Whether it’s galloping across the prairie, a romantic ride along the beach, a Shakespearean trot through the starry woods, or a British-style hunt, beginners bring their horseback riding fantasies to the stable. However they often forget to bring their good sense when it comes to safety. A common culprit? Selfies. Susan Gruber, owner of the Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company, shares do’s and don’ts for horseback riding newbies.
What to Wear
Do wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. Gruber calls these a must. She added that a long-sleeve, light shirt is good for sun protection and that a surprising number or people on vacation know they’re going horseback riding and forget these basic items. A riding helmet is nonnegotiable for anyone under 18. And good news for all of you madly in love with a great pair of riding pants: equestrian wear, highlighted by brands like Free x Rein, is on-trend this summer.
Don’t forget sunscreen, water and socks. Although a stable may provide these for you, don’t count on it.
How to Behave on a Guided Ride
Be sure to listen, advises Gruber. People often tune out directions from their guides and wranglers. She shared a story of a woman who actually fell off her horse when she let go of the reins to text and take selfies, even after being warned to stop. “It’s like letting go of your steering wheel, then texting and taking selfies while traveling down the 405 freeway. Not a good idea,” Gruber said.
“People don’t pay attention. They get so busy playing with their phones, taking photographs and videos of themselves and their children or spouse … I don’t know what they’re thinking. They’re sitting on a 1,000-pound animal and trusting it with their life.” She added that little kids, interestingly, are the ones who do listen because they’re not the ones with the phones in their hands.
Don’t be fast and loud. “It’s never good to use loud tones or swift movement around horses,” Gruber said. Rather than running over to the horses as soon as you see them, wait calmly for your guide to bring them to you.
What to Do in Case of Trouble
Hey Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, stay on the trail. “When on board the horses, we give riding instruction and prefer that riders do not try to step outside the box, so to speak, and gallop past the guides or go off-trail in any manner,” said Gruber. Most beginner rides are slower-paced walking ones—stay with those until you have more experience.
Don’t lose your wits. If you fall off of a horse, evaluate your wellbeing and check for injuries. Your guide will help assess if you can get back on the horse and assist you. If your horse bolts while you’re on it, some actions that may help include: regaining your balance; getting your feet back in the stirrups if they’ve fallen out; staying aware and clear of obstacles; alerting people nearby to keep away; steering your horse uphill or in circles to slow him down.
Also important: Have fun. Happy trails!