Very few experiences in life are as scary yet rewarding as climbing into the saddle for the very first time. I remember feeling so intimidated of the thought of climbing on to such a huge animal; I remember thinking what if he doesn’t want me sitting on him and how will I ever control him if he doesn’t like me? Thankfully I was with two people who were much more experienced riders than me.
The first piece of advice was to keep your cool. How could I keep the horse cool and calm if I couldn't keep my own emotions in check? I had such great teachers though; they reminded me that it is OK to be nervous. Every time I began to get a little anxious, I took a few deep breaths, calmed down and kept going.
The next lesson involved learning what to wear. Always dress for safety. This includes riding boots, comfortable-fitting pants and most importantly, a helmet; helmets save lives so always wear one. Don’t overlook the importance to riding boots. My riding instructors recommended comfortable, pointed-toe boots which would allow me to easily place my foot into the stirrups. Now that I’m all dressed to ride, let’s get the horse ready.
Horses are typically equipped with a bridle, a saddle pad, and a saddle. I was shown how to properly place these pieces of tack on the horse so as to not startle the horse. I don’t see how he could be more nervous than me! I held the horse’s head near the nose and bridled the horse. Ok, my confidence grew a little. Next I placed the saddle pad down and then set the saddle on the horse's back. I was worried I wasn’t doing it right and that the saddle would be uncomfortable but my instructors’ reassurances were encouraging.
Finally I learned how to mount and dismount from the saddle without falling on my face. I let the horse know what I was about to do. This may have been the scariest part. It then took all my courage as I grabbed the reins and positioned the stirrups. I remember thinking “Oh my God, I’m really doing!” as I gripped the saddle and swung my leg over the horse’s back. I then slipped my feet into the stirrups and adjusted the track. I then practiced doing everything in reverse so I could dismount correctly.
Now that you and the horse are all prepared, the only thing left to do is climb into the saddle and head out. I hope you are now as comfortable as I am in the saddle to feel confident on your first horse ride.