HI Spy: Advice for Newbies


Girl and HorseIt’s finally happened. You’ve finally convinced your friend, coworker or classmate to give horses a try. She’s getting ready for her first riding lesson, or maybe has signed up to volunteer at a therapeutic riding facility to learn more about these magnificent beasts. Before she takes her first trip out to the barn, what advice do you give her to help her in her journey from horse-world newbie to full-fledged equine enthusiast?

Think back to when you first started with horses. While there are some lessons that can’t be learned until they’re experienced firsthand, there is probably a tidbit of wisdom that you wish you’d known back then. Whether it’s practical advice (don’t wear your favorite shirt to the barn, even if you swear you’re just going to pop in and won’t get dirty) or a bit more abstract (prepare to have your life changed in ways you’d never imagined) it can all be helpful to a first-timer.

Click “Submit a Comment” below and share your advice. Some of the answers may be selected to be published in a future issue of Horse Illustrated.

One selected response may be selected by the editors to win a monthly prize! If you would like to be eligible for the prize, please include your email address in the comment form (email addresses are not publicly displayed.)

See all HI Spy Questions >>


  1. Always spend time with and enjoy your horse. Never get too caught up with showing and life that you forget what it is to take a relaxing trail ride with your horse.

  2. it’s not all about going fast! To get good at this sport, posture and finesse are more than essential. Take your time to get it perfect, and I promise your horse will respond better. If your horse won’t do what you’re asking, don’t lose your temper and take it out on the horse by being rough with your reins, feet, and crop. Ask yourself what you might be doing wrong in asking for something, and work towards fixing it.

  3. Invest in a good instructor from the get-go. Building confidence will be the biggest challenge throughout your equestrian life and a trustworthy instructor can help you and give you the tools to build and maintain that confidence.

  4. 1st – Be patient and take it lesson by lesson. Keeping and working with horses is hard work and you will be tired and stressed at times. 2nd – Flow with the movements of the horse to earn confidence rather than fighting to earn control, after all you are the one learning initially not the horse. 3rd – You can’t lie to a horse, so tell them everything and trust them to keep your secrets. 4th – Nothing can humble you faster than a horse. You won’t ever know everything there is to know about them, but the fun part is finding out more!

  5. horses don’t care what you know only that you care so it won’t matter if fresh out of the box or been around them all your life if your just beginning to ride trust the horse (hopefully it is a seasoned nothing suprises me type) and have a trusted friend around for encouragement.

  6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone has been a beginner at some point, with the same questions you will have.

  7. Make an effort to get involved with horse care around the barn, not just in the saddle. Groom your horse, learn basic horse care, hopefully youll be at a barn with kind staff that wount mind showing you what they know!

  8. Respect the horse, and the horse will respect you. A horse needs leadership, or they will become the leader. If you can find the balance, you will have a relationship that will change your life.

  9. There is no easy way to describe the privilege of having a horse. Owning a horse takes four things: determination, responsibility, a humble attitude, and a love for your horse. If you do not have determination, you will fail yourself. If you do not have responsibility, you will fail your horse. If you do not have a humble attitude, your horse will give you one. If you do not have a love for your horse, then what’s the point of owning a horse? If you have these four things, horses will always have a special place in your heart.

  10. You should read articles of horse-keeping and watch videos of horseback riding online. They give you tons of helpful advice. Also, horses are just about riding. You need to take care of their hooves, teeth, body weight, shots, and veternarian care. But if you love your horse, I can assure you that your horse will love you right back. Owning a horse is a lot of work but it’s definitely worth it.

  11. When looking for your perfect horse make sure you find a safe and reliable horse. dont go for the young greenie because hes cute or looks somewhat promising. take the time to find a horse suited to your skills. it may take longer to find that perfect horse and it may cost a little more but in the end youll see its worth it.

  12. Don’t be in such a rush to get a horse. Take your time and choose the right one. If you settle for less that’s what you’ll reap.

  13. No matter how much you think you know—read and learn as much as possible! Buy all the horse books and magazines you can get your hands on. Spend time around ‘the barn’ if you can or take lessons as much as possible. Even if you can’t just hanging out and watching horses’ body language can teach one a lot.

  14. My advice would be learn about the animal before you get on it. Maybe that horse is afraid of water. You wouldn’t want to go on a trail ride and your horse spook at the sight of a puddle! Find out what that horse is afraid of, doesn’t like, or loves! That’s the safest way to go! Also, KEEP YOUR HEELS DOWN!!!

  15. I think the most important thing is to have fun. Riding is meant to be fun. As soon as it isn’t fun anymore, take a break.

