Getting started in English riding


English riding is a bit like playing the piano. It is difficult to master, but doing so gives you solid technique and makes all other forms of riding easier. People all across the globe ride English style, and it is so popular that many fashion houses have used English riding attire as inspiration for various collections.

Since English riding is so widespread, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a local instructor. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

“English riding focuses on posture, balance and coordination.”

The difference between English and Western
In a way, the main difference between English and Western riding comes down to a perceived formality. English riding focuses on posture, balance and coordination, and training a horse to obey the rider’s commands. Both hands are used to hold the horse’s reins and direct him or her. Western riding is a little more relaxed, and some would argue it is a more natural form of riding a horse. Western riders grip the reins in one hand while the other is left free. As the Certified Horsemanship Association noted, riders in the Old West needed a hand available to throw a lasso, lead pack horses, and other tasks. In addition, Western riding incorporates more of the body to direct a horse. Riders use their legs and position in the saddle in addition to the reins as a guide.

English saddles are lighter and much more streamlined than their Western counterparts. According to Livestrong, they’re designed so a horse can move with as little restriction as possible.

Getting started
The first thing to do is to find a good trainer or mentor, advises Horse Listening. Don’t just go with any person who claims to know about riding horses. A proper teacher will make sure you have a good foundation and keep you from making mistakes – or worse, injuring yourself or your horse – later in your riding career. Check out people at local sport events or trade shows – not just instructors, but students, parents, judges and vendors. If they cannot give you the name of a specific instructor, they can at least let you know what to look for and who to avoid. Equine Now has an extensive directory of horseback riding instructors that allows students to sort by state, breed and discipline.

Networking itself is a good reason to establish your presence at local horse events. From these contacts, you will learn more about horse health and care while establishing vital connections and friendships.

“Pair thick, long pants with close-toed shoes and a helmet for your first riding lesson.”

What to bring to your first lesson
If you do not want to invest in full-on riding gear before you have started, wear thick, long pants to your first lesson. Pair those with close-toed shoes that have a slight heel so your feet do not slip out of the stirrups. Always wear a helmet when riding horses. According to Greatist, a bike helmet will do in a pinch, but a proper horse riding helmet is ideal. Contact your stable or instructor to see if they have any to spare. Also, leave scarves, long jewelry and other loose clothing at home so they don’t get tangled in the riding equipment.

Attending your first show
Speaking to CNN, former Harpers columnist Celestria Noel provided some helpful advice for riders and spectators alike.

“Don’t frighten the horses!” she told the publication.

Some horses are easily spooked, and even an umbrella opening too quickly is enough to startle them. New riders should act at events the same way they do at their stable: with great respect for the horses and other enthusiasts.

Overall, English riding is a fun experience that fosters an incredible bond between you and your horse. It shouldn’t be hard to find an instructor, but these tips will make sure your first lesson and show go smoothly.