Have you ever watched people riding and wondered how they get the horse to do what they want? Or maybe you’ve ridden a few times but want to deepen your understanding about this topic. In this post, we explain the major riding commands and how they’re used to make a horse start moving, change speeds, switch direction, and stop.
Riders use a combination of different cues to signal to the horse what they’d like it to do. They use their hands, legs, seat or weight, and voice. Horses pick up on the slightest movement, so it’s important to be intentional with cues.
Most riding commands are based on the idea of pressure and release. The rider applies pressure, such as a squeeze with the leg, then releases that pressure when the horse performs the desired action. Start with the lightest pressure possible, then only increase the pressure if necessary.
Getting a Horse to Start Moving
Apply light pressure to the horse’s mouth with the reins to get its attention. Squeeze gently with your calves. If the horse does not start moving, you may need to squeeze more sharply. You also want to shift your weight slightly forward.
Riders often make a clicking sound or say a short word like “Walk” or “Go.” Use a quiet but firm voice when addressing a horse. Once the horse has started walking, release the leg pressure and some of the pressure on the horse’s mouth.
To make a horse move more quickly, squeeze with your calves with slightly more pressure than for getting the horse to start walking. Sit taller in the saddle to lighten the weight on the horse. Move your hips back and forth, following the horse’s rhythm or even moving faster than the horse to encourage it to speed up.
To get a horse to slow down, tighten your stomach muscles, which creates resistance. Maintain leg contact, but do not squeeze the horse. Consider using a voice command like “Whoa” or “Easy.”
When horseback riding, you might use direct reins or neck reins. When making a left turn using direct reins, you would pull with your left hand. When making the same turn with neck reins, you would pull the reins across the horse’s neck toward the left.
If you want a horse to turn, there are also other possible cues. Look where you want to go, turning your head, shoulders, and hips in that direction. Shift your weight slightly in the desired direction so that the horse moves to correct its centre of gravity.
Squeeze just behind the horse’s girth with your outside leg (if you’re turning left, the outside leg is the right leg). With your inside leg (in this case, the left leg), apply pressure directly to the horse’s girth. Once the horse has turned, return to your normal riding position.
To get a horse to back up, shift your weight backward. Try saying “Back.” If the horse is stopped, you can also pull on the reins.
To warn a horse that you’ll want to stop soon, tighten your stomach muscles, lean back in the saddle, and sink your weight into your seat bones. When you’re ready to halt, pull back on the reins. If necessary, use a voice command like “Whoa.”
Do you feel ready to ride a horse? Let us know in the comments!
Hello, My name is Shelby Gatti, and I am the owner of Shelby Ranch. I love being able to share my passion for animals with you and your family. At Shelby Ranch you can expect a ton of family adventure from horseback riding to mechanical bull riding & axe throwing.