Getting out and riding is all about doing something you love and working well with your horse. This is a no judgement zone – riding of any level is excellent and can only lead to better riding.
But below are some common mistakes people make when first riding. Keep an eye on these to make sure they don’t become bad habits in your own riding.

  1. 1. Lifting your hands too high.

This is a common one that comes from wanting to balance yourself. Your instinct will be to lift up your arms. Make sure you keep an even tension on your reins and don’t allow too much to slip through your fingers.

Young riders putting their hands in the air

Well, not quite this high!

  1. 2. Pushing up on your toes.

When first learning to trot, many riders push themselves up with their toes, bringing their centre of gravity too far forward.

Rider with poor heels down position

Keep those heels down

  1. 3. Putting your feet too far into the stirrup.

A common problem – and a natural thing to do. Beginners often wedge their feet as far into the stirrup as possible.
Rider with feet too far in stirrup

  1. 4. Putting all your weight into your butt.

One thing that makes it clear you’re new to riding is that all your weight is being taken by your butt in the saddle and none of it is being taken by your legs and feet. Your feet should carry some of your weight to make riding smoother and more in control.
Horse rider not using their legs

  1. 5. Getting distracted by your horse.

Every rider loves horses, so it’s natural that you’ll want to look at the one you’re on. But new riders can often direct their attention too much towards their horse, without paying proper attention to where they are going.
Horse rider looks at horse

  1. 6. Relying on the reins too much.

A good rider will communicate more through the shifting of their body weight than pulling on the reins. Giving your horse a signal to stop or turn should be accompanied by shifts in your body weight that reflect this.
Pulling at the reins hard

  1. 7. Riding with long reins.

As your horse moves its head, it can tug the reins out of your grip. A good rider matches the rhythm of their horse so the reins aren’t pulled through their hands.
Horse rider with long reins

  1. 8. High knees.

Many riders keep their knees to high, as though they are sitting in a car chair. The feet should be positioned below the body, as though the rider is standing.
Horse rider with knees high and stirrups short

  1. 9. Clamping with your legs.

Good riding is all about working with the horse. New riders sometimes clamp their legs too tightly to their horse, which will make you a less relaxed rider and may affect the horse’s attitude.
Horse rider clamping legs too hard

  1. 10. Grabbing the saddle horn for balance.

When you grab the saddle horn, you lose control of your horse. Staying firmly in the saddle is about staying back, keeping balance, and staying in control. If you feel unbalanced, plant yourself lower into your saddle.

Woman demonstrating forward leaning and grabbing saddle horn

A woman demonstrating incorrect use of saddle horn

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