  16. So you dream of one day owning a horse. Prepare yourself for new meaning to life’s lessons learnt.Far beyond riding lessons and how to lunge your horse,when to call a vet,what grooming products to buy and the cost to feed your horse 365 days a year.There’s committment,responsibility,devotion,continued education and most importantly time.Do your homework. First can you afford this living being who will need;shelter,food,farrier,vet,tack,training and the list goes on and on? Second do you have the time to give every day to nourish your bond? Third do you realize a personal journey with a horse is precious. However not the same as a road trip in that new car you could of bought for the same money you’ll spend investing in this life long friend.

  17. Stay calm, relax yourself, and speak to the horse with your bottom and legs. My bottom, you say? Yes. A good rider knows how to use their bottom and legs to give a horse the slightest cues through weight shifting and pressure.

  18. Each person has things in their life that they struggle with, whether it be health issues, family life, work, etc,… But when you start hanging out with horses you will find that your problems seem to fade away. Horses are perfect therapy.

  19. I would tell them to not look over a senior horse when looking for their equine partner. Not all seniors are just slow, old things. My jumper is a 20 year old Arab.

  20. If I could tell my friend one thing, it would be horses are not a cheap hobby! I don’t even want to know how much money I have spent on my aged Quarter Horse, from board to tack.

  21. My best advice I would give to someone who is new to horses would be if at first you don’t succeed try, try, again. I always repeat this to myself because sometimes I feel like giving up.

  22. My best advice would be to smile. A smile on a newbies face will definately show how much joy you find working with these beautiful animals.

  23. Don’t come into your first or second lesson thinking you know it all… no matter how many horse books and videos you have read/watched, there is no way you can be perfect in a day! Allow yourself to make mistakes, thats the only way you can move forward!

  24. Take time to find a trainer that you click with, and take lessons as much as possible. Practice often, and remember—practice doesn’t make perfect… Perfect practice makes perfect! So no matter how many times you hear “HEELS DOWN!!!”, and you think, “THEY ARE DOWN!”, remember the trainer can see it and you can’t. And if at first you don’t succeed, DO IT LIKE YOUR TRAINER TOLD YOU!

  25. My advise would be, be patient, be careful, be ready for anything. Expect the unexpected, and be prepared to fall in love. Also “KEEP YOUR HEELS DOWN” and your “HEAD UP”

  26. Expect the unexpected and be very careful around horses. You never know if or when they might spook, rear, bolt, buck or bite. Trust me, I know from experience.

  27. I would say, never underestimate a horse. No matter how big or small, gentle or wild, they are animals of flight. If they get scared, their 2 choices are either fight or run.

  28. My advice would be to enjoy yourself the most you can. When you’re around horses, this is pretty much a given! Have patence with yourself and the horses you are around. Everyone maks mistakes, and you’ll be bound to make them, but you’ll be glad yu did.

  29. A lot of learning to ride is correcting what you’re doing wrong, or fixing bad habits. Be ready to be corrected by whoever is helping you learn, because even if someone gives you a lecture on how to hold your reins or mount, you will be likely to make mistakes the first time round.

  30. I would tell any beginner to get to know the horse on the ground first. Even if that horse is the most well-trained at the stable, you can get to know him/her so well on the ground that when you get in the saddle for the first time you can trust the horse and the horse can trust you. I would also say that a couple treats are a good way to have the horse love you instantly:)

  31. A Recipe For “A Good Ride”
    2 cups confedenice
    3 cups paticence
    1 oz trust
    3 T goals
    3 cup fun
    a pinch of forgiveness
    a sprinkle of practice
    and a dash of adventure
    stir well and bake no more then 1 hour.

  32. 10 Steps To Falling In Love With Horses
    1.) Be confident!
    2.) Have courage!
    3.) Be patient!
    4.) Be cautious!
    5.) Have forgivness (horses and humans aren’t perfect)
    6.) Trust is everything
    7.) Set goals
    8.) Practice makes perfect! Try, Try again!!
    9.) Have fun
    10.) Fly away with your faithful friend and have the adventure of a lifetime!!

  33. It is more important to just simply spend time with horses, than with all the trappings and activities that accompany them. Most anything you need to know you can learn from just watching and interacting with a free herd of horses. You’ll learn to see true respect, loving relationships, gentle authority, and the real nature of the horse.

  34. My advice is to build confidence and relationships from the ground up. Start with learning how to approach and introduce yourself to the horse, proceed with a grooming and tacking lesson. Follow up with some ground exercises, and then, once there’s an established relationship, climb aboard and enjoy a nice 30-minute ride under the guidance of an experienced instructor. End with cool down, grooming, and treats. Take plenty of photos and videos to document and reflect on your journey. When you aren’t at the stables, read and watch movies about horses. Visit feed and tack stores. Immerse yourself in their world. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be, the more fun you’ll have with these amazing, beautiful, incredible creatures.

  35. My advice for newbies would be to remember that horses are large animals and that in order to have a horse perform a certain act, you have to ask him and not to try and make him. Since a horse is large and can be very dangerous at times, it is also important to be aware of the position you stand with him, both physically and mentally. This is some of the advice that I taught myself, and I have learned lessons too.

