There are several common mistakes that new riders make when first learning to ride horseback ad your first lesson in riding horses in Birmingham should teach you differently. It is instinctual for us to use our hands and arms to balance us when we start to feel insecure. Beginner riders often end up with their hands way up in the air, sometimes at shoulder height. This leaves the reins much to long, and the rider then has no control of the horse. Or, the rider allows the reins to slide through their hands and lifts their hands to make contact, rather than shortening the reins.
The Fix: Work on following the movement of the horse with your seat and core. Keep a light, even tension on the reins and keep your hands at hip level. Readjust the reins if the horse pulls them loose. As in the picture, there should be an imaginary straight line that goes from your elbows, forearm, wrist, hands, reins and to the bit in the horse's mouth if you are direct reining. If you are neck reining, you should be able to feel a very slight tension on the reins when you pull back. Keep your hands at hip level and your elbows at your side.
Riding is more about balance than grip. Your muscles will be active, without being tense, and you don't want to be a clothespin on your horse's back. Clenching with your upper or lower leg or both is tiring and may be understood by your horse as a cue to move forward. Clenching and gripping will make your body tense, which can affect your horse's attitude.
The Fix: When you sit in the saddle, let your leg hang from the hip. Allow your weight to fall down into your heel. If you're jamming your heel down, you may also be pinching with your knees or clenching with your legs. Keep your foot under you, rather than allowing your leg to swing to the front or back. There should be an imaginary straight line from your ear, shoulder, hip to your heel.
This often happens when riders first learn to post the trot. Trying to lift yourself out of the saddle by rocking up (usually hunching the shoulders and trying to 'hop' out of the saddle) and standing on your tip toes will likely have you behind the rhythm of the trot and double bouncing heavily in the saddle. Your hands may go up as you try to counterbalance yourself. This leads to a grumpy horse and an unbalanced, uncomfortable rider.
The Fix: Work on your leg position. Keep your lower leg still, with your feet under you as if you were standing on the ground with your knees slightly bent. Learn to use your core muscles to help you post the trot, and not your feet.
Having your feet rammed too far into the stirrups is uncomfortable, and can be dangerous if you're not using safety stirrups or wearing proper boots.
The Fix: Make sure your stirrups are the proper length. The stirrup should just hit your ankle bone when your legs are hanging free with your feet out of the stirrups. Place your foot in the stirrup so the ball (widest) part of your foot is resting on the stirrup. Work on proper leg position.