Teaching a beginner to ride a horse
Remember, teaching a beginner means teaching the basics. Early training needs to be kept simple, concise and fun. You want to encourage inexperienced riders to develop a real appreciation for the activity, not put them off at the first hurdle. Cast your mind back to the mix of anticipation and fear that you felt on your first lesson as the trainer offered advice; the most important talent for any trainer teaching a novice is the ability to make the beginner rider feel at ease as they develop their skills. Yes, it can be frustrating if constant instruction is needed, but it’s unlikely the rider will want to continue listening to your advice if they feel under unmerited pressure.
The key skills you’ll need to transmit to the beginner rider are the importance of mastering balance on the saddle, the art of riding itself (shifting of gaits etc), and most crucially, the significance of instilling good discipline and exercising control over the horse. You’ll also need to discuss with the beginner rider the horse’s body structure and the riding positions needed to ensure a horse feels no pain when you head out riding.
Before a lesson begins, encourage the beginner rider to assist you with leading the horse out into the paddock. This will help the rider and horse build an affinity before the lesson has even begun. Introducing techniques such as catching and haltering at an early stage will help the rider gain an insight into just how important leadership is in commanding the horse’s respect and attention. Get the student standing in the correct position with the lead rope and guide them towards the paddock, only intervening if the horse shows any reluctance to obey.
A little grooming out in the paddock may help to take some of the tension out of proceedings. While a beginner will naturally be excited to start learning, they may also have some nerves about how the horse will react to them. A short grooming session will not only allow you to educate a beginner rider on the importance of the grooming process – it’ll also calm both the nerves of the student before they mount and place the horse in a relaxed mood that will hopefully set the tone for the lesson itself.
Next, help the student to mount the horse (talking them through the correct way to both mount and dismount), sit them in a comfortable position, and explain the functions of the saddle and bridle. While you will need to do most of the tacking up for the first few lessons, help the rider become familiarised with the process by asking them to check the fit and whether the horse is comfortable.
Any beginner horse riding lesson needs to include a few simple walking and stopping exercise. Explain the concept of spooking to the rider so they realise the importance of staying calm and not frightening the horse should they feel a little nervous and unsteady at first. Demonstrate basic techniques such as holding the reins correctly, the pressure needed to squeeze the horse’s legs to spur movement, stopping, and how to turn from side to side.
The first lesson needs to be focused on balance, so don’t introduce more advanced techniques until the rider feels completely comfortable and in control moving around on the horse.
- Finally, once the lesson has finished, advise your fledgling rider on the essential steps they will need to take once the horse has returned to the stable. Teach them how to warm down the horse, dismount safely, and once down from the horse, how to remove and store essential tack. Get the rider to check the horse’s condition, carrying out grooming as necessary. This will help a novice to appreciate that equine maintenance is just as important as the horse riding process itself.
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