5 Tips for First-Time Horseback Riders


There’s real romance to horseback riding. Some of the greatest books and movies feature lone riders and cavalry units braving their way through challenging situations on horseback. 

While you may not become a pro the first time you get in the saddle, it won’t take long to master the basics. Plus, learning to ride is fun. You’ll get to spend time outdoors, bond with a horse, and experience the thrill of riding one of the most powerful creatures on the planet. 

Horseback Riders
Horseback Riders

With these tips, a novice horseback rider can become experienced in no time.

Tip #1: Wear the Right Gear

It’s essential to plan your outfit out ahead of time to ensure a safe ride. Avoid wearing baggy clothing, as loose clothing can get caught in the saddle and reins. 

Don’t wear open-toed shoes, and if possible, wear riding or cowboy boots. Boots are easier to maneuver in stirrups than sneakers. 

Lastly, wear a safety helmet. 

Tip #2: Always Hold On to the Reins

When you’re on a horse, it may seem like the horse does all the work, but that isn’t the case. You’ll need to guide the horse using the reins. Even if your horse seems content following the horse in front, or even walking slowly in a straight line, you should never let go of the reins. 

If you let go of a trained horse’s reins, the horse can become confused. Stay focused and confident, and keep a firm hold on the reins. This will ensure a smooth and fun ride for both of you. 

Tip #3: The Horseman’s Handshake 

Before you mount your horse, extend your arm to let the horse know you are friendly. If the horse directly sniffs your hand, you have the green light to mount it as long as your trainer gives you the go-ahead. This is called the “horseman’s handshake.”

Tip #4: Trust Your Instructor

Always follow the instructor’s or trail guide’s judgment. If your instructor says to straighten your posture or hold the equipment in a certain way, listen. Take it slow to start and ask questions.

Tip #5: Pick the Right Location 

While you can horseback ride nearly anywhere, certain destinations are better for new riders than others. 

Some of the best places for beginner riders include:

  • Gardiner, Montana (Next to Yellowstone National Park)—Horseback riding in Yellowstone is great for beginners because many of the trails are flat and smooth, and it has some of the most stunning natural scenery in the United States. 
  • Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina—Step back in time and horseback ride through a forested, 8,000-acre, 19th-century estate. Your guide will select your trail and horse based on your experience level. 
  • Wampee Stables in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—Before you hit these coast side trails, you’ll spend time in the ring to familiarize yourself with the horse and the mechanics of horseback riding. 
  • Gila National Forest in Silver City, New Mexico—This protected national forest has over two dozen horse trails and few restrictions, making for a fun horseback riding adventure. Some trails even have facilities so you can camp with your horse. 

You can only get so much from reading an article about horseback riding, so get on that trail and learn from an expert guide or instructor. 

There are many places where you can try horseback riding and get lessons. Find the right place nearest to you or your next vacation destination.

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Paul Osborne