Are you new to riding?
Just like most things in life, horseback riding isn’t as easy as it appears.
And like most things, there are some greenhorn mistakes that will immediately brand you as a novice and destroy your efforts to safely handle your horse as you ride.
1) Holding the reins too tightly
Don’t: You should know that any horse will always try to go a bit quicker then you are comfortable with, regardless of how hard you try to restrain them.
When the head of the horse is high and mouth open, they will definitely not relax. They may be shaking their head, jigging, or trying to get the reins off your hand.
Do: Although it may appear counterintuitive to riders learning the ropes, you will have to loosen the reins a bit to give your horse relief from the bit. This will make them relax and lower their head, which will result in them slowing down.
The reins are not a manual brake: they are meant as a communication device between you and your horse.
Ask your trainer or instructor how to cue using reins and how to release pressure. You can also buy a training disc from a reputable clinician. If the horse fails to behave, you may require a more friendly horse suited for beginners.
Choose a horse with low energy levels and advanced training.
2) Poor Posture and Legs Too Far Forward
Don’t: Mum was right: good posture is everything!
Avoid slouching with collapsed shoulders, sitting like you are in a chair with your legs forward and pushing too hard on the stirrups (are they relaxed or sticking into your horses flanks?)
Do: A rider is well balanced when their shoulders, heels and calves are reflecting a more vertical line.
Tip: To position your legs to the rear, roll the pelvis forward. Take a deep breath while relaxing your hips and lower back, and allow your legs to drop naturally on your horse’s sides.
Chiropractor Keith Maitland explains “poor posture is both caused by and contributes to weakened muscles. Unless you get the basics of posture correct from the get-go, you can end up in a cycle of pain that only exacerbates over time. So it pays to pay attention from the start.”
3) Allowing the Horse To Walk Off While Mounting
Don’t: Never attempt to hop along the horse’s flank with a single foot in the stirrup while the horse is moving. It is extremely dangerous and can lead to many accidents.
The horse may be testing you to see what behaviour they can get away with, or perhaps they haven’t been trained to stand still whilst being mounted.
Either way, you must correct the situation before proceeding to ride.
Bonus Tip: You may be the one causing this problem. You may be mounting too fast, using all your arm and leg strength or you may be pushing your animal off-balance as you clamber aboard.
Do: There are millions of methods to ensure your horse is still whilst mounting. To make it difficult for the horse to move, some people opt to bend the head and neck of the horse towards them when mounting. Ensure the off-side rein is loose, or your horse may begin moving backwards.
Some prefer keeping the closest rein relaxed whilst holding the horse stationary using the outer rein. Some relax both reins and command the horse to remain immobile with a strong voice.
It is agreed that you should make the horse stay still for different periods to reinforce the teaching: you move when I tell you to.
Tip: When mounting, face your horse from the front instead of the rear.
The wellness experts at Extreme Brown know the dangers of sports practiced incorrectly. They say, “regardless of which sport you enjoy, it is so important to ensure you are practicing it correctly to avoid injury. Injuries are like the cold. You can get rid of it, but it’s so much better if it never happened at all.”
4) Not Looking Where You Are Headed
Don’t: Even the best horse people forget to look where they are headed at times! There are an array of things to take heed of when learning the art of horseback riding. Perhaps the most important component is keeping your head up high and watching where you are going.
Concentrate on your stirrups, legs, whether the horse has the right lead and what’s happening at the ground level. All movement you make gives the horse information on how you want it to act. Make sure you’re sending the right message.
Do: Always be aware of where you are going! You’ll be shocked finding the horse ‘knowing’ exactly the direction you want to go.
5) Letting Your Horse Get Away With Things
Don’t: Let your horse misbehave. Misbehaviour is going to be natural, but ensure that you are firm with your horse so your horse does not learn to get away with it.
Do: Ensure to show a strong hand if your horse misbehaves so they do not learn this behaviour and continue to act up. Ensure to reward when good behaviour is shown.
Hypnotherapy Canberra expert Ilona Nichterlein knows all about the learnt behaviour. She says, “it is important to instill good behaviours whilst teaching a child or an animal skills. Reward the good, punish the bad. Be consistent so they learn correctly. Many behaviours are stored and practiced in the subconscious, so work on forming positive habits.”
Another issue is an exhibition of dominance, a sign you should be more assertive when handling your horse. Maintaining physical boundaries with your horses is good horsemanship, and keeps you safe.
If you’re interested in horse riding, contact the team at Pegasus Park.