With Debbie Burgermeister
- as featured on

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Horse Talk blog.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT HORSE RIDING SCHOOL

Horse riding school

Top ten tips

1. Find a professional horse trainer/coach and learn how to ride a horse from experienced horse people.

Listen to a coach that has been around horses their whole life and has experienced many different horse disciplines including types of horses. (If someone has only done one type of discipline, they might not be able to point you on the best path for your needs.

As a beginner, finding a professional trainer is the best way to get started particularly in matters of safety. A trainer will provide tips and guidance on good horse controls, movements, horse cueing, turning and stopping the horse etc.

**Get Professional assistance to prevent accidents – horses are dangerous animals if you don’t do things right. Find a good coach and riding centre. Ask the questions:

  • How long has the riding centre been operating and is the horse experienced with beginner riders.
  • How long has your coach been riding and what type of riding have they done? What have they achieved in their horse journey, training horses or competing?
  • Is your coach qualified through longevity of experience or qualifications and can they explain things well?
  • Can your coach teach beginners and break things down to explain how the body communicates with the horse?

2. Don’t go out and buy a horse until you have sufficient experience.

If you haven’t learnt to handle a horse, ride a horse up to canter or how to train a horse then don’t go out and buy one. Also don’t let anyone (including your coach), talk you in to buying a horse until you are completely ready and these important basics have been achieved. The giddy up beginner book “Ready For Your First Horse” is like a checklist bible to prepare you.

3. Buy the correct gear/equipment.

If you are going to learn properly then invest in a pair of riding boots and a comfortable, good fitting helmet. A beginner’s starter pack includes boots, gloves, helmet, jodhpurs, reins and grooming gear. Check it out here.

RST going for ride 2

4. Select a horse that is best for you.

If someone is pushing you to buy a horse then they usually have something to gain and are not looking at what’s best for you.

The other advantage that comes with getting a professional trainer is that they will help you select a suitable horse. Did you know that there are different disciplines of horse riding?

Horses are trained differently to perform different functions. For instance, we have horses trained for obstacles i.e. Jump logs, canter through streams and those trained for a basic, slow and comfortable ride. So, take time to learn how to ride different horses preferably with the help of a horse expert.

5. Get exposure to learning how to do EVERYTHING from the ground up.

Make sure you don’t just get riding lessons.  Ask if you can learn horse care as well, offer to help with the stable duties at your local centre. A good riding centre should have groundwork included in their classes or separate classes in how to handle and care for horses.

Take time to familiarize yourself with the horse. 

**Begin with a hello? Yes, greeting the horse before a ride is just one of the ways of getting started on a positive note. Horses are wonderful living creatures that have emotions and sense.

When a new person wants to take them for a ride, they may tend to feel nervous or uneasy. Extending your arm and offering the back of your hand for the horse to smell and touch it with the nose, is a great way of reducing any possible tension. Take this time to understand the body language of the horse and create a connection before riding.

**Know the Horses Body Parts and Saddlery parts. Riding a horse without knowing its body and saddlery parts is not very wise. Imagine having an emergency and you are not sure what part does what? Or imagine owning a horse and not being able to tack it up?

It’s very important to familiarize yourself with major parts e.g. the muzzle, throat latch, flank, fetlock, hock, rump, frog, etc. Simply learn all parts and how they affect your ride.

6. Prepare your horse for a ride.

Just like cars, horses are prepared before take-off. Part of preparing a horse includes ensuring that you have the right equipment and that safety measures are put in place. 

**Checking the horse for safety.  For starters, check that the horse is in a good health condition (the coat is shiny, weight condition so you can’t see the ribs too much and walking without any limping). Always handle the horse safely whether you are grooming or saddling, move slowly and don’t stand behind them.

Deb checking horse shoe

**Have the equipment ready – It is very important to ensure that you and your horse have the right equipment before a ride. The halter and lead are tied correctly before you approach the horse. Ensure it is groomed properly, the saddle is safe and fitted correctly.  Having the right equipment ensures that the horse is comfortable and you can have a safe ride.

7. Remember that starting out should be fun.

It’s not about competition or looking pretty, there is lots to learn before this path. If a riding centre is pushing you to buy items that are not the basic needs or pushing you to compete then this might not be the best centre if you are a beginner.

A good riding school should be about inclusion and giving you a feeling of relaxation, without judgement and experiencing the joys of being with horses. Developing a wonderful community of likeminded friends which becomes your home away from home with horses and wonderful memories to cherish.

Fun Horse Riding

8. Understand that horses involve hard work.

Which includes daily care and how to use a shovel, the lovely smell of manure, how to tie knots and how to fix things that break and make things safe.

Stable cleaning

9. Conquer the fear and learn, how to manage horses safely.

With fear you will get hurt and won’t be able to become the boss and you will never be able to control a horse well enough.  Horses that feel fear will stomp all over you.  Maybe not your lovely quiet riding school horse, but it will happen throughout your horse life if you don’t work through your fear with a quiet horse first.

10. Make sure your instructor challenges you to progress.

Constantly moving forward with your riding skills and learning new things.   Staying at a walk or slow trot will not prepare you for a spooky or naughty horse or a bad weather day or a trail ride when a car goes past too fast.  You need to learn everything about riding up to canter and how to move a horse slow and fast and how to stop and turn and how to move your horse through different patterns and exposure to different disciplines. Also very important is to be able to ride different horses as well.

Things to remember while riding the horse. 

If you are a beginner in horse riding, you might not have as much fun but you will become an expert by constantly learning and practicing. Practice ensures that you build and improve the strength and balance that is required for riding. You also get a chance to learn how to communicate with the horse better. A good relationship between you and the horse will certainly lead to a good ride. In other words, communicate with the horse when riding. 

Moreover, maintain straight line, movements, and circles with body language, voice commands, hand and leg signals (aids). Learn to change pace and transition between walk, sitting the trot, rising the trot, canter, and gallop. Understand and ride with correct trot and canter diagonals.

How to stop the horse. 

During and at the end of the ride you will need to stop the horse. When cueing for a stop as a beginner, you will need to close and squeeze your fingers backward. Be in a firm upright position and put your feet slightly forward. When you squeeze the hand backward, the horse stops because of the backward pull on the reins. If the horse doesn’t respond to the cue, you might need to pull back until it stops. Additionally, depending on the level of training you have, you can use your body, seat or legs to stop the horse. A one rein stop is also learnt to increase safety if movements get to fast and beginners have trouble communicating the stop or there are problems with the horse.

After you get the horse to stop, release carefully. Let the horse rest in the best environment when finished. 

Final Remarks: Keep learning!

Again, it might not be easy at first but you will get better with good learning resources and training from a horse expert including practice. Go beyond the training you get from your trainer by also reading books, watching videos and specialized horse events and TV programs. This way you will learn more about horses and horse riding. Your journey is bound to fun!

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