Horses are beautiful, powerful, graceful animals that are a joy to be around. Riding a horse is a fabulous way to see an area and to get out on the trail in the company of horses. Whether you've ridden before or are just getting started, this is a terrific time to get into horseback riding. With stables and horse rental available all over the country, this is a sport that can really travel with you.
There are two styles of horseback riding -- Western and English. Western is the style you've seen in Old West movies, in which the rider holds the reins in just one hand so their other hand would be free for other things. In English riding, the reins are held with both hands and the rider uses a saddle without a saddle horn. English riders learn to "post" with the horse's trot, moving up and down in the saddle in rhythm with the horse's trotting motion.
No matter which style you choose, you should know that horseback riding takes time to learn. There's far more to it than just sitting on the back of a horse. Still, if you're matched with the right horse, you can make terrific progress on your very first ride. You can probably take a successful trail ride on your first outing, heading into the mountains or forest with a group of other riders and a qualified guide.
If you're setting out for your first trail ride, be sure to wear long pants (jeans are ideal), boots, and layers on top. You'll be provided with a helmet and some instruction on managing your horse. During your trail ride, you'll be walking the horse only. If you'd like to learn to go at a faster pace, say a trot or a canter, you'll need to take horseback riding lessons.
Wherever you live, you can probably find riding lessons at a stable near you. Many people decide to buy their own horse, but that can be expensive, so if you're just curious about horseback riding, be sure to find a stable where you can borrow the horse you ride during your lesson. Again, you'll want to dress in jeans or riding pants, boots, and layers on top that you can shed when you get warm.
As you progress, you'll learn techniques like reining in your horse, prompting it to go, keeping your seat, and much more. Eventually, if you like, you can focus on a few particular skills like jumping or dressage. And anytime you want, you can head to the trail and join in a trail ride.