For any rider the choice of riding schools can be difficult but particularly so for the first time rider wishing to take those first lessons.
There are two organisations that set standards for riding schools: the British Horse Society (BHS) and the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS). Any riding school approved by one or both of these organisations ensures that they meet the standard required by these organisations. Therefore it is always best to locate a school which has been approved by one or both of these organisations. Riding schools are inspected every year and so any approval should be current. The BHS and the ABRS both set riding instruction examinations.
Once the riding school has been chosen and the lesson booked the next thing to consider is what to wear for that first lesson. Although riding wear can be bought from saddlery shops and online equestrian stores it is not wise to rush out and buy these items until you are sure that you enjoy riding and intend to continue for some time to come.
The riding school will have riding hats of varying sizes for beginners to hire for a lesson. Comfortable fitting trousers should be worn - overly tight trousers are not advised as these may restrict movement and prove uncomfortable for riding in, whilst baggy trouser may flap and alarm the horse or pony. Boots or shoes with a small heel should be worn and shoes with a chunky grip on the sole are best avoided.
It is not necessary to buy a full set of riding wear before starting horse riding as riding schools have riding hats of varying sizes available for beginners to hire for a lesson and this is the single most important item of equestrian clothing.
Once riding regularly though it is wise to invest in proper equestrian clothing to ensure maximum safety and comfort whilst riding.
It is always best to arrive at least 15 minutes early for the first lesson. This will give time to find a suitable hat to hire and also give the opportunity to meet the horse to be ridden and see it being prepared for the lesson, if it has not been prepared beforehand.
The first thing you will learn on your riding lesson is how to mount the horse or pony.
Before mounting it is always advisable to check that the girth is sufficiently tight. A loose girth will result in the saddle slipping to one side when mounting.
Mounting a horse or pony is done from the "near" side ie the horse's left side. (The horse's right side is known as the "off" side.) Facing the horse, the reins are held in the left hand and the left hand placed on the pommel of the saddle. The reins should be held tight enough to prevent the horse or pony from wandering off when you try to mount but not too tight that the horse or pony starts to walk backwards.
Then turning to face the rear of the horse, take the stirrup in your right hand, turn it clockwise to allow you to gently place your left foot in it so that the ball of your foot rests on the bottom of the stirrup. An important thing to note is that whilst mounting you should be careful not to inadvertedly kick the horse with your left foot as this will encourage the horse to walk forward.
With the reins held in the left hand, your left foot in the stirrup, the right hand should be placed over the back of the saddle (cantle). Then with a small spring, jump up straightening the left leg as you swing the right leg over the back of the horse, remembering to move your right hand forward as you do so, and then gently sit into the saddle.
To dismount from a horse or pony, first remove both feet from the stirrups. Then hold the reins in the left hand whilst holding the pommel of the saddle. In one flowing movement, lean foward, lift the right leg and swing it over the horse's hindquarters (being careful not to kick the horse in the process) and land on the ground beside the horse.
Once you have dismounted, take the stirrup leather and slide the iron up the back part of the leather and then take the folded bottom end of the leather and pass it through the centre of the Iron so that it falls behind it. This prevents the stirrup iron from falling and knocking against the horse.
Then reward your horse by lifting up the saddle flap and loosening the girth by one or two holes.