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13 Tips New Riders Must Know

Tips, tricks and lessons every horse rider needs to know before ever mounting and riding a horse. Learn BEFORE you take horseback riding lessons.

Produced and published by Charlie Hicks

If you need horse training information that addresses how to control, train and overcome your horse’s problems like bucking, rearing, running away, biting, etc. then go to our sister website for all your training needs:

Copyright 2009 and beyond Charlie Hicks – All Rights Reserved

13 Important Tips Every Beginner Horse Rider Needs To Know

Perhaps you are like so many others before you…. You have been interested in horses for a long time, you’ve always wanted to learn or have been around horses some and want to learn all you can about them. You dream of having your own horse sometime and want to learn as much as you can before you get too serious about it!

Riding horses is like no other sport. You see, if you play golf, tennis, swim, jog, play football or basketball, lift weights…. whatever it is, except for some team interaction, how well you do is pretty much determined by what YOU can do physically. How much speed, strength, finesse, coordination, etc. you can develop determines how well you’ll do.

However, in the horse world, your success is determined by how well you can control a 1,000 pound animal that has superior strength, is faster and has a better developed nervous system than you. The way you overcome these strengths in a horse is to understand what the horse’s limitations are.

Understanding the horse’s body, what makes him tick and how the horse’s brain works is the key to controlling them. If you don’t figure this out and understand them then you’ll constantly be fighting them the whole time and your experience will go sour.

So here’s the 13 Tips, in no special order:

1. Just like you and me, horses have various dispositions. Dogs do as well. Some are real friendly, cuddly, happy, and quiet and peaceful. Others are high- strung, sometime mean, high-energy, etc. Learning how to handle these different dispositions in horses is important – especially for those who handle the more spirited horses. Think of the difference between an old sway-back trail horse who hauls kids on rides all day long versus a race horse. They are completely different animals on the surface and require different handling.

So, what’s this mean for you? If you’re looking for that first horse, or are going to start taking lessons, you probably don’t want a real high-spirited, high-energy horse to start with. It could get very frightening!

2. You must understand that a horse cannot reason. You see, you and I can reason – that is, we can take in multiple senses, compare it to things we’ve seen before and figure out or reason how to handle the situation. We have the ability to look at complex things and understand and figure them out. Let me give you one example: We see a toddler playing in the street. Next - we look up and see a car coming down the street at a high rate of speed. We know that the toddler is in danger of getting hit and can REASON that if the car does not stop or the toddler does not move then the toddler will get run over. Beyond that, we REASON that to save the toddler we must take action – either to stop the car or run to take the toddler out of the street before the car hits him. We can figure out the effect the situation will have by taking in multiple facts, observe, deduce and reason.

The horse, on the other hand, has no idea the toddler would be in danger. The horse can only react to things it has experienced before. And, the horse’s natural reaction to threats is to run (unless cornered) or shy. The fact is that a horse learns by experiences and, when confronted with the same situation, remembers it. So, if a horse sees something and recognizes it – if the experience was favorable then he probably won’t be afraid. However, if the experience was negative or painful, he’ll try to get away from it. Remember this when trying to work with a horse or teach it something. Teaching good habits through repetition is what works with a horse.

3. Horses come in many different breeds. Some breeds have been around for hundreds or thousands of years. Other breeds have been developed for special uses and traits in the last 100 years or less. It is useful to learn something about these different breeds and their characteristics. Lots of breeds have been developed in Europe but many of the most popular breeds have been developed in the USA. A famous example of this is the American Quarter Horse. The Paint is another horse developed in the USA.

There are many sources of information about all the different breeds, their history and uses. And, each breed has it’s faithful followers.

4. Horses require a lot of care. You have to feed and water them, exercise them, give them medicine and shots, board them, etc. Like any other animal, you can’t neglect them. Someone needs to tend to them to keep them healthy. You must learn how to take care of your horse the right way and understand it. You’ll have to get a vet to see the horse, you’ll have to trim the horse’s hooves, groom them, etc. It all takes time and effort. And expense. But at the same time, you’ll be developing a bond with the horse and enjoy learning about him. It can be very special and you can learn to enjoy and look forward to spending time with the horse. What seems like work to some is fun to others.

