How to Ride a Horse

Four Parts:Groundwork, Mounting and SittingRiding Basics (English Style)Riding Basics (Western Style)Getting Further Training

Riding a horse can be a fun experience. However, it takes a great deal of training and experience to learn to ride a horse properly. Make sure you know how to mount, steer, and signal your horse to move properly. Also you must know how to train your horse and do groundwork with them before riding! Groundwork is the most important thing about riding horses and you must do it every time before riding your horse. Groundwork helps calm your horse and lets your horse know that you're the boss before you get on your horse!

Part 1
Groundwork, Mounting and Sitting

  1. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 1
    Mount your horse. The first thing you'll want to do when riding a horse is to do some groundwork. You don't need to do heaps and make your horse tied which is what some people do, but that isn't right! You only need to do a little bit of groundwork! The second thing you will want to do is mount your horse correctly! Many people are intimidated by the idea of mounting a horse but if you stay calm it should be fun and easy.
    • If you're a first time rider, it's not a bad idea to use a mounting block. This is a small wooden structure that you can use to stand on in order to mount the horse. Most people can't mount straight from the ground right away.[1] You should also ask someone to hold the horse's head as you mount. It is much easier to use a mounting block if you are a beginner as it is a bit of a stretch to get your foot into the stirrup and then pull yourself up from there. Using a mounting block also puts less pressure on a horse's back.
    • Mount the horse from its left (or "near") side. Place your left foot in the left stirrup and pull your body upward. Swing your other leg around the horse's body, sort of hugging the horse with your leg, and insert your right foot into the right stirrup.
    • Select a well-trained horse if you're a beginner. Horses that are younger or poorly trained may shift and move during mounting, which can prove difficult to even an advanced rider. Choose an older horse that has a reputation for being calm and cooperative during riding.
    • If someone doesn't hold the horse's head as you mount, you should hold the reins tightly in your left hand, but not so tightly that the horse backs away from the pressure
  2. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 2
    Position yourself for balance. Once you're in the saddle, take a moment to make sure you're in the proper position for balance. Keep your back straight. Keep in mind when you ride a horse you should be able to draw a straight line through your ear, shoulder, hip, and heel. Keep your shoulders even and straight as well, with the bulk of your weight resting on your seat bones in your buttocks.[2]
  3. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 3
    Get your legs in the right position. Once you feel securely balanced, get your legs into the proper position. This can be particularly difficult for beginning riders so take time to make sure your legs are positioned properly.
    • Your legs should be turned inward. Many beginning riders have their legs turned outward, as this can feel more natural, with their knees sticking out. Remember, you're sort of hugging the horse with your legs. You shouldn't squeeze the horse too tightly, but have your legs curved inwards towards the horse.[3]
    • When you're riding a horse, your toes should be pointed upward. Keep your ankles stable and your heels pointing downward. An easy stretch or practice for this is to stand on something higher than the ground or even a staircase and push your heels down keeping the balls of your feet on the staircase.[4]
  4. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 4
    Hold the reins properly. Once your legs are in the right position, make sure you're holding the reins properly. How you hold the reins depends on whether you're riding English or Western.
    • For English style, make a fist and then pass the reins through the fist so the loop of the reins faces upward. Then, remove both your pinky fingers from the fist and place them on the outside of the reins. Place your thumbs on top of the reins, securing them in place.[5]
    • In Western, the reins do not form a loop. The western bridle has reins that are knotted at the top. Keep the reins loose at all times and hold them in your left hand, as you would an ice cream cone.[6]

Part 2
Riding Basics (English Style)

  1. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 5
    Learn the different ways to signal your horse to move. When riding English style, there are a variety of ways you can signal your horse to move. Familiarize yourself with the various ways to get your horse to move.
    • Starting off, try gently squeezing your horses side with your legs. This should signal your horse to walk.[7]
    • If your horse does not respond to this, he may need further prompting. You can gently kick your horse with your heels. Do not kick too hard, however. While horses have thick hides, they may experience pain if you kick with too much force. A gentle tapping is generally all it takes to get a horse to walk.[8]
    • Verbal cues also help in some cases. Depending on how a horse was trained, he may respond to clicking of the tongue and other noises. Ask the horse's trainer if there are any noises he responds to.[9]
  2. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 6
    Follow the movements of a horses head with your arms. When a horse walks, canters, or gallops, his head moves back and forth with the rhythm of his body. Allow your hands to bob back and forth with the horse's head. Not following the horse's movements can cause discomfort to the horse's mouth. It can also confuse a horse as pulling back on the reins is generally a sign to stop.[10]
  3. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 7
    Learn to steer. It's important you learn how to steer your horse. Steering in English style if fairly self explanatory.
    • You keep more contact with the horses mouth while riding English. To signal the horse to turn right, very lightly pull back with your right hand. To signal the horse to turn left, very lightly pull back with your left hand. If the horse does not respond to the lighter pulling, you can gradually begin to pull slightly harder until the horse responds.[11]
    • You should also use your legs and body to signal a horse to move. Looking in the direction you wish to move helps. Horse's can feel your seat bones move. You should also gently squeeze your legs to signal a horse to change direction. For example, squeeze your left leg if you want your horse to turn right as the horse will want to move away from the pressure.[12]
  4. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 8
    Learn how to trot. Once you're confident at the walk, gently press your legs into the horses sides to cue the horse to trot. Sit deep in the saddle and keep contact with your legs. Be careful to keep your elbows relaxed, so you don't jerk on your horse's mouth.[13]
    • Some riders prefer to do a "posting trot" as opposed to a sitting trot. This can be more comfortable as a trot is a bouncing gait. To do a "posting trot" simply rise when the horses outside shoulder moves forwards, and gently sit back down in the saddle, as to avoid bouncing heavily on the horses back. [14]
  5. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 11
    Move your outside leg back and squeeze to canter the horse. Cantering is a quicker three-beat speed that's natural to all horses. When you canter, your seat will roll with the canter and you stay in the position you normally ride in. Before you canter, make sure you are comfortable with both posting trot and sitting trot as both of these are major key points. Getting the timing right to get a horse to canter takes time.
    • Try not to tense up. Most beginners will find it beneficial to hold onto a saddle or neck strap while learning to canter to help with their balance so they don't fall.
    • If your horse just moves into a faster trot when you signal it to canter, ask your horse to walk and continue asking him to canter from the walk instead of the trot. Before learning to canter make sure you know posting trot, sitting trot, medium trot, collected trot and a half hault in a trot. Before cantering, gently squeeze your outside rein to slow your horse to a half hault in a trot before using your inside leg by the girth and then soon adding your outside leg behind the girth to give your horse a bit of a push forward.
  6. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 12
    Practice more advanced riding as you feel ready. Galloping, jumping, and dressage tricks are all fun to learn in English style. However, you should hold off until you've mastered the basics. Spend at least a few months practicing the above techniques before trying anything new. Galloping and jumping especially can be dangerous if you're inexperienced.[15]

