How to Ride a Horse

SPRINGFIELD — It takes a lot of time, training and experience to become a competent horse rider.
One of the most important things to remember when riding a horse is to remain calm.
“The horse is naturally a flight animal. That’s how he has survived in the world, so if something startles him, his first reaction is to leave,” said Sue Webb, senior instructor of agriculture at Missouri State University. “As long as you stay balanced on the horse and relax, the distress will get over rapidly. But if you get nervous, he will get more nervous.”
Before riding, it is essential for a rider to groom, saddle and bridle the horse properly.
To mount the horse, follow these steps:
Check that your stirrup length is correct – measure it against your arm’s length to get a good estimate
Ensure the girth is still snug
Hold the reins with your left hand and grab the front of the saddle with your right hand
Put your left foot in the stirrup, push off and over the saddle, and sit down softly
“One of the main reasons horses leave when you’re getting on is because you land really hard on their back. That doesn’t feel good,” Webb explained.
She advises riders to mount a horse using a mounting block to put less pressure on its back.
The ideal riding position is over the horse’s center balance, where your ear, shoulder, hip and heel are in line.
“Riding a horse is like standing with a 1,200-pound horse underneath you,” Webb said. “So put your feet wide enough to support your weight, bend your knees and you’re now riding without the horse.”
To communicate with a horse, use the reins, your voice and body language, and apply pressure with your legs.
“If you want the horse to move, look where you want to go, open the door for the horse to move and squeeze with your legs to ask him to move forward,” Webb said. “If he ignores that, bump him a little harder.”
To ask the horse to stop, relax, sit deeply in the saddle and drop your weight into your heels.
“If that doesn’t do it, say ‘Whoa’ or pull back on the reins gently,” Webb said.
Missouri State offers several riding classes for credit through the animal science department. There is also an equine studies minor that covers how to care for, properly train and ride horses.
For more information, contact Webb at 417-837-2501.