Horseback riding for recreation, or even as an Olympic equestrian, requires dedicated horse training!
Modern horse training techniques are based on natural horsemanship.The foundation of this type of horse training is the building of friendship and trust; often developing a bond between you and your horse
Using natural horsemanship is a slow and gentle method of training and handling. It is based on a relationship of respect and trust. This method of horse training is also known as ‘gentle breaking’. It contrasts with the earlier horse training methods, known as ‘rough breaking’, that are often depicted as part of the old west.
The basics of how to train a horse, as well as handle a horse, using natural horsemanship starts when a horse is just a foal. But it takes waiting until a horse is two to three years old before it is old enough that is can be ridden. So if you are a beginning equestrian interested in learning about horse riding, you may want to purchase a horse that is either fully trained, or a younger horse that is just partially broken. A fully trained horse will let you focus on practicing your horsemanship. A younger, partially broken horse, will give you the opportunity to practice and hone your horse training and handling skills.
Below are the basics of how to train a horse and handle a horse:
Halter and Lead Training
Horses should be trained as foals to wear a halter. Practice leading your horse with a halter and lead rope. When you are leading, the horse’s shoulder should be next to your shoulder. Your horse should stop when you stop and walk when you walk. Practice turning your horse in both directions.
Brushing and Handling
Horses should be brushed and touched all over their body so that they become comfortable with this. Practice picking up your horse’s feet so that you can pick up his feet when its necessary. This will help when it comes time for shoeing. Hold his feet up for a few seconds at first and then start increasing the time you hold them. Teach your horse to move away from pressure, so when you push on his side, he moves over. This will help when you begin to ride him.
Horse Training from the Ground – Longeing
Longeing, also called lungeing, is a ground training technique. It is useful to teach your horse longeing, because you can exercise him this way this way. However, do not do this until your horse is old enough to be ridden and never excessively. Longeing can be used as a horse training technique and also used to expel some of the horse’s extra energy before riding.
You start by teaching the horse to move around you in a circle. The long rope or longeing line acts like the reins do when you ride, and a longeing whip acts like your legs to drive the horse forward. You never want to let the horse come into the center of the circle toward you, so if he starts turning in, push him back out with your body language and the whip. Practice having him stop on the circle and change gaits between walk, trot, and canter. Be careful not to work him too hard on the lounge, because working on a circle is hard on his joints and tendons.
Saddle and Bridle Training
At three years old a horse is usually developed enough to begin being ridden. They must first be accustomed to having a saddle on their backs. Start with placing a saddle pad and then try a saddle. When you try fastening the girth, make sure it is very loose. Keep doing this over several days until you get the girth tight enough to ride. You must also accustom the horse to the bridle and having a bit in his mouth.
Horse Riding – First Steps
Once the horse is accustomed to the equipment, you can try putting your weight on his back by putting a foot in the stirrup or lying across his back. If he is comfortable with this, you can try swinging your leg over and sitting on his back. During this first steps, make sure you are not pushing the horse too fast. It may take weeks before he is comfortable with you sitting on his back.
Once you are riding, you must teach the horse to listen to simple commands. Teach him to stop when you pull back on the reins gently and hold your seat still. Teach him to move forward when you squeeze him with your legs and to move away from your leg. So if you want him to move to the left, you will squeeze him with your right leg.
These are the very basics of horse handling and horse riding. Learning to ride well takes a lot of practice over many years. Find a riding instructor in your area to start taking lessons from. You can ride Western or English style, and there are so many other riding disciplines you can learn such as cutting, gymkhana, eventing, dressage, and show jumping.