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Horse riding ins and outs – everything you need to know

Published: 2023-05-29 13:19:58 Categories: Guides Rss feed , Sport Rss feed

Jeździec na koniu na padoku w siodle skokowym i czapraku

Horses are magnificent animals that are admired and respected by almost everyone. It’s no wonder then that horse riding is a dream activity of all horse lovers. The rising popularity of equestrian sports increased the number of horse riding facilities. Read our article to find out exactly what horse riding is, the advantages and disadvantages, as well as how to start your adventure as a rider!

What is horse riding?

Horse riding is a beautiful and exciting sport with a long history that reaches thousands of years. Horse riding had a different role, depending on the culture and century. The definition of horse riding includes all the equestrian disciplines (including carriage driving). Horse riding is a sport that might be viewed as an artistic work with horses. In other words, horse riding can be defined as riding a horse, usually with the use of a saddle and bridle. There are two main styles of riding – English and Western. However, working with a horse doesn’t have to include only riding, there is also groundwork in which a person trains a horse from the ground.

The basic gaits of a horse


The slowest of all gaits. At the beginning of your equestrian journey, you will probably learn the basics in walk while a trainer lunges the horse. The walk is also crucial at the beginning of each ride, energetic walk warms horses up. Horses are also asked to walk when riders go on a recreational trail ride and children ride on ponies. There is free, medium, extended, and collected walk.


Trot is the next, a little bit faster gait. It’s a two-beat gait with a suspension phase. During a trot, two opposing legs move at the same time. There are four types of trot: working, medium, extended, and collected.


It’s a three-beat horse’s gait that, apart from a gallop, is the fastest one. During one full step (stride) three legs touch the ground and then all four are suspended. Just like walk and trot, there are a few types of canter: working, medium, collected, and extended. Additionally, in canter, the rider can either be in a two-point or full seat.

Młoda kobieta na galopującym koniu w hali

Styles of horse riding

English riding

It’s a popular style of riding all over the world, including Poland. It’s mostly based on dressage – the correct seat and use of riding cues. English saddles are light and have not too deep, flat seats. English riders also wear a specific outfit – breeches, tall boots, and helmets. It’s the English style of riding that includes Olympic disciplines: dressage, show jumping, and eventing.

Western riding

This style of riding in comparison to the English style, has different ways of horse training and ways of riding it. Western riders hold their reins fully loose, so-called neck reining. This means the rider stirs the horse by pushing the reins into the horse’s neck. This allows the rider to use only one hand. Another difference from the English style is the way of starting a horse that is supposed to take part in various Western disciplines. Western saddles are big, comfy, and deep. The most common Western outfit includes a cowboy hat, jeans, chaps, cowboy boots, and western spurs. The Western disciplines include cutting, barrel racing, trail, and reining. The FEI has officially acknowledged only the last one.

Jazda konna w stylu western (reining)

Horse riding disciplines

Carriage Driving

In this discipline, horses are tested for their usage, stamina, bravery, and temperament. The carriage driving competition has three phases: dressage, marathon, and cone driving. During the first phase, the driver needs to perform set movements in walk and trot. In the second phase, the driver needs to move through a prepared course that has either three or five sections, which altogether don’t exceed 22 km. The last phase takes place in an arena with obstacles that have strictly defined dimensions. During this phase, the horse is tested for its flexibility, obedience, and fitness (especially after the marathon), while the driver needs to show their driving precision.

Endurance riding

In this discipline, the horses are tested for their stamina. The course’s length can range from 40 to 160 km, and it needs to be covered in one day, and in the shortest time possible. To win, the pair horse-rider must pass the vet check at the gates that are situated periodically. Two hours after the winner crossed the finish line, the jury judges other horses which came after the winning pair within an hour.


Vaulting can be described as artistic gymnastics on a horse. In vaulting, the rider performs various gymnastic and acrobatic movements on a horse that is being lunged. Vaulting can also be a good training method for jumpers, dressage riders, and even eventers. There are different categories of vaulting competitions: individual, pair, or team. The vaulters perform set movements that difficulty depends on the rider’s experience. Competitors are judged for their choreography, the difficulty of the program, and the execution.

Western Reining

One of the most recognizable Western disciplines that require the horse to be well-trained and have good communication between the horse-rider pair. During the competition, the rider needs to perform one of the reining patterns and ride it perfectly. The patterns include different movements such as spin, rundown, sliding stop, backing up, roll back, and hesitate.

Olympic Disciplines:


This is an Olympic discipline, officially acknowledged by FEI. During a dressage competition, the rider needs to perform a set of movements in an arena. Every planned program includes advanced movements performed with background music. Dressage tests the horse’s training and easiness in performing the figures in question. Judges evaluate each movement on a point scale from 1 to 10. The final score of the pair is presented as a percentage.

Show Jumping

During show jumping competitions, riders need to complete a course made out of various obstacles in the fastest time possible and with the least amount of penalty points. The competitions are divided into different levels. There are also different types of competitions that vary in point accumulation and classification. Most commonly, penalty points are given for additional circles. exceeding the time limit, refusals, and knocking down rails.


Eventing is one of the Olympic disciplines; colloquially sometimes called a Queen of all equestrian disciplines, because it combines all the other Olympic disciplines. So, the horse needs to be extremely versatile and have high stamina, because the riding pair needs to participate in three parts: dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. The cross-country part is especially spectacular because horses jump over nature-inspired obstacles.

Jazda konna w konkurencji WKKW (cross)

How to start your horse riding journey?

Horse riding lessons are offered at almost every stable. To begin your equestrian adventure, find out what horse riding facilities are available around you and book your lesson. It’s worth remembering that for your first riding lesson you should be dressed appropriately. Beginners can wear breathable clothing, comfortable riding boots with sturdy soles, and elastic pants. Most stables have a few helmets for you to use during the lesson, some even offer protective vests.