5. You’ll need to buy tack. “Tack” is a term that is used to describe all the horse stuff like saddles, bridles, horse blankets, bits, combs, brushes, etc. If you’re just learning and using someone else’s horse you’ll probably use their saddles and bridles. But when you get your first horse you’ll need a saddle and pad or blanket, a bridle and reins with or without a bit (there’s many different types), a halter, a lead rope, various combs, brushes, hoof picks, etc. You will also need to buy riding boots or shoes, perhaps riding pants and shirt and many are using helmets to protect their head in the event they are thrown off. Again, all of this can be quite expensive – or you can borrow or buy used items. Find out what others like and buy smart. You could spend a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars. It all depends on your ability to pay for it and what your interest is. Assuming you’ll be riding for years, you’ll probably have many different bridles, halters, ropes and saddles. You’ll trade equipment. It’s never ending. And it’s all fun. You’ll wander through the tack stores and catalogs and enjoy learning and seeing all the different equipment.


Learn your ground work first. Before you ever mount a horse you should get comfortable working with him on the ground. You’ll need to learn to control him – keeping in mind that he probably weighs 10 times more than you! A horse that isn’t trained well can be very dangerous.

Horses, like people, have manners. Some good, some not-so-good. The horse needs to be taught not to crowd you and he must respect your authority. But you must also learn how to handle him and teach him and convey to him what you want him to do.

Some of things you’ll need to learn about handling your horse on the ground is leading your horse, tying your horse with safe knots, longeing your horse (working him on the ground to move a different paces, learning to start and stop him, etc.) and, of course, how to approach your horse when you go to work them whether he is in a stall or out in the pasture – then learning how to put a halter on them.

7. One of the most important things to learn is SAFETY! Riding a horse is probably one of the more dangerous sports around. Hundreds of people get hurt and end up with serious injuries every year. Many, many folks break arms, have dangerous blows to the head, break backs and necks and some even are either killed or end up in a vegetative state after being thrown off, bucked off, stepped on or crowded in a stall.

Safety is not optional. You must learn how to safely handle the horse both from the ground and while mounted in the saddle. Learn all you can about horse safety issues and heed what you learn. Especially learn about a horse crowding you in a confined space such as a stall or against a wall or fence, leading a horse the proper way, how to move around a horse, how to tie a horse and be careful around it, proper use of the tack, etc.

8. Part of the ‘horse culture’ is learning how to speak in horse terms. Go hang out around a horse barn or stable, go to the county or state fairs, go to tack shops – and it’s like learning a whole new language. If you plan on hanging out with other horse enthusiasts then you need to learn the lingo. Get a good book that describes all the different parts of the horse so you know the difference between the withers and the hocks or the fetlock from the poll. Learn about the horse’s hoof, learn how to measure a horse in hands and what that means, learn the colors and know the difference between a bay, chestnut and gray. Learn about the different markings such as a blaze or a star. Learn what a sock, stocking and half cannon is. It’s all part of the uniqueness to each horse type. Our book, “The Beginner’s Guide to Horseback Riding” is a great place to start.

9. Learn and understand their gaits. When you see a horse moving you need to understand and properly describe the proper gait – the way a horse is moving and positioning its legs. For example, there’s a huge difference in a walk, a trot, a canter or a gallop. And there are multiple variations to these. Gaits refer to how the horse picks up and move its feet – one at a time, two at a time, all four feet off the ground at one time, etc. And then there are what is referred to as gaited breeds that have been bred especially for certain types of gaits – a Tennessee Walker for example.

10. You must learn how to “READ” a horse. The horse’s ears and facial expressions will telegraph what they are about to do. Understand this and you’ll understand what it means when they move their ears a certain way. You can quickly tell if a horse is relaxed, afraid, alerted to something or is being very threatening towards you.

Also, paying attention to the horse’s voice will tell you a great deal – neighs, snorts, nickers and squeals – all tell you something about the horse. If he’s afraid he’ll snort. If he is greeted by another friendly horse he’ll nicker, and so on.

