Improve Your Riding

9 Rookie Mistakes Equestrian Newbs Make

Dear Newb,

We all have been there as riders, at some point you will make a mistake, actually you will probably make quite a few. To help you recognize some common rookie mistakes equestrian newbs make I have compiled a list with ways to fix these mistakes. Just remember we all make mistakes, the important thing is that you learn from them. Now this is not a list of every mistake a beginner rider can make, just some I have encountered in the past. If you know of more mistakes please feel free to write it below in the comments.

Mistake 1# Tack not checked over before mounting. This can be a safety hazard. You want to make sure all the tack is in good condition and fits the horse. You want to make sure all the buckles are done up and the bit is in the horses mouth correctly if your horse uses a bit. Make sure you check the girth, most likely you will have to tighten it another time, because many horses bloat their stomachs. If you neglect tightening the girth a second time before you mount, the saddle may slide to the side while mounting or later while you are riding.

 Mistake 2# Giving the horse Conflicting signals. For example putting pressure on both reins asking the horse to slow down or stop, while gripping with legs telling the horse to go forward. This confuses the horse and the horse may react by rushing forward or stopping all together. You must be clear and concise with your signals. You may be giving conflicting signals, from being tense and nervous or losing your balance. If you have real difficulty with this you may benefit from lunge lessons to focus on your balance and position, without the added stress of controlling the horse.

Mistake 3# Riding on the balls of your feet. This brings your center of gravity upward and creates an insecure lower leg. Instead of standing on the balls of your feet, use the inside of your legs lightly against the horses sides. Let your weight and center of gravity lower into your heels with elastic springy ankles. Standing in the saddle then relaxing in your ankles and lowering your heels is a good exercise to help. You will feel pressure on the balls of your feet in the stirrups but the weight should transfer more to your heels.

Mistake 4# Pushing heels down and whole leg forward. This will cause you to be off balance and behind the motion. In the posting trot you may feel like you are falling backwards and dropping heavily into the saddle. Instead you want to balance your feet under your body. I have experienced this problem before and I found that standing in the saddle, forced me to find the correct leg position. I noticed a significant difference in my riding after practicing keeping my feet under my hips. 

Mistake 5# Double bouncing in the posting trot. This is a common problem that riders have when they are first learning the posting trot. While teaching lessons I have found a couple reasons why this happens to some people. The main underlying reason is the rider is out of rhythm with the horse. The rider may not be staying out of the saddle long enough, or they may be sitting too long, or they may be out of sync or lastly the rider may not be letting the horses bounce lift him out of the saddle.

Mistake 6# Instinctively going into fetal position when rider has lost their balance. This is a natural instinct when we feel like we are going to get hurt or fall off, because we want to protect ourselves. You have to fight this instinct when you ride and reprogram your mind. When all goes wrong, sit tall and heels down. It is better to lean too far back than ball up. However if you are falling off balling up and rolling is probably the better way to go.

Mistake 7# Looking down and leaning forward to look at horse or hands. This happens often when we are trying to figure out what to do with our hands we may look at the reins or the horses head to see where the horse is looking. When you look down and your head is in front of your shoulders that is a good ten pounds putting you off balance. You may feel like you are falling forward. Not only does this put you off balance but you are not paying attention to your surroundings. Keep your ear lined up over your shoulders and be aware of your surroundings through your peripheral vision, looking ahead where you want your horse to go.

Mistake 8# Hands moving up and down with rigid elbows and arms. I see this happen a lot when people are learning to trot. They are so focused on the rhythm going up and down and trying to stay balanced that they down notice their arms flapping around or going up and down with them. This can upset the horse, confuse him and even hurt his mouth, because your hands holding the reins are attached the the metal bit inside the horses mouth. You want to have steady hands that are clear with the signals. To help you keep your hands still think of keeping your hands down as you rise. An exercise at home you can do: Put your fists against the wall and squat down, never move your hands from the spot of the wall as you go up and down. This is how your hands should be when you ride and you want to keep them still.

Mistake 9# Holding your breathe. This happens when you are excited or nervous or just not thinking about it.  If needed sing a song.

Cheers and God Bless!


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