Proper equestrian riding techniques vary depending upon the type of riding you are doing, whether it is English, Western, jumping, dressage, or eventing. Overall, proper equestrian riding techniques are largely a matter of correct body position, clear communication, appropriate equipment and equestrian riding apparel, and being aware of your surroundings. No one is born with the knowledge or ability to ride properly. It takes years of training and dedicated practice.
As a novice rider, you have much to learn. It is far easier to learn the proper ways first, rather than having to spend years unlearning bad habits and replacing them with proper riding techniques. That’s why taking lessons for the novice rider is such a great idea.
Take Lessons from a Reputable Trainer
Regardless of the type of riding you are interested in, riding lessons are always a good idea — especially for the novice. It is too easy to learn bad habits and put yourself in danger by simply jumping on the first available horse. This is especially true when jumping horses.
Even experienced riders must regularly rely upon basic riding techniques to maintain their safety as well as the safety of their horse. Your trainer should be able to provide you with an outside perspective. It’s amazing how many times you will be absolutely positive that your heels are down when, in fact, they are not. A reputable trainer can help you to fulfill your potential as a skilled horseman or horsewoman.
Riding lessons will teach you how to tack your horse up in the proper equestrian equipment, how to tighten the girth on English saddles to prevent slipping, how to select the equestrian riding apparel that is appropriate for your style of riding, how to develop the correct body position, and the best communication methods for interacting with your horse. Riding lessons will also educate you about the common rules of riding etiquette.
Proper Body Position and Riding Etiquette
For generations, young children and adults have been admonished to keep their chin up, shoulders back, and eyes forward. All you have to do is add heels down, elbows in, and hands quiet so that you will have a superior body position for horseback riding. As a rider, your job is to maintain control over your horse without appearing to do anything. Loud cues, abrupt movements, and lost tempers are never appropriate.
In the English riding world, there are specific rules of ring etiquette in place to ensure everyone’s safety. Generally, this means that everyone should be travelling in the same direction and working basically on the same skills. Slower traffic keeps to the inside of the arena while faster moving riders stay to the outer edge of the ring. A full horse length should be maintained between riders. If passing is necessary, one is expected to inform the other rider quietly and to give a wide berth. If horses are moving in both directions, the general rule of thumb is to pass — left shoulder to left shoulder — just as though you were driving a car. These courtesies work to prevent countless accidents and emergencies and should be followed at all times.
Use Appropriate Equestrian Riding Apparel and Equipment
Appropriate equestrian riding apparel means you are wearing an approved helmet, riding boots, a well-fitting shirt that allows enough freedom of movement, and riding breeches. Jeans are not appropriate for English riding. English saddles will rub on the seams, causing chaffing, and the material will slip and risk a fall. Loose and baggy clothing is never considered appropriate equestrian riding apparel. It can snag, bunch, and interfere with your movement that may risk injury.
English saddles will help you to maintain the correct body position for flat work and jumping, just as an event a saddle will help a rider maneuver hills, waterways, and other obstacles and help a rider to maintain their seat safely. Being lightweight and relatively flat, English saddles provide you with a greater range of motion than a heavier, bulkier Western saddle. However, they also require a strong leg to help you maintain contact and communicate with your horse. There are many varieties of English saddles available. Before buying English saddles, discuss your options with your trainer.
Every step of your training will help you to develop the skills and habits necessary to ride safely and effectively. Wearing appropriate equestrian riding apparel, finding the correct style English saddles, and working regularly with a reputable trainer will all help you to develop proper riding techniques.