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Cheat Sheet

Horseback Riding For Dummies

From Horseback Riding For Dummies by Audrey Pavia [with Shannon Sand]

Before you saddle up and go horseback riding, do a few stretches and check your tack to stay comfortable and safe while riding. Learn the basic steps for mounting either a Western or English saddle carefully and for dismounting your horse.

Stretching before Riding a Horse

Taking a few minutes to stretch before you go horseback riding will help you move more freely with the horse, lessen the possibility of injury and lower the odds of being sore afterwards. Leave yourself 5 to 10 minutes to perform the following exercises before you mount:

  • Quad stretch: Stand up straight. Keeping your back straight, bend a leg up behind you and take hold of your ankle; slowly pull it so your knee points down and out behind you. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds and then switch to the other leg. Stretch each leg twice.

  • Hamstring stretch: Stand up in front of a fence and use your hand to brace yourself forward as you reach your leg up onto the fence, as high as you can go. Bend forward at the waist and hold this position for 10 seconds. Stretch each leg twice.

  • *Inner thigh stretch: Sit on the ground with your knees bent out to the sides and the soles of your feet touching each other. Relax your hips and then push down gently on both knees with your hands. Hold 10 seconds. Repeat.

  • Lower back stretch: Lie on your back with your knees to your chest. Wrap your arms around your legs just below your knees and pull your knees toward you. Hold this position for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

  • Neck stretch: Tilt your head slowly first to the right (your ear toward your shoulder) and then to the left. Tuck your chin forward into your chest and then back up toward the sky. Then turn your head as far to the right as you can while keeping your shoulders straight. Do the same to the left. Follow this routine several times, holding each position for at least 5 seconds.

Checking Your Tack before Saddling Up

Before you mount a horse, do a quick check of your tack to ensure everything is in good working order and attached to the horse properly. To stay safe in the saddle take a look at the following details:

  • Examine the bridle to make sure all the buckles and screws are securely fastened and that the leather isn’t unduly worn.

  • Examine the cinch (on a Western saddle) or girth (on an English saddle) to make sure the leather isn’t worn and prone to breaking under pressure and that knots and buckles are securely fastened. Also ensure your cinch or girth is snug.

  • For Western saddles, inspect the stirrup buckle to make sure it’s not loose. On English saddles, make sure the stirrup leathers are securely buckled and positioned on the stirrup bar.

Western Mounting for Horse Riders

Because there’s more to hold onto with a Western saddle and riders wear longer stirrups, mounting in a Western saddle is easier than mounting in an English one. Follow these steps to mount Western-style:

  1. Lead your horse to the area where you want to mount.

  2. Position yourself and stay in control of the horse.

    Place the reins over your horse’s head, maintaining your grip on the reins. Stand at the horse’s left shoulder, facing the back of the horse. The reins should be in your left hand (and should stay there during and after your mount). With the same hand, grab hold of the saddle horn.

  3. Using your right hand, grasp the stirrup and turn it toward you; place your left foot in the stirrup.

  4. Swing into the saddle.

    Turn your body toward the horse as you grasp the cantle with your right hand. Bounce on your right foot three times and then launch yourself up, letting go of the cantle as your leg swings over it. (Use power from your legs to push your body upward, minimizing how much you pull up your weight with your arms.) Swing your right leg over the horse’s hindquarters, being careful not to touch them, and land gently in the saddle.

  5. Place your right foot in the stirrup and gather up the reins.

Mounting in an English Saddle

Mounting in an English saddle is a bit more difficult than a Western saddle. Try using a mounting block or higher ground to stand when hoisting yourself into the saddle. To mount English style, follow these steps:

  1. Lead your horse to the area where you want to mount; step up on a mounting block if possible.

  2. Position yourself and stay in control of the horse.

    Place the reins over your horse’s head and rest them on her neck. Stand at the horse’s left shoulder, facing the back of the horse. The reins should be in your left hand. Grab a handful of mane at the base of the horse’s neck with the same hand.

  3. Using your right hand, grasp the outside of the stirrup iron and turn the iron toward you; place your left foot in the stirrup.

  4. Swing into the saddle.

    Turn your body toward the horse as you grasp the cantle with your right hand. Bounce on your right foot two or three times and then launch yourself up into the air. (Use the power from your legs to push your body upward.) Swing your right leg over the horse’s hindquarters, being careful not to touch them, and land gently in the saddle.

  5. Place your right foot in the stirrup and gather up your reins.

How to Dismount a Horse

When you finish your ride, it’s time to dismount the horse. To stay safe, you need to find a secure place to get off of your horse and dismount correctly. Dismounting is much easier than mounting because you don’t have to battle gravity but you still need to follow these guidelines carefully:

  1. Bring your horse to a complete stop.

  2. Take your right foot out of the stirrup, hold the reins in your left hand, and position your hands.

    In Western, grasp the saddle horn with your left hand. In English, grasp the horse’s mane at the base of the neck with your left hand and put your right hand on the pommel.

  3. Swing your right leg over the horse’s hindquarters — being careful not to touch the horse as you do — and at the same time, move your right hand to the cantle.

    In Western, also move the left hand, while still holding the reins, to the pommel.

  4. Turn so your stomach is against the side of the saddle and your legs are next to each other; remove your left foot from the stirrup.

  5. Slowly slide down until your feet are touching the ground.

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