Everything You Need to Know About Horseback Riding
Horseback Riding: The Dream
Many people become interested in horseback riding at some point or another, and I certainly understand how exciting the horse riding fantasy is. There are countless reasons to get into the sport. Here are just a few:
- The prospect of having an amazing relationship with a 1,000-pound animal
- The dream of becoming an Olympian
- Imagining frolicking in fields alongside your horse
- Wishing you could join "The Saddle Club"
The possibilities are endless! Pushing all that aside, knowing your options and what to expect is vital. Keep reading for a free guide on everything from riding lessons and leasing a horse to buying one and learning to ride it!
Riding Lessons: What's the Cost?
One of the first things you should look at is the price of riding lessons in your area. If you live in a bustling city full of high rises and stores, it's likely the prices will be higher. If you live in a city full of farmland or in the countryside, the prices will probably be cheaper.
I live in the suburbs, and drove 40 minutes to my barn when I was just starting out. It was $160 per month (Canadian) for an hour-long lesson once a week. The lessons were on a lesson horse and were held with a group of two to four riders. If you're prepared to spend this, along with about $200 in equipment (breeches, boots, half chaps, helmet, crop, etc.) you can be confident you can probably afford lessons.
What to Expect During Lessons
Riding lessons are an essential part of being a good rider. From the foundations of riding to safety to mastering a tricky dressage test, lessons help with everything! They're normally anywhere from 45–60 minutes and range from one to four riders depending on if you're in a group or taking private lessons.
Group lessons are a great way to start out, and they can be significantly cheaper than private ones. I found it was nice to take group lessons at the beginning and not have all the focus on me. It's also very beneficial to have other people riding with you so you can learn arena etiquette!
When you first start taking lessons, you'll learn these basics, among others:
- Tacking up
- Asking for the trot and/or canter
- Posting and staying balanced
- Building the right muscles
Once these are learned, you can start working on anything! Lots of riders decide to focus on a certain aspect of riding, whether it be show jumping, dressage, cross country, or others.
Don't be afraid if you have to switch trainers at this point! When I reached this stage, I realized that if I really wanted to focus on showjumping, it would be nice to have a trainer who had lots of expertise in that field. It sucked to leave my old instructor and go somewhere new, but when I found a new barn and trainer, my riding improved a ton!
The Next Step: Leasing a Horse
You've been in horseback riding lessons and enjoyed them but you still want more. You want more of a connection with your horse and more freedom with the drills you do. You want more time riding, but buying a horse is too expensive. Luckily there's a perfect solution!
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to own a horse to ride without being in a lesson or paying per ride. Leasing a horse is a popular and more affordable way to immerse yourself in the world of "owning" a horse. When leasing a horse, one normally agrees to pay a certain fraction of the horse's cost (feed, vet, farrier, etc.) in exchange for the ability to ride the horse.
If you pay half of a horse's expenses, then it is reasonable to expect to be riding 3–4 days a week. If you pay a quarter of a horse's expenses, then you will probably only be able to ride 1–2 times a week. Keep in mind this varies from owner to owner. In some cases, an owner may even allow you to pay a set fee per month instead of a fraction of the horse's cost.
Do you Have the Time?
How Often do you Ride?
Buying a Horse
Have you been steadily leasing a horse and think you're ready to take the big step? Hopefully, a lot of thought and time went into this, because owning a horse is a big commitment. Have you figured out where you'll board? How much it will cost? If you'll be on self board or full board? These are all things to think through first. If you've thought about it and are still confident you're ready, then here comes the fun part!
An important thing to remember at this stage is "a good horse has no bad colour." This means you should not refuse to look at (or buy) a horse based on its colour. If the horse is perfect for you, their colour will quickly become your favourite, and you'll wonder why you ever disliked it.
Below are some good things to do when starting to search for a horse:
- See if anyone at your barn is selling a horse.
- Search on helpful websites like EquineNow.
- Work out a deal with your trainer. Getting them to look at a horse or two with you is a really good idea. Most trainers are willing to do this for a price, and it's definitely worth it!
- Decide on your budget. I'd say a reasonable price range for people looking for their first horse would be $1,000–4,000
- Know what breed and approximate height you're looking for.
- Know the qualifications your horse has to have (eg., If you want to show in the jumpers, they have to be able to jump).
- Decide on the youngest and oldest age of horse you'd be willing to consider.
When you've found a horse that piques your interest, you can make an appointment to meet the horse and try riding them. You should also be aware that some people use calming paste on their horse when you go to meet them, so you should keep your eye out for any tubes of calming paste or drugs. If it looks like no drugs have been used, make sure to catch the horse yourself to make sure they're not too difficult and tack up yourself for the same reason.
If you're not comfortable with riding the horse anymore, don't feel pressured. You can always ask the seller to ride them first to make sure they're safe. Always get a vet check on a horse before purchasing, it's worth the money!
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Help for New Riders!
For new equestrians reading this, the video below will be very helpful for you! It's a really good idea to try to correct (or avoid) common mistakes before your lessons so you can make the most of your lesson time.