It can feel like a lot to take on, getting onto a horse and riding for the first time. After all, we’re talking about a 1,000+ pound animal that is capable of great speed and power. Most people, when they start out as horseback riders, do so with the best of intentions. They want to be informed newcomers to the scene, as to avoid embarrassing mistakes or potentially even hurting themselves or their equine companion. But every beginner will make mistakes; it’s just something that happens.
In this article we’ll detail 6 common mistakes made by new horseback riders. With this information in mind, we hope to help you have a more easy-going and successful first time on the back of a horse.
6 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Riding a Horse
Your instructor will give you some solid pointers that you should definitely follow as you embark on the riding trail. But before you even sign up for horseback riding sessions, here are 6 “don’ts” that you should keep in mind as you move forward.
Holding the Reigns too High
It is instinctive for most people to hold their hands up high in the air to rebalance themselves when they feel insecure. When you’re holding the reigns of a horse, however, this can compromise your stability instead of helping it. The reigns are made much too long to have adequate control of the horse when they are held at chest height or higher.
To fix this issue, hold the reigns at hip level and be conscious of your body’s position in relation to the horse. This gives the rider much better control and helps to keep them from sliding on the saddle.
Keeping Your Legs Too Tight
Your legs should be placed firmly on either side of the horse, but they shouldn’t be applying a vice-like grip on the horse’s sides. Squeezing too tightly can make the horse think that they should move forward or move faster than you’ve intended, and you don’t want unpredictability being a marker of your first horseback riding excursion. Additionally, this makes the body tense. And a tense rider can affect the horse’s mood and behavior.
Instead of clenching down on the horse, let your legs hang downward from the hips without swinging to and fro. Think of your body’s proper alignment on a horse as a straight line, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
Cramming Feet into the Stirrups
The stirrups used in riding are an essential safety feature, but it can actually become dangerous if you jam your feet too far into them. This is especially true if you’re not wearing proper riding boots or riding with safety stirrups. Instead of forcing your foot as far into the stirrup as you possibly can, simply place your foot in the stirrup up to the ball of your foot. The ball is the thickest part of the foot.
Slouching in the Saddle
It may be your natural posture to slouch. Perhaps you want to emulate the cowboys of old Western films. But you should know that slouching is one mistake that you shouldn’t make when on the back of a horse. It is hard to control a horse when the rider is hunched over. Also, the rider may experience problems with maintaining their balance with this posture.
Instead, you should ride your horse with a straight back – but not a rigid or tense one. Sit as straight as you can while still being comfortable on the horse.
Letting the Horse Slide the Reins
A horse is naturally going to move their head as they move along. As a rider, it is your job to accommodate this natural movement. When the reins are allowed to slide through the rider’s hands, this minimizes the control that the rider has over the actions of the horse. The rider may also try to make up for the sudden slack by elevating their hands, which can affect balance negatively.
To fix this problem, allow your hands and arms to give the horse more rein. Don’t let the reins slip through your hands. You might have a hard time of this at first, as figuring this out requires a bit of finesse that can only be achieved through practice.
Holding the Reins too Tightly
Just as you shouldn’t be too lax on the reins, you shouldn’t have a death grip on them, either. If your legs are telling the horse to go, but your hold on the reins is telling them to stay put, you’re going to send the horse some mixed signals. They may even feel pain and pressure that is uncomfortable and will make them not want to work with you. The horse may even rear up on you, which can be dangerous.
Hold the reigns firmly but gently, like you would if you were holding a baby. You don’t want to let the reins slip through your hands, but you don’t want to cause your horse discomfort. You can adjust the rein length as the horse moves, if necessary.
Caring for and riding a horse comes with a slew of benefits. It improves physical health, encourages problem-solving, and provides a challenge to help the rider grow as a person. But there are other, lesser-discussed benefits associated with horseback riding and caring for these majestic creatures. A person’s mental health state can be drastically improved via the addition of horse therapy into their life. It may surprise you to learn that horses can help ease anxiety and help a person to overcome the mental health effects associated with experiencing trauma.
Not only that, but horse therapy has also been associated with effectively easing the minds of those living with ADHD, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse issues, and more.
