Winston Churchill once said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
More than 200,000 horses live in Pennsylvania, making our state the country’s 8th top horse producer. Ridge Meadow Horse Farm in York, PA is one of the best places to take horseback riding lessons and learn more about the horses in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is also home to two of the top-rated horse. The Devon Horse Show and Country Fair is the longest-running horse show in the USA. The Pennsylvania National Show is one of the most important shows for those competing on the A-Circuit.
You might not be ready to show at Devon, but keep reading if you’re interested in learning to ride a horse. We’ll find out more about what it takes to prepare for horseback riding lessons.
Your First Consultation
Riding instructors want to know their students. Your first introduction to riding lessons will likely be chatting with your instructor. They’ll want to know about your previous experience with horses, your general fitness level, and a bit about your horseback riding goals.
One of the instructor’s roles is to match you with the horse that best suits your experience and personality. Every horse is unique, and it’s the trainer’s job to know each horse’s capabilities and quirks to ensure you have the perfect horse for your lessons.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get to ride a schoolmaster. A schoolmaster is a horse that has carried countless beginners. This type of horse knows it all and will help you confidently learn the ropes.
Learn About the Various Styles of Riding
Beginners might be surprised to learn about the many styles of riding available. Cattle work in a western saddle and horse racing might be the most familiar. At Ridge Meadow Horse Farm, we focus on English riding.
English equitation lessons help you perfect your form and position in the saddle. You’ll learn how to use your legs to ask your horse to move forward, backward, and side to side. You’ll also learn to keep your hands quiet while signaling your horse with the reins.
Once you’re more confident in the saddle, you might try jumping.
Riding hunters is an exercise in discipline. You’ll learn to guide your horse around a series of jumps and make it look effortless.
If you’re the adventurous type, you might like to try jumpers. A good jumping round is about speed, timing, and not knocking anything down.
You can also try trail riding. Ridge Meadow Horse Farm offers miles of trails through the Pennsylvania forest. Trail riding is a great way to get out of the arena and spend one-on-one time with your horse.
Our instructors will give you a solid foundation, no matter which discipline you choose. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can watch other riders or even attend a few shows to learn more about the discipline that’s right for you.
Choose the Type of Lesson You Want
Ridge Meadow offers a variety of riding lessons to suit your needs. Private, semi-private and group lessons are available to clients. Which one is right for you? Let’s take a look.
Most beginners start with private lessons. During a private lesson, you work one on one with your trainer. Private lessons are ideal for beginners because you can work at your own pace and have your instructor’s undivided attention.
You will learn the basics without worrying about other riders distracting you. It’s also essential that the instructor observes you alone and gives you personalized instruction and feedback.
Once you’ve mastered the cues to ask your horse to move forward, stop and turn while remaining in the saddle, you may be ready to move to a semi-private or group lesson.
Once you’re able to control your horse safely, you may have the option to move to a semi-private lesson. You’ll share this lesson with one other rider. Usually, you and the other rider will be at a similar skill level.
During a semi-private lesson, you’ll have the advantage of learning from another rider and your instructor. For instance, your instructor can point out needed changes in your seat or leg position and ask you to look at another rider as an example.
Plus, riding with another student is a great way to make friends and learn more about the barn. If you and a friend want to ride together, a semi-private lesson is a perfect way to do it.
Group lessons generally contain at least three riders. Group lessons suit more independent riders. You’ll have the opportunity to engage in group exercises while also working on your own skills.
As with semi-private lessons, group lessons are a fantastic way for you to watch other riders. You’ll also see how they follow the instructor’s cues and handle their horse.
Group lessons are also the best way to prepare if you plan to compete in horse shows. You’ll learn how to handle your horse in a group of other horses, which is critical for success in the show ring.
Horse Care Basics
Riding instructors don’t only teach you to ride. They also teach you the basics of caring for a horse. The goal of any riding program is not to simply produce someone who can ride a horse.
We want to help riders learn every aspect of horse care.
Catching Your Horse
Before you can do anything, you need to have your horse in hand. Your instructor will help you approach the horse in the paddock and place a halter on his head. You’ll also learn how to properly lead your horse and safety protocol if your horse gets loose.
Horses have their own personalities. Some horses will greet you at the gate and others will sulk about having to go to work. But part of the fun is learning what makes each horse so special.
