In full flight they’re one of the most majestic creatures on the planet. However, behind their majesty and grace, race horses are powerful animals that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But if you can get to grips with this combination of power and beauty, then you’ll find that horse riding has a myriad of physical benefits and the pursuit as a whole can serve as a fantastic way to increase your overall strength and fitness.
Saddling up and riding a horse can be one of the most exhilarating things you can do, but to ensure you don’t put yourself in danger you need to make sure you’ve got the right amount of equipment and knowledge to do things properly. Moreover, you need to know where to find the latest competitions, who the best riders to learn from are and what techniques you can employ to enhance your overall experience.
Although it’s impossible to give you a complete overview of horse riding’s finer points in a single article, we have picked out some of the main things you need to be aware of if you’re considering horse riding as your next fitness pursuit.
Learn to Stay Safe
Before you even think about buying some kit and jumping on a horse you need to be aware of the various safety considerations associated with public riding. Even if your main aim is ride inside a dedicated stable, there may be time when you’re required to ride on the road.
If this is the case then you should also position yourself to the left-hand side of the road and as near to the curb as possible. For novices it’s advised you ride abreast with a more experienced rider and stay on the inside.
Traffic and pedestrians should also be your main concern when riding on the road and each time you want to make a move, regardless of whether it’s left or right, you should start on the left-hand side of the road, bring the horse almost to a stop, and then check your surroundings before signalling your move. Going through this process will ensure both you and your fellow road users are kept safe at all times.
A high-visibility jacket and a helmet should be worn as standard when riding on the road, and all courteous behaviour should be acknowledged with a “thank you gesture”. In the event that the horse becomes agitated while on the road, the best course of action is to gradually bring them to a stop, dismount and give them some time to relax before setting off again.
Get the Right Kit
Once you’ve become comfortable with your horse and know the various ways in which to stay safe in all scenarios, you’ll then need to invest in some equipment. Although horse riding doesn’t have to be extremely expensive, it does pay to purchase good quality equipment so that both you and the horse and as safe and comfortable as possible.
Depending on your level of interest and the amount of money you want to spend, the range of horse riding equipment (tack) is almost endless. However, for every amateur there are certain items you’ll need to purchase before you join a local riding school.
The most important item you’ll need is a helmet. According to the British Horse Society, all hats should be Kite marked and meet the European Standard of safety. To know whether the helmet you’re looking at conforms to these conditions, look out for the stamp: BS EN 1384 on the inside of the helmet.
As well as protecting your head, you’ll also need a long pair of boots with a stiff ankle and flat sole to ensure your legs and ankles are protected. Gloves, a long sleeve shirt and jodhpurs (special riding trousers) are also encouraged as they provide the most comfort and protection.
In your first few riding lessons the school itself will have a range of suitable saddles and bridals, but should you wish to purchase your own in time then it’s wise to ask your instructor for specific tips because each horse/rider combination can require a different set-up.
Immerse Yourself in the Sport
by Paolo Camera
Although the riding school you’ll attend will furnish you with the knowledge you need to ride a horse successfully (such as the commands, caring for your horse, learning the temperament of your horse), it also pays to have knowledge of the industry as a whole.
Learning as much as you can about the horse racing industry, how top jockeys train, when they ride, what they do on race days etc. will not only enhance your overall knowledge of the sport, but accelerate your appreciation of horses in general. Because horses are such powerful creatures, it pays to be educated in every facet of the sport if you want to be as safe and secure as possible.
Naturally, learning from the finest riders in the world is a great way to improve your skills as it gives you a target to aspire to. One industry that has a huge vested interest in horse racing is the betting world. Operators such as Betfair not only sponsor major races and horses, but keep fans up to date with all the latest information from the racing world. Whether it’s stats and results, or the latest injury news from a particular stable, online betting platforms give punters a complete insight into the latest racing antics.
Similarly, racing teams also have a close relationship with betting operators, which means the two parties work in unison to both promote and progress the sport as much as possible. Therefore, if you’re looking to improve your knowledge of horse riding, it pays to go online and check out the latest happenings.
Test Your Newfound Skills
Once you’ve learned the safety basics, bought your equipment and immersed yourself in the world of racing, it’s probably time for you to put your newfound skills to the test with a few amateur competitions. Regardless of your level of experience, there will often be a riding contest for you to take part in.
In fact, although some competitions have implications for future jockeys and athletes, many are simply based on fun and designed to give novice riders a chance to get the maximum enjoyment out of riding.
One of the best organisations for young and inexperienced riders in the UK is Trail Blazers. Known as the only organisation that doesn’t have a joining fee, this company allows riders to compete in a range of different disciplines in an affordable way.
Indeed, through its network of 65 centres across the UK, Trail Blazers allows riders to compete in the following events: dressage, show jumping, showing, working hunter and combined training. Each discipline has a variety of levels and if riders perform well in their local events they have the chance to compete on a national scale.
Improve Your Heath with Horses
Horse riding is a fantastic sport to participate in. Whether you’re looking to get fit and tone up, or you simply want to challenge yourself to something new, horse riding is both challenging and enjoyable. However, if you really want to make the most of it then you’ll need to ensure you’re both informed and protected at all times.
The information in this article should serve as a good starting point for your horse riding exploits, but if you’re looking to become a regular rider, then you should make sure you learn more by visiting one of the schools in your local area.
Photo Credit: eXtensionHorses