Riding a horse off-track for the first time can be a daunting experience, but doesn’t need to be. All you need to do is ensure you and your horse are fully equipped and prepared, ensuring that you both go into it with a positive state of mind. If you are gearing up for your first ever off-track ride, fear not, as we are about to tell you everything you need to do to prepare and feel completely ready. Read on to learn everything you need to know before taking that first ride.
Is Your Horse Ready?
Track or thoroughbred horses are very used to riding at a track. If your horse has plenty of experience in this field, that is a great position to find yourself in. If not, consider taking some time to get your horse comfortable on a track or enclosed space. Take time to get to know your horse and ensure you are comfortable with one another.
If your horse is well trained and comfortable on the track, you can work towards off-track riding. Your horse needs to understand your cues, so some on-track riding will be essential to prepare for the next step. Look for signs that your horse moves on cue, pulls up on cue, and understands your movements. If you feel that the horse understands you and is completely confident on-track, then you can get yourself ready to take him out of the track and into the open.
The Correct Equipment
It is best to be extra prepared for your first ride outside of track settings. You should wear a protective vest as a jockey would wear, and some strong boots. Brands like ariat would have you covered here, so if you do not have these items, get some in advance. Make sure to use a saddle and reins which are familiar to your horse and nothing that is too restrictive. Remember, they are changing their environment, so keep things as similar and as comfortable as possible. You should also grab yourself a mounting block if you are unable to get a leg up; more on that below…
Mounting The Horse
If you do not have anyone with you to offer a leg up, it will be crucial to use a mounting block. Your horse may not have seen one before, so introducing it to the horse before attempting to use it for the first time is the right way to go. Rattle it, move it, step up and down on it. This way, there is much less possibility of startling your friend and causing an unwelcome bolt upon attempting to mount.
Your horse is probably likely used to having a handler and being able to move forwards when being mounted. Be sure to recreate their familiar situation as best possible. As previously stated, the less possibility you give the horse to be startled, the easier the start to your ride will be.
Be relaxed and gentle to start your ride. You should be confident enough to ride your horse at a slow pace before taking it out. To start your ride off-track, begin at a very slow and casual pace before attempting to break into a canter. This is a new experience for both rider and horse, so getting carried away and jumping into a pacy ride too quickly could lead to disaster.
You may not feel safe enough to canter on your first ride at all, and that is totally fine. The horse will guide you as to how comfortable it is, pay attention to these signs, and take the pace as it comes. Also, start with a very small distance away from the track to remain in familiar surroundings for the first ride or two at least.
Happy Mind, Happy Horse!
Track horses are highly intelligent animals and can very quickly pick up on emotional cues from their handler or rider. If you do not feel safe, confident, or comfortable on your horse, they will know so. You must go into the ride with a positive mindset. Stroke your horse’s neck, talk to them, and comfort them. A positive attitude displayed to the horse will, in turn, put him in a positive state of mind, so you can both start your new experience happy and relaxed.
There we have it, some of the most important things you must consider when taking your horse off-track for the first time. Arguably the most important is your mindset and communication with the animal, so remember to be calm and confident. We wish you the best of luck in your new off-track adventures with your friend. Happy riding!