your lessons. This will give you the opportunity to learn of any special requirements that you should be aware of before you show up for your first day.
If you have questions or concerns about your first lesson, don’t be afraid to voice them. Chances are you aren’t the first person to have those same concerns.
Have the Right Attitude
Going into your first lesson with the right attitude and mindset can make a huge difference in what you’re able to learn from the lesson.
If you go into your lesson with a negative expectation, then you’ll likely be disappointed. But if you go in with a positive attitude, ready to learn everything that your riding instructor has to teach, you’ll be far more likely to have a positive learning experience.
Remember to treat both your horse and your riding instructor with kindness and respect, and everyone will have a better time for it.
Relax and Remember to Have Fun
While there’s a lot to think about as you begin your horseback riding career, don’t forget to relax and have a good time during your riding lessons. Horses are incredible creatures and getting to work with them is a great privilege.
If you find yourself getting too worked up, take time to reflect on why you wanted to begin riding in the first place. I know from personal experience, watching a few episodes of Heartland is usually more than enough to rekindle my excitement for horses.
Thank you for reading, and best of luck! If you’d like to keep learning, check out my article on 15 Tips for Beginner Horseback Riders.
I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.