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How to Ride a Horse

Medha Godbole Mar 12, 2020
You obviously won't be reading this article when you will actually be in the outdoors getting training lessons on horse riding. The aim of this story is to let you give a basic idea of what are you going to be up against, what to expect when you go out there on the field, and to give you a basic guidance of what actually needs to be done.
How glorious is the view you see on television of cowboys trotting away on horseback! You dream and long for yourself to be the same, do the same, and feel the same as them. Horse riding, once you learn it, is an exceptionally fun and addictive activity. This excerpt gives you a detailed description about the basics.


Mount a horse only after you are sure that it has been properly saddled. Beginners need to be extra careful about this and should ask experienced riders or their coach for their expertise. Once you are absolutely sure.
  • Mount the horse on its left side, always.
  • Prior to mounting, stroke the horse's neck gently, so that it is aware of your presence. This is important as it builds a connection and creates a rapport between you and the horse. Then grab the reins in your left hand.
  • While you are still standing on the left side of the horse, step onto the stirrup with the left foot. Direct all your body weight on the ball of your foot, and place it in the center of the stirrup.
  • Ensure that the stirrups are set at the right height from the ground. The stirrups should be at such a height that you should be able to rest your feet properly on them, with your feet bent slightly.
  • Once up on the horse, sit with your shoulders pulled back, your back up straight, and heels down. The balls of your feet should rest on the stirrups, with toes pointed forwards.
  • Hold the reins in your dominant hand, just a little ahead of the saddle over the horse's neck.


Reining is the method in which you steer a horse while riding it. It is essential to use the reins gently to avoid discomfort for the horse. There are two types of reining - neck and bit reining. Let's take a look at both of them.

Neck Reining

  • Neck reining is an important aspect of horse riding, for the horse as well as for the rider.
  • A horse trained to get used to neck reining, invariably responds to the sensation of reins on its neck.
  • Neck reining needs only one hand, as the reins are tied in a knot and move as one.
  • Just like when you steer a car, you turn the steering on the left, here too, you just need to move the reins a bit to the left. This will lead the right rein to fall against the horse's neck.

Bit Reining

  • Sometimes also called 'plow reining', this is a very common part you come across when training to ride a horse the English way.
  • Unlike in neck reining, you would require both your hands here, because you will need separate reins for pulling a single rein at a time.
  • Gently pull the reins in the direction you want to go, and you are on course.

Walking and Trotting

Get a low down on how the horse has been trained and conditioned. Know and understand all the instructions it has been trained to follow. Based on that, you can either make a soft clicking noise, nudge, or squeeze the horse with your legs to make it move. 
You can also shake the reins a little bit if nothing works. Once the horse is in motion, remember to keep your heels down and back straight. Then comes trotting, which is nothing but a stage where you go a bit faster than walking.
What you did for making it walk, do the same to make it trot - squeeze your legs or make a clicking noise. As far as riding a horse the English way is concerned, while the horse trots, the riders alternate between sitting on the saddle and holding their weight on the feet in the stirrups.

Canter and Gallop

After walking and trotting it is time to 'canter' and 'gallop' on your horse. The speed of the horse will be the fastest in these stages.
  • Another leg squeeze while your horse is trotting, will be enough and act as a signal for the horse to move on to a canter.
  • During a canter, try and relax your muscles and go along with the horse's rhythm.
  • Allow some slack in the reins and let your hands move back and forth with the horse's head. This is because a horse's head has to move up and down during a canter.
  • Gallop, the fastest speed can be attained with another leg squeeze or any other type of signal.
  • When the horse is galloping it is absolutely necessary that you put all your weight on the stirrups and your bottom is off the saddle at all times.
  • To maintain your balance during a gallop, it would be a good idea to lean forward slightly.

Getting the Horse to Stop

  • Horses, for the most part, are trained to slow down and come to a halt when the reins are pulled backwards.
  • Before giving the horse any kind of signal to slow down or stop, release any leg pressure there is on the horse.
  • Ensure that you are seated firmly on the saddle before pulling the reins back.
  • Once the horse stops, relieve the horse of any pressure on the reins. This will let the horse know that the command has been followed in totality.


  • The reins should be pulled back very gently, if the horse tries to move ahead while you are dismounting.
  • After you have taken both feet off the stirrups, bend or lean a bit forward, with hands on the horse's neck; you could also hold the saddle.
  • Swing your right leg up and above the horse's back.
  • Put your weight on your arms and push away a bit with your hands from the horse.
  • Doing this would ensure that you land away from the horse and would not slide down its side.

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Whoa! I must say this was quite an exhaustive session of horse riding! Finally, if you have an adequately trained horse, the task becomes much easier.