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Animals

How to ride a horse; horseback riding

Mounting; the English and Western seats; controlling the horse; posting the trot. Learn to ride at a reputable riding school where you’ll be mounted on a horse suited to your skills. Wear strong boots or shoes with heels and smooth soles, and a hard hat when it’s required. If possible, spend time grooming and leading your horse before mounting. In general, don’t approach a horse from the rear.

Mounting a horse 

Always mount from the horse’s left side. Stand beside its shoulder, facing its rear. Grasp the reins and a lock of mane in your left hand. With your right hand, turn the stirrup iron toward you; insert your left toe. Holding the cantle with your right hand, spring up from your right foot. Balance a moment on the stirrup, then swing your right leg over the horse’s back. Settle gently into the saddle; put your right foot in its stirrup. Reverse the procedure to dismount. The English-style basic seat The all-purpose basic, or balance, seat can be adapted for dressage, hunting, jumping, and hacking (trail riding).

Keep your weight balanced over the horse’s center of gravity. Sit erect, but relaxed, in the deepest part of the saddle, head up, eyes forward. With your legs hanging straight, the bottom of the stirrup irons should touch your ankles. Place the ball of each foot on the stirrup treads, heels down, toes pointing out slightly. Hold your lower legs back so that your ears, shoulders, and heels are aligned; your knees and toes should be on a line in front of the stirrup leathers. Keep the inside of your upper calves, knees, and thighs against the saddle. Hold the reins in both hands, just above and on either side of the withers. Keep in contact with the horse’s mouth through firmly held, not tight, reins. The Western seat In this seat, used for ranch work and trail riding, body placement is the same as in English style. The look is more relaxed, but still erect. Because the Western saddle’s stirrup leathers are longer, you sit almost straight legged. Hold both reins in one hand, just above and in front of the horn; rest the other hand on your thigh. Maintain light rein contact with the horse’s mouth.

Controlling the horse
Use your hands, legs, voice, and, in English style, your weight to communicate with the horse. The Western rider remains centered in the saddle, without shifting his weight.

• start a horse or to increase its pace, tighten the reins briefly to get its attention, then slacken them as you lean forward slightly (in English style) and squeeze its sides with your legs. Release pressure when the desired pace is reached.

• turn right, English style, pull steadily back on the right rein while slackening the left; apply pressure to the horse with the inside of your left leg. Reverse the procedure to turn left. Western horses are neck-reined, not direct-reined as in the English style. To turn right, move your hand horizontally to the right, touching the horse’s neck with the reins. Apply pressure with your left leg.

• stop, or slow your pace, pullback slightly on the reins, while (in English style) shifting your weight back and down in the saddle. Posting the trot

At the walk, keep your body vertical and let your hands be pulled naturally back and forth by the horse’s neck action. At the faster trot, the horse lifts one, then the other, diagonal pair of legs.

To counteract this gait’s bounce, the English rider posts, or rises out of the saddle, when one diagonal pair of legs is lifted, and returns to the saddle when the other pair is lifted. Lean forward and push down on the stirrups, straightening your knees just enough for your seat to clear the saddle. Come down immediately, then go up again.

In Western riding you never lose contact with the saddle seat. To “sit” the jog (a slow trot), relax your lower back and leg muscles and push down into the saddle with the downward movement of the horse.