  36. My advice is to learn how to think from the horses’ point of view. Learn how to do this, and practice as much as possible. Some things that you ask the horse to do may seem perfectly rational to you, but may make the horse feel threatened or scared.

  37. My advice is try to form a bond with them. If you are taking lessons, arrive a half hour early to groom the horse or just spend time with it. Forming a bond will happen over time, but it’s great to get off to a good start! Once you form a bond with the horse, you will find that you can trust it more and you will really start to love that horse!

  38. If you (or your horse!) don’t get it at first, keep trying! If you fall off, get back on! DON’T GIVE UP!! In the end it is SOOOOO worth it to be able to look back and see what you and your horse have overcome together as a team.

  39. Everyone always tells me to be super careful around horses, not to do anything sudden, etc. But I’ve actually come to realize that the more you walk on eggshells, the more your horse is scared of unkown things. I practice doing sudden things and running aropund the barn regularly(but enough to cause an accident) because the more your horse is exposed to very stupid thing you can imagine, the less afraid he is of them. We had a horse come to our barn to board that was terrified of everything, so everytime we walked by his stall, we’d turn and yell “Rawr!” and eventually he got over it. I’m currnetly training a 2yr old to lead, lunge, etc. and I always have someone either skipping around like an idiot, or giving him instructions on his own, so that his trust in me increases, therefore, he is made a better partner. Do sudden and loud things regularly if you are going to do them at all though. And ALWAYS put safety before training! (I also through ropes and stuff at my horses, they now just look at me like im stupid)

  40. Enjoy the bond that you establish between the horse and the rider! I love this sport so much because I feel that it’s one of the few sports where the animal and the person have a great deal of trust an respect for each other. I heard a saying somewhere that was:
    A dog looks up to you
    A cat looks down on you
    A horse looks you in the eye as an equal

  41. This goes towards horse health: whenever you want to try out a new feed, new kind of hay, or treat, consult your vet and the internet. Then, if you get the okay, work in the feed/hay slowly, and don’t give too many treats. Apperently, green beans are fine to give to your horses, but mine don’t like them. And another thing, consult your vet if you want to feed corn stalks to your horses; even as a treat! Corn stalks can carry diseases which, in some cases, can result in equine leukoencephalomalacia. This is a serious disease that can kill, even if the horse doesn’t show symptoms. Also, vaccinate your horses, care for them properly, and last and not least: love them with all your heart!

  42. dont let the horse get away with just anything. no matter how scared or frustrated. Punish your horse when he does something wrong And praise him when he does something right. if u dont do this u will get nowhere with your horse.

  43. Keep a cool head and always doing groundwork with your horse before you ride. The more respect you have with your horse on the ground, the more respectful he’ll be while you ride. You will be safer too.

  44. Being with horses isn’t all about the riding; it’s about the connection you create, the wonderful feeling you get, and the love you know your horse has for you.

  45. I would advice anyone considering their first horse to learn all they can about horse behavior, and how it should apply to humans in their relationaships with their horses. When I got my first horse, I had drilled myself in every aspect of care, but I knew very little about how horses function. For the first three or so years, my horse was the leader because I didn’t know how to be. I went through a lot of physical, mental and emotional pain just from not understanding how to get through to my horse and be her leader. Thankfully, I did learn and now my horse and I have a great relationship, but not before I had gotten hurt. If propective owners would commit to educating themselves about horse behavior early on, they would go through a lot less frustration and heartache.

  46. It’s important to always keep in mind that it is just as dangerous to under-confident as it is to be overconfident with horses. You must believe in your trainer, the horse, and yourself.

  47. When training, if you can’t figure something out, sleep on it, and always get a non-horse persons view of the problem. Sometimes, that approach can work better, because they can think clearer!

  48. I would advise them to be as careful as possible with their horse’s health. Things like yanking on the horse’s mouth and galloping them on pavement will have eventual consequences–a hard mouth and possibly severely damaged legs.

  49. Don’t be nervous. Your horse can feel it. One you get in that horse, you’re putting your life in it’s hooves. You must trust it. It trusts you. I promise, horses will change your life. Have fun!

  50. Always spend downtime with your horse. The more that you get to see him as his true self then you can understand him better and your bond with him can grow deeper.

  51. Horses try just as hard as you do. They like being praised and love attention. Relax and don’t be afraid, earn each others trust. Horses are amazing and will suprise you. Good Luck:)

  52. Hey guys!! I’m so excited that you decided to put your time and will power into these magnificent animals:) you might be nervous but that’s understandable though, everyone has those moments. My first piece of advice would be try not to be nervous your horse or pony will sense it and might act up:) but most of the time that won’t happen because the horse or pony you will be put on will have done this a million times before:) so trust your mount!!! If your nervous you should see my horse!!! He’s crazy hyper:)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here