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Western Riding

Horse Training - Western Position
Going western riding? Get your position in gear before you go!

A lot of Young Rider readers ride western style, and sometimes they feel a little bit left out because the magazine has a lot of English riding in it. So we thought we'd spotlight western riding in this issue! And even if you ride English style, keep on reading because you never know when you might get to go on a western trail ride or have the opportunity to ride a western horse. We want our readers to be versatile and capable of riding western or English style.

Let's take a look at the western riding position.

Mounting Western Style
First you have to hop onto the horse. Stand facing your horse's left side and place the reins over the neck so they rest near the withers. Hold onto the reins lightly with your left hand. Grab hold of some mane with your left hand, too.

Lift up your left leg and place your foot in the stirrup. Your toe should just about touch the cinch (girth.) Bounce upwards with your right foot and swing your right leg over your horse's back. If you need to hold on to the horn to steady yourself, that's OK. Just don't put all your weight on it because you could twist the saddle tree.

Settle down in the seat, slowly and gently. Slip your right foot in the stirrup immediately.

The Western Way
If you are really want to improve your western riding, go to a show and watch lots of different riders. The successful ones always look like they are doing very little. Their movements are quiet, and they look relaxed. When you ride, think about what a really good rider looks like and try to copy his or her position.

Here's an example of a solid western position. Let's start at the top of the body and work our way down.

Head
Hold your head high and look forward, between your horse's ears. Always look in the direction you are going. Carry yourself with confidence and keep your chin up.

Shoulders
Push your shoulders back and keep them level. Don't slouch.

Chest
Keep your upper body straight and upright. Stick out your chest a little bit.

Back
Your back should be slightly arched, but not stiff.

Arms and Hands
When you begin western riding, you'll probably ride with two hands on the reins. This is a lot like English riding. As you become more experienced you will learn how to "neck rein," using your left hand only to steer your horse. This means when you move your rein hand in the direction you want to go, for example to the left, the right rein touches his neck and asks him to move away from it. Most western horses respond to neck reining.

Let's take a look at neck reining and how you do it.

1. Hold your left hand in a fist. Bring both reins together and hold them in your palm. Wrap your four fingers around the reins and rest your thumb on top.

2. Rest your right hand on your thigh.

3. When you want the horse to go left, move your hand to the left of his neck. If you want him to go right, move your hand to the right.

Seat
Sit squarely in the middle of the saddle seat and distribute your body weight evenly over both seat bones.

Legs
First make sure your stirrups are the right length. The bottom of the stirrup shouldbe level, or just below, your ankle bone. To check stirrup length, stand up in them. If you can slide your whole hand between your rear end and the saddle seat, your stirrups are about the right length.

Rest your thighs on the saddle. Your knees should be slightly bent and flat against the saddle. Your calves should be barely touching your horse's sides. They need to be close to him so they can apply pressure quickly and effectively.

Double Check: If your stirrups are the correct length, you should be able to imagine a straight line running from your ear, down your shoulder, through your upper arm and hip and down to the back of your heel. If your stirrups are too long or too short, this line will not be perfectly straight. Ask a pal if she can "see" that line along your body.

Feet
The balls of your feet should rest on the base of the stirrup and your toes should be slightly higher than your heels. Your toes should be pointed forward, not outward. Your feet should be even on each side of your horse.

 

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