Building Your Horse From the Ground Up — The First Ride

Okay, you’ve been working your horse from the ground.  You can lunge him, drive him and even stand in the stirrup.  Now we are ready for that first ride.

Before the Ride

When I go out and know I’m going to put a first ride on a horse, I don’t just catch him, throw the saddle on and hop on.  I go through all my pre-flight checks before I get on.  I will groom him, pick up his feet, lunge him, disengage his hind quarters, move his front end around, flex him, maybe drive him, and stand in the stirrups on both sides of the saddle.  If he seems good to go I will then throw my leg over, if he seems a little out of sorts I may just do some more ground work and put off that first ride till the next day.

The Ride

I have two different ways I put a first ride on a colt.  The first way is for if I’m nervous about a horse or the horse seems a little more nervous than I’m comfortable just hopping on and going.  This method involves having another person there to lead the horse around for you while you ride.  This is how I put my first ride on my mustang Cobain. Dan, my husband, was helping me.  Notice he is standing right beside me.  He has a hold of the lead rope.  In this picture I’m just standing in the stirrup.  Cobain is use to this, but I have Dan there for when I swing my leg over.

Then I swing my leg over and I’m on.  I keep his head flex over while I get my foot in the stirrup.

I then pet his neck to let him know I’m there and to comfort him.

Then I ask for him to flex his head to the right.  I will flex him several times each direction until I feel him relax a little.

After I flex him several times to each side and I feel him relaxing, I dismount and give him a couple of seconds to rest.  Then I hop back on and flex him a couple more times.

Now we are ready to move.  I will click and squeeze my legs a little while my helper starts to lead the horse.  My helper keeps a fairly short lead on the colt and is ready to turn him if he starts to act up.  Typically all goes pretty smooth because we put in so much time building trust.  I communicate to my helper what I want to do.  If I’m going to ask the horse to stop, I’ll say “We’re going to stop in 1, 2, 3, whoa”  This way we can both give the horse the correct commands at the same time.  I may ride around 10 minutes, having the horse do several stops and changes in direction and maybe a couple steps backward. Then I will call it a day.

When getting off, my helper stands in the same place they stood while I was getting on.  I swing my leg over and try to land close to my helper.

The second way I do a first ride is without some one holding on to my horse.  This is also how I will do my second ride on the horse that I had someone hold for the first ride.

After all the ground work and standing in the stirrup I will swing my leg over.

Once I’m on I will ask the horse to flex both directions for me several times until he starts to relax.

Notice in the second picture of Andy flexing, his head is lower than the first picture.  This tells me that his is relaxing.I will dismount then get back on and ask him to flex again.  Once I feel that he pretty relaxed, I will smooch to him and ask him to go.  A lot of times the horse won’t know what you want and you will have to pop them on the bottom to get them moving. Or if you have someone that can help you, you can have them move them around as if they are lunging the horse.

My first ride I like to walk and trot the horse and stop several times.  Some people like to also canter on the first ride, but I don’t.  Just a personal preference.  When you are done with your ride, you need to flex your horse’s head over to the side you are getting off on.  When you step off of your horse you need to land moving forward.  I try to land slightly in front of the shoulder of the horse.  Colts will often times give a little kick after the first couple of rides and stepping forward will help to keep you safe.