Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by Allison Price
Although it’s been over 20 years since my first lesson in riding, I still recall parts of it as if it were yesterday. I mostly remember the parts that I didn’t do right: I was supposed to face the back of the horse, but the front; I should have led and gotten on the horse from the left; I should have been leading and getting off the horse from the left; I should have curried in a circular motion and not up and down;
How to keep your skin thick when you make mistakes. Another thing I learned.
My first trainer was a master at basics training. Years later, I believe those lessons saved me from many hours of tack mistakes, fighting with horses and injuries to my horses and myself. Since horseback riding is a tradition that has existed for centuries, I believe they have had time to perfect their skills. It’s likely that there is a “proper” way of doing something today because of past testing.
It’s easy to forget the important lessons learned early on if you ride as a child and continue to ride competitively or regularly for 10 to 20 years. It’s easy to forget these lessons when you switch trainers or move up in the ranks at horse shows. For those who struggle with selective memory, such as myself, this is a quick refresher course.
1. Mount the correct way
You can now Google slow motion videos of your horse’s mounting process. Mounting blocks are a good idea. Hold onto your reins and point your toe away form the belly. Then, swing gently into the saddle, just like your pony camp instructor. You’ll not only save your horse’s back but you will also save yourself from an accident dismount (or ten).
2. Shorten your reins.
This is true for all riders regardless of how much experience they have. Short reins are a great way to help you stay in the ring and steer clear of other horses when you’re just starting. You’ll thank yourself for this practice years later when you are fine-tuning your contact within the ring.
3. Take a look at where you are going.
It sounds simple, right? It’s not always so. You’re more likely to be distracted the better you get. Talking to a friend, riding with headphones or talking on the telephone may seem easy until you are forced to ride alongside a beginner or take your trainer off a green horse. It’s all fun until someone gets bucked off.
4. Touch your left hand.
You used to practice high-fiving other lesson children in the ring. You put that knowledge to good use today in a busy horse show schooling arena. No matter what level you are at, it is important to follow the “rules” of the road.
5. You must leave enough space between yourself and other horses.
Although horses are herd animals, they have their own personalities and likes. This can be easier to forget if you have more horses. You and your horse will be happier if you give them enough room to think and work.
6. Horsemanship is your calling.
When you first learned to ride, you didn’t have to stop there. You don’t have to be a better rider if you are more experienced. You will be a better horseman if you know the intricacies of your horse’s care.
7. Expect the unexpected.
Your trainer likely advised you to keep your eyes on the back of your head. You are more likely to know someone who has been in serious injury in an accident with horses if you have more experience. Accidents can occur with any horse, mounted or unmounted. It is easy to get complacent. Don’t.
8. Pat your horse.
As a young horse, you would pat your horse on the back for basic things like halting straight and not running away from you if you crossed him. Years later, your expectations are likely to be higher, so it’s important to keep this lesson in mind. No matter if you’re at the Grand Prix Annex or in the pony ring, thank your horse for his work and keeping you safe.