Ever since horses were domesticated in Europe in ancient times, horseback riding has been an enjoyable and exhilarating pass time. The sport can be enjoyed by almost anyone and provides physical benefits as well as psychological benefits along with the advantage of mental stress-relief.
Riders can improve muscle tone and increase their coordination as they learn to adjust their body weight to stay upright on the horse. Mentally, the link felt by connecting with an equine in the open air of nature increases one's mood. Plus, riding a horse is just plain fun and evokes a sense of adventure.
For those new to the sport, the equipment, rules, and logistics might be a little overwhelming. From different riding styles to attire requirements, there is a great amount of knowledge involved with learning to become an equestrian. Here are answers to some of the most popular questions to help a novice get started.
The 6 Important Questions
1. What is the Difference Between English and Western Horseback Riding?
A. Western riding is ideal for beginners to the sport as the saddle is wider to allow the weight of the rider to be more evenly distributed across the horses back. The Western saddle also includes a raised cantle with a horn, or a small knob at the front part of the saddle, which gives beginning riders a sense of security that might be comforting.
English saddles are lighter and do not include the front cantle. In English riding, the rider must post in the saddle to go at speeds higher than a trot, requiring more physical endurance and coordination.
2. Is There a Weight Limit for Horseback Riding?
A. A general rule of thumb is that a horse should be limited to carrying no more than 20% of his weight. Therefore, most stables have a maximum weight limit of approximately 200 lbs. Larger horses are often available to carry those individuals that are above the weight limit and wish to ride.
3. What is the Age Limit for Horse Riding?
A. There is no set age limit for horseback riding. Children who are coordinated enough to stay upright in the saddle and mature enough to follow directions can do well learning to ride a horse. Most stables require a child to be at least nine years old, and any under twelve to wear a helmet during a ride. For the maximum age, any adult adept enough to mount a horse and lift a saddle on their own should be physically fit enough to ride.
4. What Equipment and Attire are Needed to Go Horseback Riding?
A. A stable will generally provide all of the equipment, called the tack, needed to go riding. Such tack includes a saddle with stirrups, girth, saddle blanket, and bridle with a bit and reins. Riders should always wear secure, closed-toe shoes and comfortable clothing. Pants are recommended to prevent chafing of the legs during long rides.
5. Is Horseback Riding Dangerous?
A. While horseback riding itself is not dangerous, falling off of a horse while horseback riding is. With proper precautions, most casual riders will never experience a fall. Cautious riders and those learning more advanced riding techniques should wear a helmet to protect their head in case of a fall.
6. How Do You Take Care of a Horse Before and After a Ride?
A. Prior to saddling, a horse should be brushed to ensure there are no burs or other irritants in their fur that could become sore during a ride. The hooves should be clean and free of any rocks or debris. The saddle and bridle are then added to the horse to prepare for riding.
After the ride is over, a horse should be properly unsaddled and cooled down. Horses that have sweated abundantly or that ran a great deal will be walked for at least fifteen minutes amount to ensure they are cooled off prior to being fed or returned to the stable.