green trails alliance logo


Walking Cycling Horseback Riding Snowshoeing Cross Country Skiing Hiking Inline Skating and Rollerblading Jogging and Running

Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and one of the best things about it is that it's never too late to learn to ride. Owning a horse can be a costly proposition, but if you're not ready for that kind of commitment, you can still enjoy many of the pleasures of horsemanship through riding instruction and organized trail-riding through one of your local stables.

Most trainers advise that a private lesson is the best way to begin learning. Just as with tennis, golf or other sports, the individualized attention afforded in a private lesson is likely to provide the most effective kind of learning. Once you've gotten comfortable on the horse and with basic riding techniques, you may want to move on to group lessons, which allow for peer interaction and which may offer more fun, especially for children.

Styles of Riding

There are two basic styles of horseback riding: English and Western. Pleasure and trail-riding are often done Western-style. Many people find Western-style saddles a bit more stable, and they provide more to hold on to (i.e., the saddle horn and rear swell) in the event that the horse becomes spooked. Most experts recommend that beginners initially learn to ride English-style since it emphasizes balance and provides a stronger foundation with a range of riding techniques. The English saddle is lighter and more streamlined than the Western style.

Riding Attire

Learning to ride can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, but it requires a number of safety considerations. One safety-related factor to consider is proper riding attire. Before you go out on the trail, make certain you have the proper clothing.

The most important safety item is a riding helmet. All stables require the use of helmets and most provide them with horse rental. If you decide to take up riding as a serious endeavor, you'll want to purchase your own helmet. Long pants are important as they provide a barrier between you and the horse; jeans are ideal. A long-sleeved shirt is a good idea also.

Wear a sturdy boot of some kind. Boots with a heel prevent your foot from slipping through the stirrup, and boots are safer that lightweight shoes or sneakers when you're around horses and stables

Trail-Riding Safety

Riding in a ring is a great place to learn, but sooner or later you'll want to get out onto a trail. Keep in mind that trail riding is different from riding in a ring because you're not in a controlled environment. Remember that horses can be readily frightened by loud noises or abrupt motion. In their natural evolution, horses are prey animals, and they tend to run away from danger rather than confront it. Once a horse becomes panicked, it may be difficult to get it to stop running. Avoid situations that could startle or spook your horse.

Here are a few other safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Children should always wear a helmet when trail riding.
  • When going out on a trail, always let someone know where you're going.
  • It's a good idea to carry a cell phone in case of an emergency.
  • When riding in a group, always keep a distance from the other horses. The one in front of you should be one horse's length away.
  • At the end of your ride, your horse will be hot. Walk the last part home to give him a chance to cool down. Stabling a horse before he's had a chance to cool down can be harmful to him.