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I'm 16 years old, I've ridden horses many times before, but only took a couple of lessons about 3-4 years ago and I really want to start taking lessons again....
I don't really remember too much about horses at all and I was just wondering if you could give me some basic information on starting up horseback riding.
I'd like to know more about the whole "art" in horseback riding. Also, where are some good places to get lessons... I live in Minnesota too. Twin Cities area.
Thanks a lot. Hope to hear from you.
- J. F.
Uff-da! That's a mighty tall order - teaching you everything you need to know about horses in one lesson... and without being in the ring with you! I'll see if I can figure out some way to put down the basics as though I were actually working with a new rider. Unfortunately, there's a lot of interaction that goes on between rider, horse, and instructor, and I'm not sure it's even possible to give you what you've asked for.
Have you gone through all of the other tips on my site? If you haven't, I'd suggest that you begin on the "Learning More About Horses" page, then work your way through all the "Questions and Answers" pages. You'll find a lot of the basics there - just not organized into a single riding lesson.
Some of the things I always emphasize with new riders are:
See what I mean? Those tips only hit the high points of a few of the basics! I'd probably cover all of that - and more - during just the first five minutes of the first one-hour session. This isn't much, but I hope it helps.
Wear the right clothes. Long pants will keep your legs from wearing on the saddle. Riding boots are essential for both comfort and safety. NEVER ride with footwear that don't have fairly high heels. Some sort of hat is also essential; a good safety helmet may save your life.
Inspect your tack before every time you mount. (Following my own advice on this point has saved my neck several times.) Riding puts a lot of wear and tear on your equipment. The fact that it looked good when you saddled up doesn't mean it will still be in safe condition after riding for 30 minutes. And it's always a good practice to dismount and tighten your cinch after riding for two or three minutes.
Work on keeping your heels lower than your toes and on good riding posture. Never slouch; instead, push your chest forward slightly. And remember that your leg position cues your horse as to how fast you want to go: toward the rear means "go faster," toward the front tells him to slow down or even stop.
Practice the same behavior patterns you want your horse to exhibit. Your horse will tend to behave toward you like you behave toward it. If you want a calm, reliable, steady, patient, self-controlled, friendly horse, guess what character traits you need to practice!
Concentrate on using your balance and legs to communicate with your horse. The reins should only be used as a last resort.
Master the basics first. Babies begin by creeping, then crawling, etc. until they finally are able to run and jump. There's a good reason that it's not the other way around. Work on your balance and control at a walk. I like to see a student work at a walk and trot for a few months before doing even a brief canter. You need to understand what's happening between you and your horse - and you can't do that when things are happening too fast.
Don't take risks. Sure, we all like an occasional adrenaline rush, but it's mighty hard to practice your riding skills with your leg in a cast. And if your horse breaks his leg, you'll probably have to witness the death of your four-legged best friend.
Keep in touch - and I'll try to do the same. Between the two of us, maybe we'll find a way to put together an on-line riding lesson. I'll also ask around to see if I can find a good flesh-and-blood teacher in the Twin Cities.
By the way, are you interested in learning Western-style or English riding?
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