11. Horses are herd animals – they need to be with other horses and prefer being with others. Even so, there is still a “pecking order” where there will be a strong leader emerging in the herd. Introduce a new horse into a herd and you’ll quickly find out who is in control. The new horse will have to earn his way into the group and find out where he lands in this order.

Now, insert a human and you’ll find out who is in control. If you can gain the horse’s respect early on then the horse will succumb to your direction and control. If you fail to do this, however, the horse will take charge and he’ll be out of control from your perspective. You need to learn to take control with assertiveness and confidence. That happens when you understand the horse.

12. Horse need to graze. Most of the horse’s day would normally be spent grazing on grass in fields and pastures. Their digestive system is made to constantly take in grasses. While grazing they are also exercising and using their brain. Ideally, you’ll have lots of pasture for your horse to graze. However, so many horses are put in lots or stalls and are very limited in their ability to graze, run and exercise. The next best thing is frequent feedings of hay. It is important to feed them at least twice a day, preferably more. It is important for their digestive system and brain activity.

If you can’t put a horse in an area where he can exercise then you should be sure to take the horse out daily and walk them and turned out to a larger area to move around. If you don’t the horse frequently will express stored-up energy through various vices such as cribbing, pacing, weaving, etc. You must be able to recognize these problems and then take care of your horse’s basic needs.

13. Understand the many disciplines of horse riding. I liken it to car racing: there is Formula 1, stock cars, Indy cars, Baja racers, sprint cars, and many, many more. Horseback riding is no different. Horse lovers have developed all kinds of ways to ride and show horses. First – there’s two basic types of riding: Western and English. Then you can get into all types of specialty riding such as trail riding, barrel racing, jumping, dressage, showmanship, reining, cow classes such as roping and cutting, and on and on. There’s lots of ways to have fun and be expressive with your horse!

So there you have it…. 13 tips to help you get started.

How about a few more bonus items:

- You must prepare yourself to start riding. Besides being a very physical activity, it is a mental one as well. You must learn to overcome any fears. Getting on a horse for the first time can be scary! You can overcome this with the proper understanding, learning and support from others. Remember – there have been thousands before you who have mastered horse riding – and you can too!

- Learn the fundamentals and master them before going onto the more advanced aspects of riding. You MUST get the riding basics down to be successful.

- There are proper ways to get on and off a horse. Learn these before you ever try! You can easily confuse or scare the horse if you do it wrong and you might be in danger if you do it wrong.

- You must learn the basic commands to start and stop a horse. Then learn how to properly rein a horse (turn them) and other ways to queue a horse with your voice and legs.

- Learn how to handle various horse problems such as bucking, rearing, running away, etc. It is very dangerous and scary if you’re away from the barn or stable and your horse decides it wants to run home at break-neck speed and you can’t control him. Many a rider has been thrown off in situations like this.

- And finally – safety, safety, safety. It can’t be repeated enough. You must not allow yourself to be put into an unsafe situation. And you must know how to avoid unsafe situations through proper education.


Feel overwhelmed? It is a lot to learn. But if you take time to study, learn it well and understand what makes horses tick then you’ll be light-years ahead of the general population who thinks they can simply get on a horse and ride into the sunset. Maybe in Hollywood – but it doesn’t happen in real life!

I commend you for choosing to learn ahead of time.

I encourage you to get the book “Horseback Riding: The Complete Beginner’s Guide” at and learn all these things and more. It will truly help you learn all the basics prior to even getting on a horse. You owe to yourself to be well-informed before you step into that stirrup and attempt to take control of a horse that probably weighs over half a ton! If is important you do it safely and with understanding.

All the best with your new endeavor! It is so much fun to go out and ride and have complete control over the horse. It’s a thrill that you’ll be addicted to for the rest of your life! Learn it well. Get started right.

Warm regards,

If you need horse training information that addresses how to control, train and overcome your horse’s problems like bucking, rearing, running away, biting, etc. then go to our website for all your training needs:

Oh- be sure to check out all the horse training videos by professional trainers from all over the country!