Horse Riding Lessons Blog

Setting Yourself Goals Each Time You Ride

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There are so many things to concentrate on when learning how to ride a horse,  that you can easily feel overwhelmed by them.

Breaking It Down

The first stage with any huge task is to divide it into manageable parts and this works well when learning how to ride a horse, too.

Your goal is to ride the horse competently in walk, trot and canter. To do that, you must first learn how to sit in the saddle correctly and ask the horse to move forwards.

Getting Started

Here is a useful breakdown of the beginning elements of how to ride a horse. Slowly work on performing each task correctly and you’ll not only build up your skills, but also become more confident around your horse. 

  • Lead the horse into the arena
  • Mount
  • Adjust the stirrup length
  • Adopt correct seat position
  • Retighten the girth once in the saddle
  • Hold the reins correctly
  • Ask the horse to walk on
  • Turn and halt the walking horse

If you take your time learning these basics during your riding lessons they’ll become second nature to you.

Setting Goals for Each Lesson

Be very patient with yourself and set only a few goals per lesson. To start, pick something you find easy, and work on that until you’re satisfied. It may simply be the act of mounting the horse correctly without hitting his rump with your leg, landing heavily on his back, or jabbing his mouth with the reins when you swing into the saddle.

Be pleased with yourself when you manage to mount smoothly, then make your next goal relaxing in the saddle and adopting the correct position.

Take everything in easy stages and don’t be hard on yourself if something takes longer to master than you feel it should. Everyone is different, so don’t measure your success by comparing your progress with other beginner riders.

 A useful book for you to download which will show you how to split the riding process into six easy stages, is Horse Riding Lessons: Teaching Yourself to Ride.  It comes with photo illustrations and a video which shows you how to perform the riding exercises outlined in the six progressive riding lessons.

And don’t forget to enjoy the journey to becoming more proficient in the saddle!

Why Learn Dressage If You Want to Jump?

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Many people want to learn how to ride a horse because they wish to jump. So why should they have to learn dressage first? What possible use is flat work to a future jumping career?

(‘Flat work’ is essentially the same as dressage, but aimed at preparing the horse for jumping or some discipline other than pure dressage.)

Why Can’t You Learn to Jump Immediately?

If you stop and think about it, jumping doesn’t just involve riding over fences. In fact, most of the time is spent in between the fences. Not only will you need to learn how to sit in the saddle over an obstacle, you have to competently ride the horse on the flat in order to get him to that fence.

You need to develop a secure seat, apply effective aids, know the correct way to approach a fence, when to take off and how to arrive at the next fence – all in canter.

How Dressage Helps You

Unless you have learned the basics of dressage, your attempts at jumping will end in disaster. You must learn how to ride a horse smoothly in walk, trot and canter, and turn him without losing impulsion. You also need to ride in a straight line, which is a lot harder than it sounds!

You need to be able to keep in balance with your horse and not disturb him while he jumps. It’s vital that you develop quiet hands and not pull on the horse’s mouth if you lose your balance, otherwise he’ll stop jumping because you’re hurting him.

If you want to become a successful jumping rider, learning how to ride a horse correctly is vital. This means mastering the basic dressage movements before you ride at that first fence!







More Horse Evasions: Head Tossing and Leaning on the Reins

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In a previous post we talked about two ways your mount can avoid rein contact when you learn how to ride a horse - by getting above or behind the bit.

Another two evasive habits are head tossing and leaning on the reins.

Head Tossing

If your horse tosses his head, he’s telling you that your hands are too hard. They are disturbing his mouth or even hurting and he has no trust in your rein connection. 

Allow your horse to stretch into soft rein contact in all three gaits. Keep your hands quiet and avoid harsh half-halts. These are important habits to get into when you’re learning how to ride a horse.

To correct a horse which continues to toss his head, even after eliminating rider error, use a spontaneous jab of the heel rather than a jerk of the hand at the moment of head tossing.

As with any correction, the punishment must come straight after the crime. If applied consistently, eventually just a squeeze of your lower leg will suffice to let the horse know this fault won’t be tolerated.

Head tossing can also be the result of pain in the saddle area, and therefore the back. Be sure the problem doesn’t originate there. Another reason can be pain caused by sharp edges on the horse’s cheek teeth.  Have your horse’s mouth checked by an equine dentist and get his teeth floated if necessary.

Leaning on the reins

The horse leaning on the reins is his unhappy reaction to your too forceful hands. Perhaps they are too stiff and not elastic enough.

Horses which lean on the reins usually move with a rigid or hollow back because they are not relaxed.  They are therefore unbalanced and hard to sit on. Check your position in the saddle and drive your horse forwards in the same way as you would for a horse which is above the bit.

Interesting Horse Behavior: Sleeping and Rolling

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Learning how to ride a horse will increase your interest in equines and it’s useful to know how and why horses behave the way they do.

Sleep Patterns

You’ll have heard that horses can sleep standing up, and this is indeed one of the ways they get their rest. The front legs and one hind leg ‘lock’ into position so they won’t fall over, while the other hind leg balances on the tip of the hoof. A horse dozes like this, and will accumulate only three hours or so of short naps throughout a 24 hour period.

About another four hours are spent in light sleep, lying down with feet tucked underneath and head upright.

Deep sleep occurs when the horse lies flat out on his side. My horses have made several ’sand pits’ in their field. After a night spent grazing during good weather, when they’ve eaten their morning feed, they like to stretch out together on one of these soft beds. They get roughly an hour of deep sleep like this spread out through the day.


Finding out how to ride a horse will sooner or later involve your turning him out into his paddock after a lesson and he may immediately roll. You’ll watch him sniff the ground and paw at it while turning in circles before his legs  buckle underneath him and he goes down.

Why does he do this?

If he’s sweaty after your ride, even if you’ve washed him off (which I hope you have!) he’ll enjoy the abrasive feel of the back-scratch to get rid of that itchy feeling. The dirts helps dry off his skin as well as protecting him from flies and gnat bites.

Rolling helps keep your horse healthy by stretching his back muscles and probably has chiropractic benefits. It is definitely to be encouraged, even if you have to watch your careful cleaning work get wrecked!