When you first decide to take up riding, you’ll have to think about all sorts of things like who’s going to teach you, what you should wear and what you can do in advance to get the most out of your lessons.
Choosing a school
As a starting point, take time to find a good teacher. Not everyone who can ride well is expert at helping someone else to learn, so it’s usually better to go to an established riding school rather than asking a friend for help.
Get advice from anyone you know who rides regularly or look through local telephone directories and newspapers for the names and addresses of stables.
You can then visit the schools to see which you like best.
Having chosen a school, book a short lesson to begin with. Half an hour is about right as you may be surprised at how tired you get. Later, you can book longer sessions. It’s also better to book lessons close together with no more than a week between each one. Otherwise, it’s difficult to remember what you’ve been taught.
What to wear
For your first lesson, you shouldn’t have to buy any special kit but check that your chosen school can provide you with a proper riding hat. Never go riding without one. Sturdy Shoes with smooth soles (so they don’t get caught in the stirrups), a pair of well-fitting jeans and a comfortable top are the only other requirements.
How to prepare
Before you go for your lesson, aim to read up about riding and horse care. Get to know some of the names given to different parts of the saddle and bridle the reins, girth and so on and look at people on horseback to see how they sit and what they do.
It’s also helpful to learn a few of the names for different parts of the horse: you don’t have to memorize everything at once just try to remember a few new details each week.
When you start, you will be given a steady, reliable pony. Ask what his name is and, when he is led out of his stable, talk to him and stroke him. Your teacher will help you and tell you what
to do, so just relax and enjoy your first meeting!
The pony will already be tacked-up (with his saddle and bridle on) and you’ll have time to look at the way everything ‘fits together’. The saddle is carefully designed to make riding more comfortable for you and to make sure that your weight is evenly spread across the pony’s back. The reins are linked to a bit (a metal bar which rests in the horse’s mouth) and they are for telling the pony to turn or to stop. Lessons on fitting things like tack and horse rugs (including rugging a horse for various different conditions) aren’t usually included in first lessons, but may be optional days where you can learn more about general horse care and equipment.
Did you know?
The toe stirrup – a loop of rope just large enough to hold the rider’s big toe – was once widely used in the East. It is still popular in Southern India, Singapore and Malaya.
The first thing you’ll be taught is how to get on the pony. Stand to the side of the pony, with your left shoulder to his. By facing the tail as you put your foot in the stirrups, you don’t get left behind if
the pony walks forward. In any case, first time around the instructor will probably hold the reins near the bridle to stop the pony moving off. Although later on you’ll need to hold the reins tightly enough to control the pony, for the moment just gather them up loosely in your left hand.
With your other hand, turn the stirrup iron outwards, and put your left foot into it. If it’s a bit high, the stirrup leather can be lengthened.
Gently does it
Grasp the back of the saddle with your right hand and put your weight on the stirrup iron, pressing your toe under the pony’s middle don’t give him a dig in the ribs! Spring up facing the pony’s side. To start with, the instructor can hold down the stirrup iron on the other side so that the saddle doesn’t slip. Swing your leg over the pony’s back and sit down lightly on the saddle. Try not to thump down like a sack of potatoes or you’ll give him an unpleasant jolt. Put your right foot in the right stirrup iron at the beginning you’ll have to look down to do this.
If you have long hair, it’s best to get into the habit of wearing a rider’s hairnet. Loose hair can get caught in low branches, or obscure your view.
Not only is loose hair a safety hazard, but any faults in your position are emphasized if your hair flies about all over the place as you ride.
How to Sit
Although you may find it strange at first, you’ll soon get used to sitting on a pony. Your ‘seat’ position is very important as it helps you to stay comfortable and safe when you ride. Concentrate on getting a good seat now and you’ll be a much better rider in the future.
Sit upright, with your seat bones firmly in the middle of the saddle. Keep your back straight, hold your head up and look forward.
Rest your thighs and knees against each side of the pony so that your weight is evenly balanced and you don’t tip one way or the other. Stay relaxed: if you grip tightly with your legs, you’ll push yourself up and out of the saddle.
Put the ball of your foot in the stirrups, toes up and your heel down. Try to keep your toes pointing forward not sticking out like butterfly wings!
Once you’ve settled and think you are sitting correctly, try to imagine a line drawn through the middle of your head and going straight down, through your shoulder, then your hip and finishing on your heel. If that line has to bend or turn sharply, then something is wrong with your seat.