Here are some tips for riding your new horse or pony for the first time. Although you have the benefit of seeing your new horse on video and our insight on how it will ride, it’s still prudent to be cautious and proceed slowly while getting to know your new horse. They have personalities and minds of their own and you need to get to know them while at the same time establishing yourself as the leader. This is basically an outline of how we ride new horses that arrive on our farm for the first time.
1. After you have followed our tips on Acclimating Your New Horse, it’s time to get ready to ride for the first time. We always start by having a Join Up session in the round-pen. There is a video of this process on our website. It really sets the tone for your relationship and establishes you as the leader.
2. At this point, we would normally go back to the barn, put the horse in cross ties, and tack him up before going back to the round pen. We generally will then free lunge the horse again briefly in a walk, trot, and canter since it’s the first time it will be ridden in this saddle. This ensures that you don’t have any fit, pinching, or soreness issues that could affect the ride. One of the important reasons for riding your new horse in a small area for the first time is to lower the rider’s level of nervousness. After all, the only place you can go is in circles! If you remain calm, it helps your horse to remain calm too.
3. Now it’s time to mount your horse. If our kids are riding a new pony for the first time, we generally will hold the pony for them to mount, and then lead them for half a lap or so just so they can feel comfortable, and so we can feel comfortable too that everything is going to go well. This isn’t a bad idea for you to have an extra helper that can assist you.
4. Now that you’re up there and riding, we generally walk 2-3 laps, then turn and walk 2-3 laps. If everything’s going well and you feel you’re ready to trot, go-ahead for 2-3 laps, then slow to the walk, reverse direction, and do the same in the opposite direction. (For small children, we recommend stopping at this step and continuing working on turns and control in a small, enclosed setting.) Once you’re comfortable at the trot, then move to the canter/lope. Follow the same steps as the trot. Don’t rush things; you may want to spend the first 2 or 3 rides just repeating these steps before moving onto the arena, or out into an open area or the trails.
This whole process may seem really mundane, but it’s important that both you and the horse have a positive experience in the early stages.