Ride a horse

By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Editor’s Note: Sports reporter Sara Seyydin caught up with Honey Cowan, owner of C-Horse Ranch in Auburn, Friday, for instructions on how to horseback ride. She rode Cowan’s Quarter Horse, Cayenne, with a saddle and an Icelandic horse, named Pepar, bareback. This is the final in a series of how-to articles appearing Tuesdays in Journal Sports. A summary of Cowan’s basic tips, instructions and insights follow. Auburn is rich with Wild West history. Each year the Auburn Stampede pays homage to the city’s horseback roots. In the Tevis Cup, top endurance riders compete in a grueling 100-Mile Endurance Ride on horseback. Join ranks with these greats and saddle-up (or go bareback) for a lesson. For the safety of any novice rider, it is important to begin training with a professional instructor or very experienced rider. Make sure to wear a helmet and have on proper riding gear. Long pants and boots are recommended. As with any activity, there are basic fundamentals to horseback riding, but if you start out relaxed and natural, they will come more easily. First, get acquainted with the horse you will be riding. Let it smell you and see that you are at ease. If a horse can tell that you are relaxed, they are more likely to respond with relaxed behavior. Likewise, a horse can sense if you are nervous and this will make them nervous. Do not make any sudden, jerky movements as horses can spook easily. Remember to always avoid standing behind the horse or directly in front of them. Horses see in a triangular vision. Because of where their eyes are positioned, they can’t see directly in front of them. When you feel comfortable, and the horse seems ready, you can begin. A short ladder may be necessary to allow you to get up to the horse’s height. To mount yourself on the horse, grab a hold of the reigns, along with part of the horse’s mane with one hand. Place your foot of the same side in the stirrup. Use your other arm to hold on to the horse and pull your self up onto the saddle. Swing your other leg over to the other side and place your foot in the stirrup. Hold one part of the reigns in each hand. Fold each side of the reigns and with your fingers mimic the way you would hold an ice cream cone. Loop the reigns through your pinky and thumb, with your middle three fingers grouped. Keep your hands down and elbows back. Your heels should be pointing down, which is key to maintaining your balance. Move with the horse as it moves. You will feel its hips move up and down. Sit up straight, relax and go with the motion. Imagine riding a horse is like driving a car. Use your legs as the gas pedals, the reigns as the brakes and peer through the center of the horse’s ears, like a windshield. To steer the horse in your desired direction, look at where you want to go and move your belly button in that direction. Since your head is the heaviest part of your body and your legs will move as you turn your belly button, this will allow the horse to feel where you would like them to go. You can nudge the horse with your legs and say, ‘walk.’ When you want the horse to stop, tighten your midsection, pull back on the reigns and say whatever phrase your horse is trained to stop to. After the horse has stopped, release the reigns to show the horse that they have done what you asked. To dismount, hold the horse’s neck like you are giving them a big hug. Swing your right leg around the left side and slide down until your feet touch the ground. Do not let go of the horse until you are safely on the ground. Now that you have the key essentials to riding a horse, continue to practice and you just may be able to hold your own at the rodeo, or be the next champion of the Tevis Cup 100-Mile Endurance Ride. Reach Sara Seyydin at