3 Horse Riding Exercises for Beginners: How to Improve Riding Aids?
If you’ve recently started horse riding and are wondering how to get better with horse riding exercises, look no further! We’ve got some of the best exercises for new riders here.
Horse riding is all about being in harmony with your horse. The most important thing is to use your aids correctly to communicate with your horse in the most effective way. With the goal of achieving the best relationship with your horse or the horse you’re riding (it doesn’t have to be your own).
While you’re riding, you’re constantly sending signals to the horse, even if you don’t realize it.
The way you hold your body, the way your leg falls against their flanks. The position of your hips, your seat and every slight movement of your hands. Even the direction your head is facing. Everything is a signal and message to your horse.
Once you understand and have a feeling for that, you can start to make sure you’re sending the correct aids to your horse and become an awesome rider. There are three aids (these are defined as natural aids) you can start by focussing on - your hands, legs, and seat.
New riders have a tendency to use their hands as an aid too much. The less you use them the better. Use your seat and your legs more to communicate with your horse harmoniously. Preserve using your hands for more advanced skills. Such as bending and helping your horse to come on the bit.
Thing to improve: Wide hands
From a birds-eye-view, there should be a straight line from your elbow, through your wrist, to your horse’s mouth. This is usually about four or five inches apart - any wider and your rein aids will be weaker.
Exercise: Hold a bit
Hold a bit in your hands while you ride to keep them the perfect distance apart. You can use an eggbutt snaffle or something with rings but no shanks. Link your forefinger and middle fingers through the ring. You can still hold the reins comfortably this way.
Fine-tuning of your leg aid will help you to have to apply them with less intensity and less often. Perfect placement and timing of your leg aids will help you get the most accurate and responsive performance.
Thing to improve: Leg in front or behind the vertical line of your body
There should be a straight line from your ear, through your shoulder, hips, and ankle. So your leg should be directly under your body.
If your leg swings back, your body swings forward and vice versa. Your leg positioning is part of the aid, so it should be in neutral while you aren’t giving a specific cue. Otherwise, you may be indicating to your horse to go slower or fast - or confusing it! Your upper body should remain stable, not in front or behind the motion of your horse.
Exercise: Alter your rising sequence
During rising trot (AKA posting trot), change your rising sequence. Try to sit for two beats and rise for one. This way, you’re teaching your body how to stay in tune with the movement of your horse. You’ll learn how to not get ahead of your horse’s motion. You can reverse the exercise and two beats and sit for one so you learn how to not fall behind.
Your seat is the most important aid in horse riding. Your position in the saddle and where you put your body weight is extremely important when communicating with your horse. It’s a simple matter of shifting your weight up out of the saddle. Or moving backward and sitting deeper. It might sound foreign at first, but it’s so natural, the more you practice the more you’ll pick it up!
Thing to improve: Using too much rein and not enough seat
You should use your seat more than your reins when transitioning into slower gaits. You should be able to move from a trot to a walk without using your reins.
Exercise: Slow your rises in trot
Start slowing your rises during trot, spending a bit longer in the saddle with each stride. Keep your legs in contact with the horse, and try not to use your hands. If you need to use them, give a gentle squeeze on the reins and use your voice to help assist the aid. Slow, deep words like ‘whoaaa’ can help.
When you want to slow down, always use your seat before other aids, to help train yourself and your horse.
These are only a few common horse riding exercises to work on for new riders who are learning how to horse ride! There are many more typical things that need improving, and exercises to help!