7 Horseback Riding Mistakes to Avoid when Trail Riding in San Diego

Horseback riding can be a fun experience if you know what you’re doing before you start. Here are horseback riding mistakes rookies in San Diego should avoid.

If you plan to get up close and personal with one of America’s 9.2 million horses anytime soon, please read this first.

When trail riding for the first time, there is a chance you can injure yourself during your first encounter if you don’t have an experienced person with you to guide you. You’ll enjoy the experience so much more if you’re aware of some basic safety guidelines first. 

Whether you’re taking up western or English style riding lessons or going for a casual trail ride in San Diego, there are a few things you should understand when you’re riding a horse. 

These are some of the most common novice horseback riding mistakes we’ve picked up by talking to instructors. 

1. Trying to Hold Onto the Horse 

Let’s face it, horses can be a little intimidating at first. They’re large, powerful animals and when they first move off with you on board, it’s a little unsettling.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to hang on for dear life to steady yourself while the horse is moving. Most horses move away from leg pressure, so gripping with legs of steel will only urge the animal forward faster. 

Likewise grabbing onto the reins with iron fists will hurt and confuse them. Never forget that there’s a living creature’s mouth at the end of those reins. 

The purpose of the reins is to guide the horse, so keep a constant, yet gentle hold on them. Letting your reins slide through your fingers and hang in loops leaves your horse without a clue about where to go. 

Chances are they’ll follow their friends, but if they decide to stop with a mouthful of grass along the way you’ve got problems. If you lose your grip on the reins when the horse shoves it’s head forward, the reins could go over its head, leaving you high and dry. 

2. Balancing With Your Hands

You won’t be able to stay on top of a horse by flailing about with your arms. You’re more likely to overbalance in the process.

When you wave your arms around, you’re also creating unexpected motion in the animal’s peripheral vision. Horses aren’t fond of sudden movements. Avoid yanking on the reins and pulling the horse in multiple directions.

If you feel unsteady, rather than yanking, rest your hands on the front of the saddle and direct your weight down until you get used to the unusual sensation of a moving horse.

It’s your seat that keeps you in rhythm with the horse, not your hands.

3. Slouching

Sinking your weight down doesn’t mean you should round your back in the process. You’ll never see an experienced rider slouching in the saddle.

The reason for this is simple. A straight spine absorbs directional changes more easily and can prevent you from becoming unseated if the horse moves unexpectedly. 

Along with sitting up straight, avoid looking down or to the side. Your head is heavier than you think it is and can cause you to overbalance.

Keeping your head front and center is one of the easiest ways to ensure your horseback riding safety. By all means go ahead and admire the scenery on your trail ride, but try to keep your head level while you’re at it. 

4. Other Leg Issues

The way you position your legs may differ across different styles of riding, but the basic principles are the same.

Standing on your toes while riding is a common beginner’s error, and it can cause you to be imbalanced and possibly topple over forward.

Thrusting your foot right through the stirrup is also a big no-no. In an emergency, you won’t be able to get your foot out of the stirrup.

Some of the worst accidents from horseback riding happen when a rider’s foot goes through the stirrup during a fall. If your horse gets frightened when you fall, you don’t want it to drag you down the road by your foot.

Before setting off, your instructor or guide will give you some safety tips on how to sit comfortably and safely on a horse. Pay attention to these important pointers and try to implement them all through the ride. 

5.  Pulling Your Knees Up

Another common error is sitting on the saddle like you’re perched on a chair and grabbing hold with your knees. You can’t disperse your weight evenly down the sides of your mount if you’re pulling your knees up.

No part of your leg should ever grip tightly onto the horse. Let your legs hang down from the hip and fall into a natural curve straight down and around the horse’s body. Direct your weight down through your ankle towards your heel. 

6. Being a Hero

No matter how many movies you’ve watched or articles you’ve read, you don’t know how to ride a horse until you’ve spent years in the saddle.

Never attempt to ride at high speeds, jump, or go off on your own unless instructed to do so by your trail guide or instructor. Dashing off in a gallop can endanger you and other riders on the trail. 

Don’t pretend you know more than you really do either. Always ask if you’re unsure about anything, and if you’re feeling nervous – speak up.

7. Other Horseback Riding Mistakes

You’ll feel a lot more comfortable and you’ll be safer if you keep a few other pointers in mind. These are:

Dress Wisely

Baggy pants will ride up in the saddle causing your legs to become pinched and bruised during your ride. Rather opt for slim-fitting jeans, thick leggings, or riding pants. 

Sneakers are a no-no for horseback riding as they become stuck in the stirrups more easily. Always wear boots or shoes with a heel when you go horseback riding.

Don’t go riding without an approved safety helmet. It’s just not worth it.  

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Believe it or not, forgetting to breathe is a common phenomenon in the horse-riding world. Even experienced riders do it from time to time.

Breath-holding is a normal human response to nervousness or when you’re concentrating.   

Keep Your Voice Calm

Never, shout or scream while you’re on the back of a horse. This makes the horse nervous and they’ll only assume there’s a threat or something wrong.

Keep your voice low and slow, horses thrive in a calm and predictable environment. 

Get Ready to Go Horseback Riding

The long list of don’ts may seem a little daunting to first-timers, but don’t let that put you off. 

Trail horses and lesson horses can handle all these common horseback riding mistakes. These highly prized animals are extremely kind and forgiving when it comes to beginner riders. 

As long as you choose a reputable stable yard for all your riding activities, avoiding these pitfalls will become second nature before too long.

Get in touch soon, we’d love to introduce you to the joys of riding in the safest, most enjoyable way at our friendly San Diego riding school.