How To Ride a Horse:
The Essentials to Get You Started Right

Learning how to ride a horse well is a lifelong study. Here you will learn the basics of good equitation to get your foundation correct from the start.

Overall Alignment

This rider is going English, but the foundations of body position are the same for western or any other style you choose to ride. 

Let's have a look at this picture that shows the proper alignment for riding.

When you ride a horse, you should be able to draw a straight line through the ear, shoulder, hip, and heel.

You can see that the heel in this picture is just a bit forward from what is ideal, but maintaining perfect alignment is not as easy at it looks!

Shoulders should be even and straight. If you find you have rounded shoulders, lifting up from the sternum and opening space in the ribs is more effective that trying to sit up "stock straight" with your shoulders back.

Your back should be held upright and straight

You should sit on the sit bones (the ones that get sore after sitting on a hard chair too long) without rounding or overarching the lower back.

Lower Leg and Heel

Beginning horse riders tend to have legs that are not secure in their position. That's OK while you are learning but you don't want to make bad leg position a habit. It takes awhile to learn how to develop a solid leg position. The lower leg can tend to slip too far forward, or too far back.

Either of these extremes can cause you to become unseated more easily, and will make it more difficult for you to effectively communicate with your horse. 

The stirrup should be kept at the ball of the foot. The ball of the foot is the widest part of the foot just behind the toes.

For safety, you'll need the right set of boots that are designed for riding. If you need more information on how to select boots and why a good pair is so important, go here.

Your toes should point towards the sky. Keeping the ankles flexed and the heels down absorbs shock from the ride and will keep you secure by not allowing your foot to slip through the stirrup.

Arm and Hand Position

Look at the highlighted box in this picture. The hands should be kept about 6 inches above and in front of the pommel of the saddle like their is an imaginary box.

When learning how to ride a horse, beginners tend to hold their hands too high. Another hard thing to learn is to keep the hands steady at all times. This is important because moving the hands too much can jab your horse in the mouth with the bit.

There should also be a straight line from the elbow to the bit.

To hold the reins properly, make a fist and pass them through. Then adjust and put your pinky finger on the outside of the rein as shown.

Hold your wrists skinny side up with the thumbs on top. You will see the reins pass through by the thumbs. If you ride western, you will hold it the same, but with both reins in your left hand instead of separated like for the english riding shown here.

Whew! You've got it, the basics of how to ride a horse and proper positioning of your body.

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