Western Riding Tips For Beginners

If you’re thinking about taking up the saddle and exploring the trails on horseback, there are a few tips I can share with you to help make your time in the saddle as enjoyable and safe as possible. 

I’ve been riding horses since I was three years old, so trust me when I say that it’s not all that scary or difficult if you know what to expect.

Start with a calm and experienced horse when learning western horseback riding.
Properly fitting equipment, especially boots and helmets, is essential for safety.
Take your time when learning to mount and dismount from the horse.
Proper posture, balance, and relaxation are essential for comfortable and effective riding.
Always use the reins and gentle pressure with your heels to direct the horse where to go.

It’s All About The Stirrups

Stirrup length is important. You want to be able to keep your heels down and legs bent, so the stirrup should be at least 1.5 inches longer than the length of your foot.

If you’re having trouble keeping both feet in the stirrups, try putting a pillow under one side of them (on an indoor horse) or using a small stool on an outdoor horse. 

The idea is that by raising one side slightly higher than the other, it will encourage you not just to put weight on that leg but also balance yourself with both feet equally in order to stay on top of things!

For safe and enjoyable horseback riding, it’s crucial to wear well-fitted boots. As The Importance of Properly Fitting Horseback Riding Boots explains, ill-fitting boots can lead to discomfort and injury, so it’s essential to choose the right pair before riding.

Balance Is Everything

Balance is everything. If you’re in an accident, it’s usually because of a loss of balance. And if you’re riding a horse or cow, it’s important that they feel confident in their rider. 

So keep your center of gravity over your feet (which means keeping them flat on the stirrups), keep your head and shoulders up and back straight, don’t bounce around too much–this will only make things worse for both of you.

Practice with a friend or trainer until you feel comfortable enough to go out on your own! You can practice at home by getting into the saddle without holding onto anything (like when getting on) and then slowly taking baby steps until the horse starts moving; this should give him/her time to adjust so they aren’t taken by surprise when they start walking off into space with nothing holding onto them!

Get The Right Saddle

Your saddle is the single most important piece of equipment you’ll use during your ride, so it’s important to choose one that’s right for you.

Saddle comfort: Your horse should be comfortable in his or her saddle, but this doesn’t mean that the saddle has to be super soft and squishy. It should fit him or her well and be made out of durable materials (like leather).

Size: The size of your horse matters when choosing a saddle because if it doesn’t fit right, it could cause pain in their muscles and joints. You can ask someone at an equine store for help with this step!

Shape: What kind of rider are you? Are you tall or short? Do you have wide hips? These things will affect which type of seat shape would be best suited for your body type–so take note!

Horseback riding can be a thrilling experience, but it’s important to take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries. How to Prevent Common Horseback Riding Injuries provides valuable tips on how to reduce the risk of injury, including proper equipment use and learning proper riding techniques.

Keep Your Arms Up

Hold the reins at a 45-degree angle with your hands in front of you, just above shoulder height. This should also be level with the horse’s mouth. If it feels unnatural or uncomfortable to hold them this way, practice until it feels right.

Make sure that both reins are held securely and that they’re not too tight (or too loose). Too much slack will cause problems when riding; too little slack can lead to tension in other parts of your body that could impede performance later on down the road!

Stand In Your Stirrups For Long Rides

Stand in your stirrups! When you’re riding a horse, it’s important to be able to balance yourself over the saddle and make sure that you have good posture. This can be difficult if you’ve never done it before, but standing in your stirrups will help with this process and make riding easier on both of you.

How do I stand? First off, make sure both legs are through their respective irons (the metal loops attached under each side of the saddle). 

Then put one hand on either side of the horse’s withers (the highest part of its back) so that they’re holding onto something sturdy–like an old friend who just wants to see how things turn out–and place one foot in front of another until both feet are flat on top of each other at about waist level; now voila! 

You’ve got yourself some new-found stability while still maintaining contact between rider and mount through reins or voice commands if necessary (which we’ll get into later).