However, you need to remember that stables don’t have to supply you with equipment. For this reason, it is useful for you to get yourself all the necessary accessories, as this will ensure that you are always properly prepared for classes. It is also important that the equipment is properly fitted. There might be a case, in which the stable doesn’t have a helmet or a protective vest in your size. A piece of ill-fitted equipment can’t really protect you. The best thing to do is to visit an equestrian shop and buy properly fitted protective gear.

Pros and cons of horse riding

Upsides of horse riding

  • It is a great way to actively spend time outdoors, giving us great health benefits.

  • Recreational horse riding is a unique combination of fun and exercise that is both physically and mentally rewarding.

  • It promotes physical development as it improves our balance, and motor coordination, corrects our posture, supports muscle building, and helps burn calories.

  • It aids in the development of skills such as cooperation, goal setting, concentration, planning, or even control and expression of one's emotions.

  • Therapeutic horse riding, known as hippotherapy, is used as a form of therapy for children and adults with developmental disorders or muscle diseases.

  • Horse riding gives a sense of belonging to a group, teaches cooperation skills, and is a great opportunity to make new friends.

  • It has a positive impact on our creative thinking, self-confidence, independent decision-making, conflict management, and communication skills.

  • It allows contact with a live animal, which enables us to form a special bond with it. This results in the development of compassion, patience, and understanding of the positive reinforcement system.

  • Through taking proper care of the horse and preparing and caring for the equipment, horse riding teaches responsibility.

Downsides of horse riding

  • Horse riding is an expensive sport – riding equipment, riding lessons, or competition-related trips require considerable financial expenses.

  • It can be difficult for advanced riders to find a horse with a similar level of training experience in horse riding facilities.

  • Weather conditions are crucial in horse riding, and not every stable has a designated and roofed training room, i.e., an indoor arena.

  • Horse riding can be risky and result in nasty injuries and trauma. Always remember that horses are living animals, which, in some circumstances, can be unpredictable.

  • Riding is a considerable strain on the body, and with inadequate training, injuries or joint disorders may happen.

  • Efficient horse riding training requires regularity, which sometimes demands making many sacrifices.

  • It is fairly easy to come across horse riding facilities managed in a manner that disregards the concern for the welfare of the horses or the well-being of the client. Rides conducted in large groups and with inadequate equipment should be avoided at all costs.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Is horse riding for everybody?

Horses can be ridden by every person that has adequate physical and mental abilities and willingness to do so. Unfortunately, extremely overweight people and those with serious mobility issues shouldn't ride horses due to health risks. The rider also needs to be able to move freely as this can be a crucial safety factor, especially in a situation where the rider must get off a horse immediately.

Horse riding can also be dangerous for people with various spine problems. The rider’s spine is put under a lot of pressure, so improper posture can lead to unpleasant consequences. Finally, people who take medication that might disturb their concertation and vision – riders must stay alert to prevent any kind of dangerous situations.

How do you start riding a horse?

In the beginning, every rider has a lunge lesson and learns how to groom and tack up a horse. Riders should also be given safety instructions on how to act around horses. The first few lessons should focus on the proper seat and balance.

How to learn to ride a horse?

Horse riding lessons should be taken in credible stables that will prepare individual training plans for each rider. To become an experienced rider, you need to take regular horse riding lessons that are appropriate for your and your horse’s level. Additionally, you might need to be patient and keep a positive attitude – shortcuts are never a good idea.

Is horse riding an extreme sport?

There is no straightforward answer to this. A valuable clue in the search for an answer to this question is the position of some insurance companies, which recognize horse riding as an extreme sport or not. This state of affairs is a result of the difference in the definitions created by insurance companies, as well as the types of policies taken out. Horse riding is generally referred to as an extreme or high-risk sport.

What are horse riding competitions?

There are many types of equestrian competitions such as show jumping, dressage, eventing, carriage driving, vaulting, endurance races, polo, or reining.

How much time does it take to learn how to ride a horse?

The truth is riders learn their whole life. The knowledge about the functioning of horses and effective methods of training them is constantly expanding, which also affects the progress and the way of learning horsemanship. A good rider should always strive to continuously develop their existing knowledge and skills.

What does western riding entail?

In Western style, for example, riders stir the horse with their seat. Reins in western riding should be hanging loose and touch the neck when turning.

Is canter the fastest gait?

Canter is the second to last fastest gait. The fastest one is gallop – a four-beat gait, most commonly seen during horse racing. The horse's legs are put in exemplary order: left hind, right hind, left front, right front followed by the suspension phase.

What are riding styles?

There are two main riding styles: English and Western. The first one is the most popular style in Poland and includes such disciplines as show jumping, dressage, and eventing. Saddles used for English riding do not have a very deep seat. Western riding differs from the English style in the way horses are trained, rules, and has its own separate riding disciplines. These include cutting, barrel racing, trail, and reining. Starting a western horse differs from training a young horse that will be used for English riding.


Horse riding is both a beautiful and risky sport. It has many upsides as well as downsides. The many types of equestrian competitions allow us to make a wide selection of the one ideal for us. Bonding with these unique animals does not at all, have to be exclusively sport oriented. There are various ways of spending time with horses, such as walking or working from the ground.

There are also two types of riding styles to choose from, the importance of which is relevant only when choosing the professional equestrian path. If you want to start learning to ride, it is best to go to the nearest but reliable stud and set a date for a lesson. The appointed instructor can also introduce us to the training regimen and explain how our plan for learning horse riding can be carried out.

Safety should be a priority for every rider. To ensure your safety, always make sure your head is well protected. Check out our offer of helmets.

Equestrian store: +48 784 039 784


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