We know that that sounds like an impossibly tall order to fill from the back of a horse, but it really is true. It even has a name: therapeutic riding. The idea may seem dubious at best, especially if you’ve never had a relationship with a horse as its rider and/or caregiver, but there is some serious merit behind the notion. More and more equine lovers are harnessing the power of therapeutic riding in conjunction with other mental health assistance like cognitive behavioral therapy and medication therapy.
Who is a Good Candidate for Therapeutic Riding?
Anybody can benefit from getting on a horse and riding, but those suffering with mental health ailments stand to gain just a bit more from the experience. In some ways, it is not unlike having a pet that you turn to during the tough times. The same way that talking to and training your dog can provide you some fulfillment and peace, horses can be an important part of a person’s healing process.
Sure, it might feel intimidating to have a 1,000+ pound creature as an intrinsic element of your therapy, but equine-based therapy will acquaint you with a mild-mannered horse that the therapist will determine is a good fit and demeanor for this purpose. Therapy horses, like therapy dogs, are trained professionals with an even temperament that’s perfect for this job. Even if you are wary of horses due to their impressive power and size, you can get into this form of therapy if you’re dedicated to giving it an honest try.
What Does Therapeutic Riding Teach Patients?
All forms of therapy are intended to impart certain attitudes and changes that a person can make to increase their quality of life. Of course, it is all guided by the patient themselves. But when the patient is receptive to the treatment that they’ve enrolled in, the benefits are numerous. Therapeutic riding teaches many important things to riders, which we’ll detail below.
To ride a horse safely, one must be able to solve problems quickly as the problems relate to their environment. Panicking can cause a mishap on the riding trail and there are many prospective hurdles and challenges to overcome while riding. A calm horseback riding experience allows an individual to apply problem-solving techniques to their circumstances in a fairly safe fashion. This bolsters confidence in those who take to horseback riding.
Horses are well known for being soulful and sensitive creatures, two traits that help individuals who get close to them become more acquainted with the concept of conscientious empathy. Through talking to, caring for and riding upon a horse, the rider learns how to communicate delicately and peacefully with an animal that is impacted by the emotions of the people around them.
Many mental health ailments are marked by impulsivity, which can be disruptive in day-to-day life. In addition to teaching problem-solving skills, horseback riding teaches the individual to think carefully about their next actions. It’s hard not to apply a degree of impulse control when you’re astride a creature that can reach a ton in weight.
Many people struggle to define their own boundaries and assert themselves when under any kind of pressure or unfamiliar circumstance. Riding on the back of a horse forces the individual to assert themselves in a fashion that only horseback riding can. To have a successful ride, the rider must be able to assert their will on the horse, determining where to go and at what pace.
Why are Horses Such Great Therapy Animals?
Of course, there are other animals that can be highly helpful in a person’s recovery from trauma and coping with their mental health symptoms. But horses provide a unique experience because of the way that they respond to the emotions, tone and behaviors of their handlers. Those who choose therapeutic horseback riding may find themselves more comfortable opening up to a horse than they would to a friend, family member or human mental health professional. A horse’s emotive face can make a person feel heard – and without bias or judgement.
It is during these interactions that humans can become more self-aware. A horse’s responses to their tone or actions can help a person to identify traits of their own behavior – positive or negative. This non-verbal feedback allows for reflection without any outside words to influence what is said or done next. In some ways, this is the most genuine way to communicate with another creature and oneself at the same time.
At some point, the patient may decide that interacting with and confiding in their equine companion has allowed them to get acquainted with their own vulnerability. The change within the individual might even be enough to allow the patient to communicate with a human therapist in a more honest way, without so many walls thrown up in the way.
Therapeutic Riding is Great for Mental Health
Horses provide incredible companionship, but their roles in our lives can extend far beyond the recreational sphere. Within the context of therapy, horses can change – and even save – the lives of humans who embark on horseback riding adventures. If you give it a try for yourself, you might be astonished at how transformative it can be.
Let’s get going again. We are always looking for riders.
Horse farm needs 3 things. Horses, People and Love between them. If you have experience with riding horses, then you will be able to jump-start and find packages according to your needs. If you’ve never been on a horse before, then that is a great place to start. These horses come across all kind of different people most of them that have never been on a horse and everyone loves them.If you have training or showing experience, please let us know, because we could always use some good help. That’s it for now, and we’ll work on more content very soon.