Tips for First Time Horse Riders
Learning to ride a horse is an amazing experience that will stay with you forever. There is so much to learn, and once you’ve been riding a handful of times you will never want to stop! However, learning to ride a horse can also be daunting and a bit nerve-wracking. You will want to have fun and stay safe, and you may not know where to start. Here are our top tips for first time horse riders.
Find a Reputable Riding School
The first and most important tip for first time horse riders is to find a reputable riding school. There are hundreds of horse riding establishments across the UK, and each one is different. All riding schools must have a license from the local council in order to operate. Many riding schools are also members of the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) or the British Horse Society (BHS). Both organisations have a list of approved riding schools. These organisations are a good place to start if you are looking for a riding school.
Book an Assessment Lesson
Most riding schools will require you to book an assessment lesson. This is usually a 30 minute one-to-one lesson where the instructor will assess your ability level and teach you the very basics. After your assessment lesson, your instructor may recommend that you continue with private lessons, or you may be offered the option to have group lessons. Group lessons should be with people of a similar ability level to yourself, on horses that are also suitable to your confidence and riding ability.
You will be asked to provide your height, weight and riding experience when booking your first riding lesson. You may do this over the phone or email, but many riding schools are now switching to online booking systems. It is important to provide accurate information as this will allow the riding school to match you to an appropriate horse - all riding schools and horses will have rider weight limits for horse welfare reasons. It’s also important to remember that not all horses are suitable for beginner riders.
You should also use your assessment lesson to consider whether the riding school is the right place for you to learn to ride. Think about whether you feel comfortable with the instructor, the environment and the horses. Bear in mind that you are likely to ride a number of different horses. Your instructor should be patient and approachable, explain things clearly and be happy to answer any questions you have.
Ensure You Have the Correct Horse Riding Equipment
Horse riding requires a lot of equipment, even if you don’t have a horse of your own. Your riding school will usually be able to lend you a riding hat (there may be an additional fee), and some riding schools will also provide riding boots. It is important to check this with your chosen riding school beforehand, as you will not be allowed to ride without a hat and sensible footwear.
You will usually be advised to wear comfortable jogging bottoms or leggings and a sensible long sleeved top or t-shirt. Bear in mind that you need to be able to get on and off the horse and move about comfortably when in the saddle. If you don’t have your own riding boots and cannot borrow them from the riding school, you should wear a boot with a small, smooth heel. Some riding schools may allow you to wear wellies, but you should always check beforehand.
What to Expect During Your First Horse Riding Lesson
As mentioned earlier, your first riding lesson will cover the very basics. These will include: how to mount and dismount, how to ask the horse to walk and turn, and how to ask the horse to stop. The basic controls (known as the “aids”) should be taught in a simple and easy to understand way. You may have heard equestrians mention terms such as “inside leg to outside rein”, “half-halt” or “outline”, but these are unlikely to be mentioned in your first lesson.
After your first lesson, you should feel comfortable getting the horse to walk, turn and halt. You should also be able to mount (usually using a mounting block) and dismount. All being well, you should be excited to learn more and looking forward to your next lesson!