Part 3
Riding Basics (Western Style)

  1. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 14
    Learn to neck rein. Steering is slightly different in Western style than it is in English style When riding Western, you use a technique called "neck reining."
    • Neck reining means you hold the reins loosely and gently touch the horse's neck to signal movements. For the most part, you'll be neck reining when riding Western.[16]
    • To turn right, move the reins across the horse's neck to the right. To go left, move the reins across the horse's neck to the left.[17]
    • Always hold the reins in your left hand. Keep your right hand on the front of your saddle.[18]
    • As with English riding, make sure you use your full body to steer as well. Use your legs and seat bones in addition to your hands.
  2. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 15
    Direct rein during emergencies. If you need to steer your horse quickly, it's recommended you momentarily switch to English style steering. If your horse is not responding to neck reining, grab the reins in both hands. Gently pull or squeeze the left rein to turn left and the right rein to turn right.[19]
  3. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 13
    Walk your horse. Start out walking gently. In Western, you also squeeze or kick your horse to get him to walk. You should follow the motion of his head again, but as you hold the reins looser you might not move your hands as much as you would in English.[20]
  4. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 17
    Jog your horse. While your horse is walking, squeeze his sides gently to signal to him to jog. Trotting is not usually a part of Western style riding.
    • A jog is a slow, steady gait. It's a little quicker paced than a walk but not as jaunty as an English trot.[21]
    • You can easily sit in a Western jog. Posting trot is not necessary when riding western style.[22]

Part 4
Getting Further Training

  1. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 19
    Take lessons at a stable. Horseback riding can be very difficult and takes a lot of time and patience. Try to find a reputable stable in your are and take lessons from an established trainer. It's a good idea to have supervision when beginning to take riding lessons as riding can be dangerous if you're untrained.
  2. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 21
    Learn to groom a horse. Horses are groomed somewhat differently, depending on whether they're kept indoors or outdoors. Always defer to the instructions and the guidelines given at the stable where you're riding. There are some general rules, however. You should usually groom a horse before riding him.
    • Use a body brush to brush the horse's fur all over its body, removing the dust, sweat and loose hair from the horses coat. Use the mane-and-tail comb on the mane and tail, appropriately.[23]
    • Next, use a dandy brush on the body and legs of the horse, removing mud and sweat. This brush has harder bristles, which shouldn't be used on the face, mane, or tail of the horse.
    • Use the hoof pick to remove mud, dirt, and pebbles from the horse's hooves. If this is not done before you ride, your horse may get a sore foot and go lame.
    • Use a rubber or plastic curry comb on the body of the horse for removing loose hair and mud from the horses coat. Metal curry combs are used for removing loose hair from horses that are shedding heavily.
  3. Image titled Ride a Horse Step 22
    Learn to tack and bridle your horse. Before you ride, a horse needs to be outfitted with a saddle and bridle. Learn how to tack up a horse if you're interested in horseback riding.
    • To saddle a horse, position the saddle blanket above the horse's withers and push it back toward the hind-legs to move the hairs in a comfortable direction. Position the saddle in the middle of the blanket.
    • Attach the cinch or girth and tighten it gently, allowing the horse enough room to exhale comfortably. You should be able to fit two fingers under the cinch or girth, but no more.
    • Make sure you've got a bridle appropriate for your horse's size. Gently place the bit near the horses mouth. Most horses will open their mouths as they're used to bridles, but if your horse doesn't gently push your fingers into the sides of the horse's mouth. Slip the bit in slowly, then slip the top of the bridle over the horse's ears. Secure all the straps and buckles, buckling tight enough that you can only comfortably fit one finger under the straps.


  • Always wear a helmet that fits your head comfortably.
  • In the canter try to squeeze and sit deep in the saddle.
  • Choose a horse that's older and well trained if you're an inexperienced rider.
  • The horse can sense when you are scared or nervous. When you feel nervous about the horse you are riding, talk to your instructor, they might be able to help.
  • When you are riding off trail make sure to watch out for sticks or scraps in the path you are taking.

Wear closed toed shoes, boots are best in case a horse steps on your foot.

  • Remember that every horse is different and all of them have their own personalities. Try riding different horses often so that you can get a feel for their different personalities.
  • Remember that it is more than just riding. Take time to bond with the horses you ride.


  • If you've never ridden a horse before, have an experienced rider present to guide you.

Sources and Citations


Show more... (21)

Article Info

Categories: Riding