Spring has finally sprung and the call of the great Nebraska plains has captured our hearts once again. To say that it’s been a long winter would be a bit of an understatement. With this in mind, we’re ready to dig ourselves out of our igloos and make the most of the warmer months this year. We can’t wait to, quite literally, get back in the saddle. Which brings us to the topic at hand.
You’ve been stuck inside all season with your TV and your thoughts, watching old John Wayne movies and dreaming of pink sunsets and endless prairie horizons. What better time to finally dust off the old Stetson and learn to ride a horse? Your first time on a horse is sure to be exciting, but casually swinging your leg over a thousand pounds of muscle and sinew can also be a little intimidating at first. So before you go riding off into the sunset, we thought you might appreciate a few pointers.
Easier said than done, right? These things are huge! But they’re also intelligent, and remarkably sensitive. If your horse recognizes that you’re nervous or agitated, she’s likely to respond with a little nervous agitation of her own. Approach your horse slowly and quietly, and always from the front. You’re about to be partners in this endeavor, not adversaries. Most horses express their mood with easily identifiable visible cues. If you approach your horse and she is visibly anxious, give her some space and let her come to you.
Find a Good Trainer
When you first start riding horses, you should always be under the supervision of an experienced, professional rider like those at our ranch. If you’re from out of town, you can find riding schools and private instructors in many rural areas. Best of all, riding schools will generally hand select horses with easygoing temperaments and gentle dispositions for novice riders. A professional instructor will walk you through the basics of horseback riding so that by the time you reach the saddle, you’ll have the cool confidence of a seasoned cowboy.
Go with the Flow
Many novice riders assume a stiff, uncomfortable posture when they first hop on a horse. Over time, this will make for a very sore, painful ride. Sit up straight, keep your knees loose, and allow your body to move in sync with the up-and-down motion of the horse’s back. Feel the cadence of your horse’s stride, and try to follow suit with your motion in the saddle. Your tailbone will thank you later.
At some point, you’re going to have to stop your horse, and this will mean using the reins. To bring your horse to a stop, you’ll want to plant your heels firmly in the stirrups and pull back gently on both reins. Sometimes, inexperienced riders are afraid that their horse won’t respond to the reins, so they yank on them like a Rottweiler on a choke chain. This is extremely uncomfortable for the horse, and generally unnecessary. All it takes is a light tug toward your chest to let the horse know you’re there. Only if the horse resists your gentle urgings is it necessary to apply more pressure on the reins.
Keep these suggestions in mind, and get off to a smooth start. At Rowse’s 1+1 Ranch, we welcome all levels of horseback riders—from first-timer to seasoned vet—at our real working cattle ranch here in Burwell, Nebraska.
Posted by Tammy Rowse