Are you looking to become a stronger horse rider?
But just as with a lot of other things in life, riding a horse is not as easy as it may look.
There are plenty of newcomer mistakes that will not only make you stand out as a novice, but may also keep you from being able to handle your horse and ride safely.
If you want to improve your skills and become a more confident and capable rider, here are 5 common mistakes (and how you can avoid them).
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Mistake #1 – You’re Holding On Too Tight
Mistake: One of the most common rookie mistakes is holding onto your horse too tight.
Your horse is almost always going to attempt to go faster than you might want to. Therefore, no matter how much you attempt to hold your horse back, you can expect him to speed away. After all, the horse’s head is held up high and its mouth is typically open which can keep him in a non-relaxed state.
How to avoid it: While it might seem like something you shouldn’t do as a newcomer, you want to loosen the grip in order to allow your horse to get in a much more relaxed riding position.
This will allow your horse to lower its head which can keep the horse from speeding off.
The reins are designed to be an effective two-way communication device that you use to guide your horse. It is not intended to act as a manual brake. You should look to ask your riding instructor and/or trainer how to effectively cue your horse with the reins and release the pressure properly.
Adolescent counsellor’s Thinking Families explains that “riding a horse can be a stressful or confronting experience for newer horse riders. This can present in a tight grip that limits the range of movement and actually contributes to more stress. By choosing experienced horse riding coaches and instructors, you can lessen your child’s stress and free up movement as a result.”
Mistake #2 – You Have Poor Posture
Mistake: Having poor posture is something that we know is important but we rarely do anything about it.
Good posture is very important for horseback riding. You should be looking to sit up in the chair with your legs forward and without slouching. You shouldn’t engage too hard with your stirrups. Instead, you want to keep them fully relaxed next to your horse.
How to avoid it: To ride perfectly balanced, you will want to keep your body’s centre of mass in line.
Keeping everything including your shoulders and hips facing forward and in an upright and vertical position for the best balance while riding.
You can hack this type of position by rolling your pelvis in a forward motion in order to keep your legs much further apart than you might otherwise be able to. You can then breathe in deeply and allow your lower back to relax and allow your legs to effectively be positioned to the sides of your horse.
Mistake #3 – Your Horse Isn’t Still During The Mount
Mistake: When you are looking to mount your horse, you want to avoid hopping alongside the side of your horse with only one foot in your horse’s stirrup.
This is dangerous and shouldn’t be attempted while your horse is moving. The overall way you end up mounting your horse will dictate the tone and your relationship with the horse itself. Therefore, you want to ensure that you are doing it properly.
A lot of horses might be testing you during this mounting process to determine how it should behave. Another reason might be simply due to the horse having a lack of training. Regardless, you need to mount the horse properly prior to beginning the riding session.
It’s important to note that you might be causing the issue with the mounting process on your own. Animal chiropractor Keith Maitland says to “think about whether or not you are moving too quickly or if you are pulling your horse off balance as you are trying to climb on top of it. Rather than limit your riding potential, you could also injure your horse.”
How to avoid it: When mounting, you should look to implement one of the techniques that work best for you.
One option would be to simply bring the horse’s head toward you as you mount which can make it much harder for the horse to move around.
Another option would be to keep the rein relaxed and to hold the horse in place with the other reign (located outside).
Others might even keep the reins completely relaxed and verbally command to their horse to remain in a set position.
You always want to ensure that your horse remains in a steady position even after being mounted to reinforce the fact that they are not to move until given the ‘OK.
Mistake #4 – You’re Not Paying Attention
Mistake: Even those that are considered experienced riders might fail to pay attention at all times.
When you are beginning to learn how to ride, there is a lot going on and a lot that you have to remember. However, one thing that you should always have in the forefront of your mind is that you should keep your head in a forward position and always look where you are going.
Hypnosis trainers and mental expert Luke Mollica explain that mental focus is a skill that can be strengthened to improve riding. He explains “by giving it a concentrated focus and keeping your balance and focusing on what is in front of you, it will help to prevent you from giving the horse confusing messages about where to go without even knowing it.”
How to avoid it: Always look where you are trying to go.
Believe it or not, but your horse is able to dictate where they are supposed to go by simply following the cues that come from your body and head positioning. Not only that, but it will keep you much more balanced and it can help you enjoy the ride much more.
Avoid making these 5 common mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a stronger rider.
Looking for affordable, experienced help to improve your horse riding skills? Chat to the team at the Horse Riding Hub today!
Written by: Boris Short