As a beginner about to take riding lessons, you probably wonder what is in store. Horseback riding lessons can take many forms, but there are basic things to know when starting out. In this article, we’ll go over what to wear and also what to expect as a beginning student.

First Step: Keep a Positive Attitude

To prepare for your equestrian encounter, it’s important to remain patient and aware. You probably have a few nervous butterflies, especially if you haven’t been around horses before. This is healthy and normal, and with familiarity and enjoyable experiences, these fears will subside.

Be prepared to listen and follow instructions. Horses are wonderful animals, but their size and power require caution–respect is a big part of horsemanship. Respect the animal, respect the stables, and respect your instructor. Even as a beginner, positive professionalism is the best behavior.

Respect yourself too. You should not feel endangered or overwhelmed. Be sure to ask any questions you have, and don’t hide any misgivings or confusion that comes up. Safety is the priority.


What to Wear

The topic of riding clothes is a world of its own, but you don’t have to spend a lot on new “togs” to start lessons. There are some definite no-no’s, however, so here are some guidelines.

  • Helmet – Proper headgear is a safety requirement. Some stables provide beginners with a suitable helmet, but you can buy a certified helmet at a local tack shop if needed. Find out your stable’s policy beforehand.
  • Shirt – A neatly tucked or fitted shirt, preferably with a collar. You want a workmanlike appearance, but wear something you don’t mind getting dirty with horse slobber … or worse.
  • Pants – Wear comfortable long pants that aren’t baggy. No cut-offs or shorts!
  • Shoes — As a general rule, you want to wear a closed, preferably leather shoe with a short, smooth heel. You don’t necessarily need riding boots as a beginner, and there are less expensive alternatives like paddock boots. Ask your instructor if you have questions about their footwear requirements.
  • Accessories – Go light on jewelry when riding. No dangling earrings or bracelets, and nothing that might scratch or startle your mount. A wristwatch is fine, but not much else.

What to expect

Be on time! As stated before, always treat horses and your instructor with respect.

Ask questions as needed. Understand that people have been riding horses for a long time, and it was a military endeavor for most of it: virtually every aspect of horsemanship has been codified.

From approaching a horse to how you hold the reins while mounting, there is a right way and many wrong ways to do almost everything.

Don’t walk behind a horse as a general rule, and don’t feed treats to your horse unless your instructor approves. Have them show you how—because there is a correct and safe way to feed treats, too.

Also, remember to keep your feet out of the way of hooves. Horses only look light on their feet.



Horseback riding is one of life’s great experiences. As a beginner, ask questions, respect the animal, listen to instructions and, don’t forget to have fun!

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