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The Dos and Don’ts of Horse Riding for Beginners

Johnny Howard

If you’re a beginner to horse riding, it’s important to know the dos and don’ts to ensure your safety and the safety of the horse. Here are some tips to help you get started:

The Dos and Don’ts of Horse Riding for Beginners
Woman stroking horse

Do: Take lessons

One of the most important things a beginner can do is to take lessons from a qualified instructor. Proper instruction can teach you how to ride correctly and will help you develop a good foundation in horsemanship. [4]

Do: Wear appropriate gear

Wearing the right gear is important for both comfort and safety. Wear a riding helmet to protect your head in case of a fall. Boots with a low heel and a smooth sole will help keep your foot from getting stuck in the stirrup. Dress appropriately for the weather and avoid loose or baggy clothing that can get caught on something. [4]

Do: Approach the horse carefully

Approach the horse calmly and quietly. Speak to the horse softly and gently pet it to get it used to your touch. Always approach the horse from the side so that it can see you coming. Never approach a horse from behind as this can startle the horse and put you in danger. [4]

Do: Mount the horse properly

To mount the horse, catch the reins in your left hand, then grasp the horse’s wither, mane, or saddle horn with your left hand and the back of the saddle with your right. Do not pull on the horse. Place your left foot in the stirrup, pull yourself up, and swing your right leg over the horse’s hindquarters. [7]

Do: Sit correctly in the saddle

Sit up straight with your shoulders back and your heels down. Keep your hands low and relaxed, and keep your elbows close to your sides. This will help you maintain your balance and control the horse. [4]

Do: Communicate with the horse

Horses communicate with body language, so it’s important to learn how to communicate with them effectively. Use your seat, legs, and hands to communicate with the horse. Be gentle but firm in your cues. Reward the horse with praise when it responds correctly. [4]

Do: Ride with a buddy

Riding with a buddy is always a good idea, especially for beginners. If something goes wrong, your buddy can help you out or call for help. Plus, riding with someone else is just more fun! [4]

Don’t: Hold onto the saddle

Saddles and stirrups make sitting on a horse more comfortable and aid in helping the rider keep their balance, but they shouldn’t be used to help you hold on. It can turn into a bad habit, and if you do start to fall, holding onto the saddle may shift it to one side.

Don’t: Use excessive rein pressure

As a beginner, you may tend to pull too hard on the reins, but horses are sensitive animals and can respond to even the lightest of cues. It’s important not to use excessive rein pressure, which can cause discomfort or pain to the horse. Learn to communicate with the horse using your seat, legs, and body language. [9]

Don’t: Kick the horse

When mounting the horse or adjusting your position in the saddle, be careful not to accidentally kick the horse. Always be aware of where your legs are and use them gently to cue the horse. Kicking or using excessive pressure on your legs can cause the horse to become irritated or confused. [3]

Don’t: Panic if the horse runs

If the horse starts to run, it’s important not to panic. Instead, stay calm and focused. Keep your heels down, lean back slightly, and use the reins to slow the horse down. If you’re riding in a group, let the other riders know what’s happening so they can help if needed. [4]

Don’t: Slouch or lean forward

Slouching or leaning forward can throw off your balance and make it more difficult to control the horse. Instead, sit up straight with your shoulders back and your heels down. Keep your head up and look where you want to go. This will help you maintain your balance and control. [6]

Don’t: Hold onto the reins too tightly

Holding onto the reins too tightly can cause discomfort or pain to the horse, and can also interfere with your communication with the horse. Instead, learn to hold the reins with a soft, steady hand. Use gentle pressure to cue the horse, and release the pressure as soon as the horse responds. [10]

Don’t: Forget to warm up and cool down

Warming up and cooling down are important for both you and the horse. Take a few minutes to stretch and loosen up before mounting the horse, and walk the horse for a few minutes after riding to cool it down. This will help prevent injuries and keep the horse in good condition. [6]


Learning to ride a horse can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to do it safely and responsibly. Taking lessons, wearing the appropriate gear, and following the dos and don’ts of horse riding can help ensure a positive experience for both you and the horse. Remember to be patient, stay calm, and communicate effectively with the horse.