Do your research and identify opportunities for horseback riding in your area.
At first glance, it might not seem like “research” is the proper word for horseback riding, but the horse world has many nuances you don’t see from the outside.
If you have never ridden a horse before then you’ll definitely want to search for “trail riding stables/barns”, which are also called “hack stables” in horse jargon. A “hack” is a horse that is used to walking along in a single file line and “following the leader”, which is perfect for a guided horseback ride where you needn’t have horsemanship skills. Hack riding is often referred to as “light exercise”. This is what we offer at Mountain Creek Riding Stables because it leads to docile horses giving safe horse rides for beginners who don’t know what they’re doing but still want to enjoy the activity. Our horseback rides are a pretty standard length too— 45 minutes is JUST enough to feel like a long horse ride without being too long and leaving people super sore (see tip #3 below). We’ve been in the guided horseback riding business a long time and cater to people who have never even seen a horse before, so that speaks to the worth of properly done trail rides!
Of course, if you’ve ridden a horse a few times or if you are more serious about getting into the art and sport of horsemanship then maybe go for a ride at a hack stable, sure, but you’ll quickly need to look into lesson barns. These barns are specifically targeted at people who want to grow their horsemanship rapidly and offer instructors that can get you into all sorts of horse-related activities, with two of the most popular being barrel racing and dressage.
One last thing: “boarding barns” are places that allow you to keep a horse on their property if you don’t have space for them yourself. These stables are for horse owners, of course, though some boarding barns also offer lessons, but generally, a beginner horse rider will not want to reach out to a boarding barn.
Dress in proper, comfortable attire.
In general, for basic horse riding, you just need to have pants (so you don’t chafe on the saddle), secure shoes that cover the toes (no flip flops, no sandals even if they have a back, and definitely no heels), and a shirt that is comfy but not too big (don’t want it to get caught on anything).
Everything else for horseback riding is weather dependent: sunglasses, hats, bug spray, a raincoat (but no ponchos, they scare the horses!), and of course in the winter gloves, jackets, scarves… check the weather before you go out, most stables ride rain or shine!
One other very important item is a helmet. While most horse riding stables make them optional, they are highly, highly recommended for beginner horseback riders.
Be confident and ensure you have good posture
When riding horseback you engage your lower back, abs, and most importantly your legs, to maintain balance atop the horse. The saddle will assist in this and gives a wider area for one to sit. But it is through your own power that you stay on, by engaging your core and squeezing the horse with your legs. This of course is made much easier if you sit with proper posture, so straighten that back!
Of course, you may think “But horses! I’ve never ridden!”…. and it’s alright! The main thing is to stay confident and calm. If you get anxious you’ll make the horse anxious and, more importantly, you’ll be more likely to react to something poorly. This is one of the most important tips for beginner horseback riders— stay calm!
Stay hydrated and eat properly, even though it looks easy, horseback riding is a very active sport!
Horseback riding is a physical activity, remember you’re engaging muscles to stay balanced in the saddle. As with any physical activity, it is very important to stay hydrated. You’ll be doing exercise that you’re not used to and be out in nature, so ESPECIALLY if it’s sunny make sure to drink water (though not too much, they don’t have bathrooms out in the woods!).
If you’re participating in one of the more advanced horsemanship activities like barrel racing, dressage, or going for a long horse ride (some barns offer 5-9 hour rides, even overnight trips) then you’ll ABSOLUTELY need to plan as though you’re doing a serious workout… because it is! Horseback riding of that caliber will keep you fit if done often enough but like every other workout plan, it’s important to treat your body right by eating well and staying hydrated!