Having ridden since I was small child, and been both student and teacher in countless lessons over the years, I’ve accumulated lots of horse tips and tricks to improve your horse riding and make life easier… here are the top 14, including how to perfect your position, ideas for home training and safety, and more…
Top horse tips and tricks for riding…
1) This one’s an oldie, but a goodie! To get a very rough estimate of the length of stirrups you need, hold the buckle of the stirrup in your hand by the saddle flap and stretch out your arm, use the other hand to lift the iron – the foot plate of the iron should reach your arm pit (it may not be perfect, but you should at least be able to get on board without having jockey length stirrups, or ones you can’t reach, which is much safer)
2) To accurately check if your stirrups are the same length, don’t rely on numbered stirrups holes as leather can stretch, and don’t rely on eye judgement, the saddle could’ve slipped or the horse could be standing unlevel. Instead, pull the leather down and line it up with the bottom of the knee roll, then measure with your fingers from the bottom of the knee roll to the top of the iron (if it’s too long, turn the iron upside down and measure to the footplate). This is one of my favourite horse tips and tricks!
3) If you are lunging with a saddle on, secure the stirrups by rolling them up as you usually would, then looping the folded end of the leather back through the iron, and slip the tail of the leather through the loop
4) Finding your balance and alignment in the saddle – this is one of the best bits of advise I’ve had over the years… most of the time when you’re in the saddle it should feel like if the horse was suddenly to vanish into thin air beneath you, you could land on your feet and not tip forwards or backwards, or to either side. Riding without stirrups, and practising standing up in the stirrups (without using the reins for support) can also help with balance
5) Perfecting your leg position – anyone who has ever had a riding lesson has probably had ‘heels down’ shouted at them at least once. The only trouble with this is that it can encourage the toes to stick out; I find it helps to think of putting heels down and encouraging weight into the outside edge of the foot
6) Repeat the mantra ‘still hands, as a pair, thumbs on top’ to help break bad habits (such as riding with your hands like you’re holding handlebars, or ‘sawing’ at the mouth)
7) Help to prevent napping and anticipation by varying where you mount and dismount, where you trot and canter (especially on hacks), and by riding past the stables and yard gate sometimes when you finish riding
8) You can practice ditches and water at home by securing a bit of blue tarpaulin under two wooden poles
9) If jumping poles break, they needn’t go to waste, trim them down to the same length, sand the edges, and use them to practice skinny fences!
10) To remember the order of the letter markers in a 20x40m arena, there is a simple saying you can use – imagine standing on the centre line facing the letter A, going clockwise it’s A, K, E, H, C, M, B, F – All King Edward’s Horses Carry Many Brave Fellows
11) If your horse can be spooky it is a good idea to desensitise them in a safe environment such as the ménage before attempting to ride on the road. You can do this by dotting some objects like traffic cones, weighted down bin bags, and signs around the school
12) In winter, metal horse bits can feel freezing to the touch. Before riding, run them under warm water to warm them up, (or at least warm it in your hands if you don’t have hot water) – your horse will appreciate it!
13) Attaching a dog tag or luggage tack to your saddle D-ring, and a putting a note in your pocket, listing your details and emergency contacts, are a good safety precaution in case the worst happens when you are riding
14) Pockets in jodhpurs are notoriously small, and even one’s with larger pockets don’t tend to comfortably hold a mobile phone, which I like to have on me at all times for safety in case of emergencies. The armband style phone holders that runners and cyclists use are fantastic for riding in hot weather when you don’t have coat pockets to stow away your phone! (Fix it on your arm or at the top of your calf)
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