Put your best foot forward by avoiding these pitfalls.

Everyone has to start somewhere. There’s no shame in being a beginner rider. Learning to ride is difficult and even dangerous! It’s best to go on this journey with an open mind and ears. Take all the advice you can get. Before you jump into the saddle, check out these common mistakes made by beginners. And avoid them at all costs! 

Galloping Before You Walk

Some newbies are in a huge hurry to get going. They don’t want to learn the basics. Whether it’s their ego or need for speed, galloping shouldn’t be on a beginner’s radar. A good instructor will teach you the fundamentals before they teach you speed. Riding is a gradual process and each gait requires a little more skill. Make sure to take your time and enjoy the process!

Holding Your Breath

Don’t forget to breathe! Holding your breath will make your body tense up. It’s easy to get so focused that you forget to exhale. A simple solution is to smile. This positive expression will allow your body to relax. Another great idea is to inhale and exhale with your horse’s stride. This will also help you to develop a feel for your horse’s movement.

Slouching With Your Shoulders

Beginners quickly learn how important good posture is in horseback riding. It keeps you centered and balanced on the horse. If you lean too far forward and slouch in your shoulders, then you take the risk of falling off. You will also make it harder on your horse. Sit tall and stretch your shoulders back. Many riders like to imagine a string running up their spine and pulling their head to the sky. You’ll instantly grow taller!

Hands Up, Up, and Away

When you start to lose your balance and feel insecure, it may be easy to depend on your hands. The reins go upwards and you lose control of your horse. This just adds to your fear! Instead, keep your hands at hip level and focus on maintaining the proper riding position. Your aids will be a lot clearer when you stay relaxed and still.

Heels to the Sky

Most beginners have heard their instructor shout ‘heels down’ a time or two. And while your heels don’t need to be pushed down with strain or force, they should be relaxed and pointed toward the ground. This will help to stabilize your body. It also allows you to clearly communicate with your horse through leg aids.

Here’s a tip… Find a few points around the arena. Every time you ride by one, check your position. Your heels should be down, shoulders back, and eyes up. You got this!

Assuming It’s Easy

Newbies may believe that riding is simply sitting in the saddle, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s tough and physically draining. The top riders make it look easy. If you want to be the best rider possible, then do some exercises outside of the saddle. Work on your leg strength, core muscles, balance, and endurance.

Baggy Clothes and Sneakers

It’s essential you have proper riding clothes before you start. You don’t have to do out and buy elaborate boots and breeches, but you should choose safe options. This includes boots with a heel, pants that aren’t too baggy, a shirt with sleeves, a helmet, and gloves. Baggy clothes can get caught up in the saddle, which is dangerous if you were to fall. It also makes it difficult for your instructor to evaluate your riding position.

There’s so much to learn in the beginning! And while it may get overwhelming at times, try to remember it does get easier.


Emily Fought discovered her passion for horses early on in life. When she isn’t writing about them, you can find her in the barn riding. Although Emily’s background is in dressage, she enjoys cross-training and is an avid trail rider. She resides in Northwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and small dog. Together, they own and operate Humblewood Farm.