Beginner Horse Riding Mistakes To Avoid

Young girl is enjoying a horse riding

Are you interested in riding a horse? If you’re a first-timer, balancing while riding a horse can be extra challenging. Learning the right technique and fixing some niggly issues also takes time. You might have a habit of making several horse riding mistakes. 

When I started riding my Palimino as a girl, it felt like I’d take two steps forward and two steps back. Sometimes something would work like keeping Jessie still while I mounted her, and the very next day I was chasing after her with my foot in the stirrup! It happens.

Horse Riding Mistakes You Should Avoid:

1. Disregarding Safety Measures

It may be tempting to ride the horse without a helmet, but it is always essential to consider your safety. Even if your horse has never thrown anyone or done anything terrible, they could still trip and fall, causing you to lose balance and falling with them. So, wearing a helmet is a must to avoid massive brain injuries and trauma in different parts of your head. 

Safety Tips:

We recommend using an appropriate footwear and horseback riding helmet that can cover your entire skull. It should be ASTM-approved, meaning it complies with the standard set by the American Society of Testing and Materials. By keeping these safety measures in mind, you can have a fun and rewarding ride.  

2. Staring At the Horse

When you always look down and stare at your horse while you’re in the saddle, you won’t see where you’re going, and your neck will be bent as you turn your heads down. It can cause stiffness in your spine and body, which will make it harder for your horse to carry you. It can also get you distracted, and your horse can feel your smallest movement. As the saying in the horse world says, eyes communicate your confidence to your horse, so if you lack confidence, you can’t ride with your full ability. 


The best way to prevent this habit is to look ahead to where you’re going so you can easily see the potential obstacle and danger. Getting your aids straightforward with chin up when cueing for a turn will help you to have better balance and make the horse more confident with your cues. 

3. Killing The Reins

This can be a bit of trouble for beginners because pulling too hard on the reins can frustrate and confuse your horse because your legs and seat may say “go,” but the hands may send a signal to stop. Training this habit for a long time will cause your horse to ignore your commands because their mouth will become desensitized, and they might toss their heads to avoid the pressure and pain of hard tugging. And it can make your horse, balky or rear. 


Try to feel the horse’s mouth without pulling and tugging and learn to adjust the rein as the horse moves. Your grip must be firm but still light.

4. Loose With The Reins

When horses move, they move their heads too, and if you aren’t able to keep up with its movement, the reins might be pulled through your hands. If that happens, you won’t be able to steer your horse or give it directional cues. 


To prevent this situation from occurring, always look closely and observe the movement of your horse. A horse’s head will bob up and down as it walks, so try to keep up with the pace and adjust the rein when needed so that you won’t leave too much slack. You’ll get better at it if you spend more time with your horse, and you’d be able to recognize when to give more reins to the horse and when to shorten it.

5. Holding Your Breath

It’s normal for you as a beginner to get nervous and tense when you are concentrating very hard, that you might tend to hold your breath. However, you should break such a habit as soon as possible because you may end up being light-headed, and you might fall off of your horse.

Tip: Try to relax, smile, or hum a little and try breathing in rhythm with the horse’s strides.

6. Riding With a Bad Posture

Slouching in the saddle can cause difficulties. It can compromise your cues, affect your balance, and cause muscle soreness. It can be uncomfortable and might hinder you from riding. 


The best way to deal with this is to sit up straight and tall in the saddle, keep your head up to watch your destination and relax your shoulders. If you ride with a good posture, you can maintain your balance and effectively communicate your cues.

7. Scrunching Your Knees

Drawing your knees up like a jockey sitting on a chair is not an ideal position when riding. It can make you uncomfortable because it will force your heels to point either up or down with your feet pushed forward. 


Keep the proper leg alignment and let your feet lay flat and your legs dangle down loosely from the hips, but not too loose. 

8. Standing On Your Toes

It usually happens when beginners have learned how to trot, and they try to lift themselves out of the saddle and stand in their tippy toes. This position is not good as it puts you behind the rhythmic movement of your horse, and it puts you out of balance. 


You can avoid such habit by keeping your lower leg still with your feet flat, knees slightly bent. Learn to make rest the ball of your feet in the stirrups and utilize your core muscles in posting the trot. 

9. Clenching Tightly With Your Legs

Squeezing your horse with your upper or lower leg with your leg is not a good habit because it will make you feel uncomfortable. Your legs will also get tired and lose balance, and your horse may understand it as a sign to move forward. 


Let your legs hang down when sitting in a saddle and allow its weight to fall to your heels. But, don’t force your heels down either because you might clench with your legs and knees. To keep your legs in the proper position, form an imaginary straight line that follows from your ear to your shoulder, hip, and heel.

10. Shoving Your Feet Into The Stirrups

This habit is uncomfortable and dangerous, especially if you’re not using a safety stirrup, proper footwear, and are slightly off-balance.


You can fix it by ensuring that the stirrups are even and at the proper length. You can measure it by dandling your legs, as the stirrups should lightly hit your ankles. You also need to work on an appropriate leg position by placing your foot in the stirrup so the bottom part of the stirrup can hold the ball(widest part) of your foot.

11. Lifting Your Elbows Out

Beginners who struggle to balance tend to lift their hands and arms and stick their elbows out when riding a horse. It is our instinct to use our hands and arms, but it gives too much slack on the reins, which makes it difficult to control your horse and remain balanced in the saddle.


To prevent it from happening, maintain the same rhythm as your horse. Your elbows, forearms, wrist, hand, and reins should all be aligned along with the bit in your horse’s mouth. That is the height your arms should be at whenever you ride.

12. Overlooking Tack Inspections & Maintenance

Another common mistake that new riders often make is ignoring tack inspections. While most tack pieces are made of leather, it can wear, shred and snap if not taken care of properly. It can be very dangerous, especially if the leather pieces start fraying, and if the girth buckle and stirrup leather get detached from the metal piece that holds it to the saddle. But you can improve the longevity and quality of your tack through regular inspection and cleaning. 


Clean your tack regularly with tack cleaners to keep the elasticity and suppleness of the leather pieces, especially if it has gotten wet because wet leather will crack and stiff when the water dries out. You can also clean the saddle pads to remove dirt, fungi, and molds that cause it to wear. Scrubbing and cleaning the metal pieces, such as bits and stirrups, will also prevent it from rusting.

13. Trying a Difficult Challenge Too Early

Another mistake to avoid is trying tough challenges like jumping a new height or going over a new obstacle when you and your horse are not yet ready. It can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing because it can cause your horse to crash or land incorrectly.


Try to look on your form when doing lower jumps before attempting to make higher jumps. With constant practice and guide from an expert, you can learn more as you spend more time with your horse. 

So those are the mistakes you should avoid when riding a horse. 

By taking note of those pitfalls combined with instructions from your horseback riding coach, you can improve your skills and gain more knowledge on how to communicate with your horse in challenging situations. 


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