Learn to Ride a Horse

You can't learn to ride from a website, book or video (in fact, it's inadvisable). The best way to learn to ride a horse is with a competent coach or instructor. A coach or instructor can catch bad habits before they become ingrained, advise you of mistakes you may be making, encourage you and offer advice to keep you safe and comfortable. But these articles will help you understand what you'll be learning once you're on a horse whether you plan to learn to ride English or...MORE Western. Here's what you'll need to learn to competently ride a horse. 

  • 01 of 08

    Before You Begin Your Ride

    Man grooming horse's tail.
    Groom your horse before every ride. Image: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

    The first things you'll learn about riding may not be actual riding skills. You may come across riding schools where you'll simply get on the horse and start riding. But learning to tie, groom and lead are essential skills that help you learn to understand horses, stay safe and increase your enjoyment. This is especially important if you plan to head out alone once you're able. 

    First Steps When Learning to Ride

    • Why Learn to Ride? It may be obvious, but there are many benefits you may...MORE not have thought of.
    • Lead Your Horse or Pony: This will probably be the first thing you do with a horse!
    • How to Tie Safely: You'll probably have the horse tied for saddling. Here's how to do it safely.
    • How to Groom: Before you ride, you should groom your horse so there's no dirt trapped under the saddle.
  • 02 of 08

    Saddle Up

    Girl saddling horse, pulling girth tight.
    Check your tack each time you ride. Image Credit:By:Betsie Van Der Meer/ Taxi /Getty Images

    With your horse safely tied and groomed, it's time to saddle up for your ride. Learn how to put on an English or Western saddle and bridle, and how to do up the cinch on a Western saddle.

    Putting on a Saddle and Bridle

    • How to Put on a Saddle: Whether riding English or Western, follow these steps to saddle safely.
    • How to Do Up a Western Cinch: Learn to tie your western cinch and how to tighten it once it is tied.
    • How to Put a Bridle on a Horse: Your bridle is an important aid to communicate...MORE with your horse. But at first glance, it looks pretty complicated with all those straps. Bridling, like any riding skill, becomes easier with practice.
  • 03 of 08

    Mounting Up

    Mother helping daughter mount pony.
    A leg up is a good way to get on when no mounting block is available. Image Credit:Smith Collection /Getty Images

    With your horse waiting, groomed and saddled up, ready to ride, you'll want to get going! These articles will help you understand how to get on your horse and once you're up there how to sit correctly in the saddle as you ride.

    How to Get On a Horse

    • How to Mount a Horse: It can look like a long way up to get into the saddle, but take heart, like most riding skills, with practice mounting will become second nature.
    • How to Sit Correctly in the Saddle: You will want to sit on your horse...MORE correctly, so that you are secure and able to cue your horse clearly.
  • 04 of 08

    Walk On!

    Your first steps on horseback will be at the walk. Image Credit:Thinkstock /Getty Images

    When you first begin riding, you will feel awkward and unbalanced. You may feel unable to make all your body parts do all the things they are supposed to at the same time. You may be using muscles not familiar with the job you are asking, and have difficulty remembering all you are supposed to do. The key is practice.

    How to Walk, Halt and Turn

    • How to Walk and Halt: The first thing your instructor will explain is how to cue the horse to walk. If you've never ridden before, it will take a...MORE little time to get used to the motion of the horse.
    • How to Turn - Direct Rein: Most English riders will learn to use a direct rein to turn their horses.
    • How to Turn - Neck Rein: And western riders will likely learn to neck rein.
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Trot or Jog, Canter or Lope

    Rider on horse, posting the trot.
    This rider appears to be lifting herself up out of the saddle. If your horse doesn't have a lot of impulsion at the trot, this is an easy mistake to make. Image: K. Blocksdorf

    As your confidence and skill increase, it is time to learn to ride at faster paces. Challenge yourself, but never feel pushed. Learning to ride is supposed to be fun, not scary.

    Trotting, Jogging, Cantering or Loping:

    • Posting the Trot: Trotting can be a lot of work to learn, especially posting the trot. Again, practice is key. Soon it will become the natural thing to do.
    • Learn to Sit the Trot: Learning to sit the trot can be tricky. These tips can help get the bounce out.
    • More About Trotting -...MORE Diagonals: What they are, why they are important, and how to 'get them'.
    • How to Canter or Lope: The canter/lope is a lot of fun, and once you are secure almost easier than trotting.
  • 06 of 08

    Riding Safety

    Draft horses out on trail. Image Credit: Paul Harris/Getty Images

    These aren't riding skills, but safety with horses is always the first priority. Your coach can help remind you of these safety tips as you ride because it can be difficult to remember so many new things.

    Ride Safely:

    • Arena Etiquette and Safety: Just like rules of the road prevent traffic chaos, arena etiquette prevents riders from getting too close or cutting each other off.
    • Safety on the Trail: Riding on a trail is an adventure that comes with a few hazards. Be prepared by knowing what to...MORE watch for.
    • Tips for Riding More Safely after Dark: If you get caught (or go out) after dark, extra caution is required.
    • Safety Riding Along Roadsides: Generally, horses and traffic don't mix. But if you have to ride along roadsides, stay safe!
  • 07 of 08

    Beyond the Basics

    Rider falling off horse onto grass.
    Eventer falling off Horse. Image Credit:Oli Scarff/Getty Images Europe /Getty Images

    These skills go beyond the basics. Learn how to fall off and do an emergency dismount with the supervision of a knowledgeable coach. Always wear a helmet and proper boots or safety stirrups. Consider using a chest protector and a mouth guard as well.

    Extra Riding Skills:

    • Backing Up or Rein-back: There are lots of situations where backing up is handy.
    • Learn to Ride Bareback: Riding bareback is fun, and in the winter, warmer!
    • How to Fall Off: Emergency dismounts and falling the right way may help...MORE you if your horse bolts, bucks or otherwise misbehaves, although there is no sure way to prevent accidents and injury when riding horseback.
    • How to Do an Emergency Dismount: What your coach can teach you about getting off fast.
  • 08 of 08

    After Your Ride

    Man grooming horse's tail.
    Grooming is the best time to check for lice on your horse. Image: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

    Being a good horseman/horsewoman means you look after your horse even after its job is done. You don't want your horse to be uncomfortable, and you don't want it to think that being ridden is all work and no play. Here's how to get out of the saddle and reward your horse.

    Care For Your Horse After You Ride: