Is Horseback Riding Hard?

Horseback Riding: Is It Difficult? 

Before you start horseback riding, a natural question to ask is whether or not horseback riding is difficult. I put together this information to help anyone that isn’t certain about how difficult riding might be.

So, is horseback riding difficult? Horseback riding, like all sports, is difficult when you first get started. Horseback riders must stay balanced while riding, maintain proper posture and footing, and learn how to communicate with their horse using subtle ques from their seat, legs, and reins. 

Many people interested in horseback riding might be intimidated by the learning curve involved, but the reality is that when you commit yourself and you receive the right instruction, you can learn the basics of riding fairly quickly.

What Makes Horseback Riding Difficult? 

Horseback Riding Is Difficult If You Don’t Receive Formal Training

First and foremost, horseback riding is difficult if you don’t receive any type of formal training from a qualified instructor.

Because of the intricacies involved with horseback riding, it could take you years to learn and master the things that should only take you a couple of months when you’re working with someone with the knowledge and experience you need.

I highly discourage anyone from buying a horse and trying to figure out everything on their own. I can’t imagine where I’d be today in my riding if it weren’t for the incredible instructors I’ve had over the years.

However, having a good instructor alone isn’t enough to help you overcome the difficulties of horseback riding. You must also be a teachable and humble student with a willingness to learn.

The world of horses is incredibly vast. You could spend your entire life studying them and still not know everything there is to know. Maintaining the attitude of a teachable student well beyond your beginner horseback riding lessons will help you continue to improve your riding skills.

In addition to traditional horseback riding lessons, I recommend finding other resources to further your horse education. There are hundreds of great books on the subject, free videos on YouTube, and paid online courses that can all help you take your skills to the next level.

However, no online resource is a substitute for working with a horse and instructor in real-time, especially if you’re a first-time horseback rider. If you do a little research, you should be able to find riding instructors in your area.

Horseback Riding Is Difficult If You Don’t Understand How Horses Think

Another area that makes horseback riding difficult for beginners is that they don’t fully understand how horses think, and why they react and behave as they do.

While much of this can be picked up on overtime simply by spending a lot of time around horses, attempting to ride without any prior knowledge or experience about how horses think can put in you in both dangerous and difficult situations.

Horseback riders must be able to react quickly and calmly when their horse does things that aren’t expected. Horseback riding lessons are great for beginners because you’re in an environment where if something unexpected does occur, there are other more experienced riders around to give you instruction or intervene if necessary.

Many inexperienced get into trouble when the horse they’re riding hasn’t been thoroughly desensitized, and the rider asks them to do something that makes them spook. Spooked horses are prone to rearing, bucking, and bolting. All of which can place riders in a lot of danger.  

I’ve seen horses spook at things like zippers being zipped, trash bags, water bottles, and car doors being closed. Issues such as this can be avoided when a rider knows more about the way their horse thinks, and what they might find frightening. You can read more on this subject in the article I wrote here.

Horseback Riding Is Difficult If You’re Not In Good Shape

Next, horseback riding is difficult if you’re not in good shape. Like other sports, horseback riding can be very physically demanding, as it requires the use of a number of different muscles that I’ll touch on below:

Your Core

Your core includes your obliques, abs, and lower back. Each of these plays an important part in helping you stay balanced and maintain proper posture while you ride.

Your Legs

If you’ve ever ridden a horse, even for just a couple of hours, then you’re probably well aware of how incredibly sore your legs can feel after riding. This is because you’re constantly engaging your legs to communicate with your horse.

Your Arms

Managing your reins will riding will require almost non-stop use of your arms and shoulders while riding, so you’ll definitely want to have a decent amount of upper body strength for horseback riding.

Before beginning horseback riding lessons, it’s recommended that you devote a few hours each week in the months leading up to your first lesson to strengthening the muscles that you know you’ll need. 

While this might seem like a lot of extra work, it pays off in the long run by making horseback riding a far more enjoyable experience. Not to mention, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prevent health issues that might’ve occurred later on.

Horseback Riding Is Difficult If You’re Easily Frightened 

The next reason that horseback riding is difficult is that it can be very intimidating and frightening for beginners. If you’ve never been on a 1,000-pound animal, it’s an experience that you won’t soon forget.

Horses are incredibly large and powerful creatures that could easily keep us off their backs if they wanted to. Knowing this as a beginner makes many new riders wary of trusting them enough to mount up.

It’s perfectly normal for first-time riders to be nervous when they begin riding. However, as their experience and knowledge increases, so should their confidence. 

No two riders are the same when it comes to this. It might take you longer or shorter than some to become fully comfortable while riding, but the important thing is to know yourself.

If you’re prone to panic attacks or you don’t react well under pressure, horseback riding can be difficult as unexpected things will most definitely occur.

Like all sports, there is a certain amount of risk involved with horseback riding that can never be entirely avoided. The important thing is to manage the risk by taking proper safety precautions and being physically and mentally prepared to act and react when a situation demands it. 

If you think you might be too nervous to try horseback riding, my advice is to still give it a go. You never know exactly how you’ll handle riding until you’ve been in the saddle a few times. A good riding instructor will be willing to work with you at your pace to help you slowly but surely gain the skills and confidence you need to have an enjoyable time riding.

Here’s my article on 11 Tips and Tricks for Overcoming a Fear of Horses for further reading.

Horseback Riding Is Difficult If You’re Trying Too Much Too Soon

My last point is that horseback riding is difficult if you try to do too much too soon. This typically occurs when younger riders are trying to impress their peers by attempting something they haven’t properly trained for.

This could be trying to jump a jump that’s too tall, mounting their horse in an unsafe manner, or forcing their horse into uncomfortable situations that make them react negatively.

When you’re new to horses, it’s important to follow the guidance of your instructor and let them help prepare you for the challenges you want to work towards.

While horseback riding certainly comes with its fair share of challenges and difficulties, the rewards of overcoming the difficulties of riding are well worth it in the long run. Horseback riding is an incredible sport that can captivate you for a lifetime as you learn more about horses and improve your riding abilities.

If you’re interested in getting started with riding, check out my article here on How to Prepare for Horseback Riding Lessons. Thanks for reading, and happy trails!

P.S. Save this article to your Horseback Riding Pinterest Board!

Is Horseback Riding Difficult?

Having Trouble With Your Training?

Learn how to gain and maintain your horse’s respect in my latest course!

Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

Legal Information

This site is owned and operated by Wild Wire Media LLC. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.