Practice TipsDescription
Gradually Build Up PracticeWhen learning to stand in your stirrups, it’s important to gradually build up your practice time to give the muscles time to adapt to the new position.
Adjust Stirrups ProperlyThe stirrups should be adjusted to the correct length for your height before starting to practice standing up.
Use Proper FootwearWearing boots with a good heel and tread can help keep your foot in the correct position and avoid slipping while standing up.
Use Your Leg and Core MusclesYour leg and core muscles should be used to keep yourself balanced while standing up, while your arms and hands should remain relaxed.
Take Frequent BreaksIt’s important to take frequent breaks while standing in your stirrups on long horseback rides to allow your muscles to rest and prevent fatigue.

Standing in your stirrups can be difficult but is essential for balance and proper posture during long horseback rides. Gradually build up your practice time and adjust stirrups properly before starting, while also using proper footwear to avoid slipping while practicing.

Additionally, use your leg and core muscles to keep yourself balanced while taking frequent breaks to give your muscles a chance to rest between practice sessions.

Bend Your Elbows, Not Your Wrists

The next thing to remember is how your arms should be positioned. You want to keep them bent at a 90 degree angle, so that they’re relaxed and easy to move. 

This will help you with control over the reins, which are attached to the bit in the horse’s mouth by means of a leather strap called a bridle (or bitless bridle).

The wrist is the pivot point for your hand when riding Western-style; it’s also one of your strongest joints because it has so many bones in one small area, making it ideal as an anchor point.

Horseback riding is undoubtedly a fun and exciting activity, but it is not without risks. Accidents can happen despite taking every possible safety measure, which is why The Importance of Wearing a Helmet While Horseback Riding stresses the importance of wearing a helmet. By wearing a helmet, horseback riders can significantly reduce the risk of head injury in case of falls or accidents.

Avoid The “Slam”

You should be able to feel your heels down. You don’t want them going up or down, side to side, back and forth or forward and backward.

A good way to test this is by walking around on the ground barefoot (or in socks). If you can walk easily without having your feet move at all then that’s a good indicator that you’re not doing anything wrong with your legs while riding.

Learn To Command The Reins With One Hand Or Two

The reins should be held with one hand, not two. This is because the more hands you have on your horse’s mouth, the harder it is for him to understand your commands and perform them correctly.

Use the reins in a way that allows you to maintain balance: Your inside rein should be used as a steering mechanism and your outside rein should be used as a stopping mechanism. 

If you’re riding Western style (which we recommend), then this means using both reins simultaneously–one for each direction of travel–and keeping them loose enough so that they don’t restrict motion at all but still give clear signals about what’s expected from your horse.

Practice TipsDescription
Start SlowlyStart practicing with one-handed riding slowly to build up muscle memory and ensure you have the right technique.
Use A Split ReinUsing a split rein, like the Weaver Leather Single-Ply Hand Hold Split Rein, can help with controlling the horse’s head and developing good one-handed riding habits.
One-Rein StopPractice the one-rein stop to steer your horse effectively. Pull one of the reins toward your hip to slow down or stop your horse.
Develop Balance and Effective Leg AidsHaving good balance and understanding how to use leg aids can help keep the horse in control while using one hand.
Practice in an Enclosed SpacePracticing in a round pen or arena can help build your confidence and allow you to focus on your technique rather than worrying about navigating rough terrain.

Holding the reins with one hand is a fundamental skill for western horseback riding, as it allows you to have more control over the horse’s movement while giving commands. To learn this skill effectively, start by practicing slowly and with a split rein that can help you in developing correct techniques.

Also, consider practicing a one-rein stop, developing balance and effective leg aids, and practicing in an enclosed area to boost your confidence while learning this technique.

Practice Pulling Back With 2 Hands

Pulling back is a great way to build strength and get your horse used to the bit. Start by practicing with two hands, so that you can use your legs, body and reins as well as just one hand.

You want to pull back gently in a straight line with the horse’s head facing forward (think of it like pulling on a rope). When you use one hand only, this can cause the horse’s head to turn away from you or even worse – make him buck! 