Grooming involves much more than keeping a horse clean. Grooming your horse gives the rider a chance to visually inspect the horse’s entire body for wounds or skin issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. You’ll also learn to pick up your horse’s feet and remove rocks and dirt stuck in his hooves.
Grooming is also a great way to learn about the horse’s anatomy.
Grooming is also one of the best ways to bond with your horse. Grooming feels good, and your horse will begin to associate you with those good feelings. Plus, there’s nothing quite like finding your horse’s itchy spot and seeing him wiggle his lip in sheer ecstasy.
A good rider knows how to saddle their horse. Part of your lesson will be devoted to learning about the different parts of the saddle and bridle and how to put them on your horse correctly.
Saddling your horse also gives you a chance to look over your tack. Loose stitching, cracked leather, and weak buckles could be a hazard if they break while you’re riding.
You’ll also learn about the different types of tack and the names of the various pieces. This knowledge will come in very handy when someone asks you to grab a D-ring snaffle or a flash noseband from the tack room.
Barn Safety and Etiquette
Another thing you’ll learn during riding lessons is barn safety and etiquette. Barn rules are taken seriously to protect the horses and the people around you.
Always drive slowly when approaching the barn to park. It would be best if you parked only in designated areas. And keep your music volume low as you drive up.
Never run or yell when you’re in the barn. Always leave gates and doors the way you found them. Be sure you wear closed-toe shoes at all times.
Some barns will have their rules posted in common areas. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. After all, you’re there to learn, and your instructor will appreciate that you’re taking the rules seriously.
Proper Riding Attire
If you’re new to riding, you might be confused about what to wear. You don’t need to purchase expensive show clothes just yet, but there are some items you need. Even if you’re just taking lessons, the proper clothing will help you feel more comfortable in the saddle.
Breeches are pants specifically designed for riding. They have a snug fit which allows your leg to come into close contact with the saddle. Many breeches have suede or silicone grips on the inside of the knees and the seat. These help keep you from sliding around in the saddle.
Boots must have a low heel and fit correctly. Many instructors recommend paddock boots and half chaps instead of the traditional tall show boot. Your instructor can advise you on which type of boot you’ll need and where to purchase them.
But perhaps the most crucial piece of equipment is your helmet. Ridge Meadow Horse Farm has helmets for students to use. However, having your own helmet means it fits appropriately, which is important to many riding students.
Lastly, your hair should be neat and tidy. Braids or ponytails help keep your hair out of the way. You can also wear a hairnet under your helmet.
You’ll be surprised how much cheeky horses love to investigate ponytails.
Horseback Riding Is Hard Work
Horseback riding is a lot more physical than people think. When you’re in the saddle, almost every muscle in your body is working to keep you there. Riding is a great workout, but you might want to practice some strengthening exercises before beginning.
Try balancing exercises to work on your core. Lunges and squats will strengthen your leg muscles. And many riders swear by yoga designed for equestrians.
Be sure to stretch before and after your ride. And taking a hot bath when you get home works wonders.
The good news is that you’ll build up your muscles quickly. This will make you a stronger and more confident rider.
Prepare to Have the Time of Your Life
Some equestrians say that riding a horse is almost like having wings. Creating a partnership with a 1,200-pound animal is a feeling like no other. It’s no wonder that equine therapy helps people who live with many physical and mental conditions.
The sights and sounds of a horse barn deliver a sense of calm and purpose. There’s always a job to be done and fun to be had. A feeling of camaraderie is built around the common goal of caring for these magnificent horses.
You’ll make friends too. People from all walks of life bond over horses, creating lifelong relationships. Ridge Meadow also hosts fun events throughout the year, allowing you to kick up your heels with your fellow riders and members of the public.
Horseback riding is a hobby for many people. For others, it’s a passion. Perhaps you’re getting back in the saddle after a long hiatus. Or maybe you’re finally giving your child the riding lessons they’ve always wanted.
Either way, horseback riding provides benefits that other hobbies and sports can’t.
Learn More About Horseback Riding Lessons Today
Now that you’ve learned how to prepare for horseback riding lessons, are you ready to get in the saddle? Contact us today to schedule a barn tour, meet the horses and have a talk with our instructor.
We’ll help you decide on a lesson program, match you with the perfect horse, and have you in the saddle in no time. Happy trails!