Horseback riding in Southern Maryland is both a popular recreational pursuit and a mode of transportation on working farms. Many people have grown up around horses and are quite experienced with riding in St. Mary’s, Charles and Calvert Counties. Many others, however, have no such history. In order to prevent injury, novice riders must start with the basics.
People of all ages and abilities can mount a horse and enjoy the experience. Although horseback riding can be fun and exciting, it also can be a bit nerve-wracking for first-time riders. While horseback riding is generally safe, whenever one is dealing with an animal of this size and height, the possibility for injury exists. Beginning to ride involves some knowledge and planning.
* Become acclimated to horses. Start spending time around ranches and stables to become familiar with the size and mannerisms of horses. Experienced riders can point out cues in body language that indicate whether a horse is pleased or skittish. Understanding equine body language can make it easier to successfully interact with the horse. For example, ears positioned forward generally indicate a horse is relaxed. When the ears are pinned backwards, this could be a sign of aggression.
* Begin with a reputable and experienced riding instructor. In the United States, instructors must be certified by the American Riding Instructors Association. In the United Kingdom, certification comes from the British Horse Society or the Association of British Riding Schools. People who want to ride can enroll in lessons taught by qualified instructors.
* Learn good horsemanship. This involves much more than just being able to mount and ride. Learn how to put tack on the horse and how to clean and store equipment after use. In addition, learn how to properly groom the horse, which can be a special bonding time between human and horse. This also gives you the opportunity to assess the animal for any injuries or discomfort both before and after riding.
* Earn the trust of the horse. Show up early to the stable and ask if you can feed and water the horse. This will help solidify the bond you have with the animal. The more opportunities a horse has to become acclimated with you, the better the two of you can read each other’s signals and the more cohesively you will work together.
* Try to keep emotions in check. A horse will sense how you are feeling. If you are calm, the horse is more likely to be calm, while a nervous rider or one who lacks confidence might make the horse nervous as well.
* Dress appropriately for riding. Beginners who aren’t sure if they will continue riding long-term should not invest in expensive riding clothes. A long pair of jeans or other pants that cover the legs and a decent pair of boots will be enough. Beginners should also wear a safety helmet.
* Ride in an open area. When starting out, you will have to learn how to move the reigns to steer and use your feet to guide the horse. Therefore, ride in an open area away from trees or fences so that there are no incidences of bumping into obstacles.
* Take heed of a few safety tips. Never stand directly in front of a horse, as this is a blind spot. Similarly, never stand behind a horse or you risk being kicked. Remain calm around a horse and don’t run up to one or he or she may spook. Horses can be unpredictable; therefore, do not let your guard down. TF137343

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