The best way I have found for teaching myself how not only how but why this happens was by riding bareback without stirrups at first; this way I could feel everything happening through my seat bones rather than having my legs in between me and them like when using stirrups do which makes it harder for me personally since I’m not used riding bareback often like some people might be so take my advice lightly here if needed 🙂

When it comes to horseback riding safety, every rider should have the right equipment on hand. From helmets and riding boots to reflective vests, The Top 15 Pieces of Safety Equipment Every Rider Needs outlines the essential safety gear that every rider should have with them at all times.

Practice Neck Reining

Neck reining is a good way to get the horse’s attention and help them learn to respond to your cues. 

It can be used as a substitute for leg aids, especially if you want your horse to come forward or turn away from something. 

Neck reining also helps you control the horse’s head, which will make it easier for you when riding in close quarters or navigating obstacles like fences and brush piles.

Neck reining is often used by riders who are just learning how to properly communicate with their horses because it allows them more freedom than other methods while still providing feedback through direct contact between human hand and animal neck skin (ouch).

Practice TipsDescription
Start SlowlyWhen teaching your horse neck reining, start with smaller, less sweeping hand movements.
Use a Neck Rein AidA neck rein aid, such as a Clinton Anderson’s Knotted Rope Halter, can be useful in helping your horse understand what cues you are giving.
Practice with an Experienced HorseRiding a horse that is experienced in neck reining can help you get a feel for what to look for and how it should feel.
Use ReinforcementUsing verbal praise and treats can help reinforce the behavior until your horse understands the neck reining cues.
Repeat, Repeat, RepeatLike any other training technique, practice makes perfect. Repeat the neck reining exercises consistently.

Neck Reining is an important technique for western horseback riding when you want to get your horse’s attention and expect them to respond to your cues adequately.

The above-mentioned tips can help you to practice neck reining effectively, keeping in mind that starting slowly, using a neck rein aid, practicing with an experienced horse, consistent reinforcement, and repetition are all key elements in learning how to use this technique.

Master Loose Rein Riding

While you’re on the ground, it’s a good idea to practice loose rein riding. This is where you let go of your horse’s reins and allow him to walk freely without pulling on them. 

Many horses enjoy this as they can move their heads around freely and sniff at things without being restricted by their rider’s hands.

It is also helpful when teaching new things like backing up or leg-yields because it gives the horse an opportunity to feel comfortable with these movements before asking him to perform them while being ridden.

Equine colic is a common yet preventable health issue that affects horses. Understanding and Preventing Equine Colic sheds light on the various causes and prevention techniques of colic and emphasizes the importance of staying vigilant to keep horses healthy and happy.


We hope these tips will help you get started in the wonderful world of western riding. It’s an incredible sport that can bring you many benefits, both physically and mentally. 

Further Reading

For more information on western horseback riding tips for beginners, check out the following resources:

7 Western Horseback Riding Tips for Beginners: This blog post offers seven valuable tips for beginners looking to learn western horseback riding, ranging from basic equipment needs to safety considerations.

10 Western Horseback Riding Tips for Beginners: This article by Equestrian Boots and Bridles features ten expert tips for beginners seeking to learn western horseback riding, including how to mount a horse and keep a good riding posture.

Horse Riding Tips for Beginners: Pashudhan Praharee’s in-depth guide on horseback riding for beginners is an excellent resource for those just starting. It covers everything from how to sit correctly to controlling the horse at various speeds.


Here are some frequently asked questions about western horseback riding for beginners:

What equipment do I need for western horseback riding?

Basic equipment includes a saddle, bridle, and proper footwear, but it is important to check with an instructor or trainer to ensure you have the right gear before starting.

How do I mount a horse for western riding?

Position yourself next to the horse and put your foot in the stirrup. As you swing your other leg over the horse, use your arms to pull yourself up.

What should I do if my horse starts running?

Relax and lean slightly back. Use your reins to instruct the horse to slow down and use gentle pressure with your heels to slow the horse further down.

What’s the best way to learn western horseback riding?

Taking lessons from a qualified instructor is usually the best way to learn western horseback riding. Lesson times vary, so find a schedule that fits your schedule and sign up.

Do I need special clothing for western horseback riding?

Wearing comfortable and appropriate clothing such as jeans and boots with a small heel is recommended for western horseback riding. Additionally, wearing a helmet is always important for riders’ safety.