Oldtime Horse Riding & Training

Riding a Horse

The American way of riding a horse is the only way that comfort can be had for both man and beast. By the American way I mean sitting in the saddle. I am sorry that a great many gentlemen of this country are using the English style on horseback - that is, they rise in the saddle with the motion of the horse.

Last summer when I was in England, I noticed this style particularly. I don’t see how it can he comfortable, and I know that it is anything but graceful to see a man bumping up and down in his saddle. The English who saw us ride soon came to this conclusion. They agreed that the American horseback riding style was the only style and soon began to copy us.

Expert riders came down to see me. They tried the American style and now many gentlemen can be seen every day in their park riding the American style. To ride properly you must sit firmly in your saddle. Get a comfortable saddle to begin with. Then sit squarely in it.

Have your stirrups long enough to save some of the weight from the horse’s back and so that you can raise yourself in them when necessary. I always raise myself in the saddle to shoot. I can get in a steadier position and get a better aim. When sitting on your horse grip him with your legs, between your hip and your knee. Sit erect and hold your reins low down and short enough to feel his head.

The first thing a horseback rider should do is to learn his horse. Learn the different gaits of the horse and then ride with the horse - go with his motion. This is less trying to the horse and to the rider.

Riding a Texas Mustang

The most serviceable horse to ride on the prairies is the Texas mustang. He is a small, hardy little animal, usually good-tempered and easy gaited. I think if he were used more in cities for pleasure riding he would soon become a great favorite with all equestrians. My horse, saddle and style of riding is very different from what is usually seen in cities, but I venture to say if they were tried, all would agree with me that I know what was comfortable.

The saddle I use is the stock saddle. It is generally used on the plains. It is large and comfortable, and has a high pommel in front. It is made to sit on.

This saddle, of course, is securely strapped on the horse, and then the next thing to do is to get into it. I take the reins in my left hand, holding them short, place my left foot in the stirrup, put my hand on the pommel of the saddle and then quickly raise myself in the stirrup, swing my right foot over the horse’s back and drop into the seat. This can all be done quicker than it takes to tell, and so quickly that I am in the saddle and have control of the horse almost before he knows what is going to happen.

When in the saddle I sit firmly and erect. My weight is partly in the stirrups, which I have long enough to rest my feet in when my legs are hanging straight down. I get a hold on the horse by gripping him with my legs from the hip to the knee. My saddle is used to sit in, not to rise up and down.

That style of riding must be tiring to the horse and to the rider. I think, too, that it is a very ugly style. The prettiest way to ride is to sit your horse so well that you move as he moves and appear to be as one. The fancy way of riding may be all very well for parks, but it would never do in a rough country.

Sitting as I do I can ride as long as the horse can carry me without feeling any ill effects. I have frequently been in the saddle from morning till night and have ridden sixty or seventy miles in a day, and across rough country, too. That could never he done if I had to rise in the saddle with every step the horse takes.

I remember on one occasion I rode sixty-five miles to attend a dance on the plain. I danced nearly all night, and as soon as it was over got into the saddle and rode sixty-five miles hack again.
I hold my reins in the left hand and short enough to feel my horse. This is so that in case he should stumble I can pull him up.

For a beginner to learn to ride, I would advise him to do just as I have said. When he gets into the saddle, before he tries to ride he should get used to the seat and become perfectly at home in it. When this has been acquired, let your horse walk about a little until you are used to the motion.
Get used to every movement before you try another. Don’t try to sit stiffly on the horse, but swing about easily. Then let your horse trot, then canter and then gallop. Keep the same position for each motion, and always move with the horse.

Don’t be scared of your horse, and when you tell him anything make him mind. I train all my horses to my own peculiarities, and many of them I can guide by a touch of the spur. I never use a single rein in guiding a horse. The reins I hold together in the left hand, and instead of pulling one to turn him, I pull both reins over to the side on which I wish him to turn.

In jumping, I ride the horse at the object I wish to jump, and when he is to rise just touch him with the spur and lift him with the reins, always taking care to hold on with my legs. To learn to ride well one wants to go out on the plains.

Just Ride a Horse

The easiest way to learn to ride a horse is to be placed one hundred miles from any town with a borrowed horse and have to ride or walk to get to the town. I say borrowed horse, because you won’t mind then what happens to him. You will either learn to ride or you will learn to walk well, and I fancy it will be the riding that will come most natural. 

When I first learned to ride I got on the horse’s hack and made up my mind I was going to stay there. The horse did not agree with me at first, and as fast as I got in the saddle I was thrown out again, but after a while the horse got tired and we started working together. This horse was not one of the easy gaited horses you see in the parks of this country, but a Texas bronco. 

If gentlemen who wish to ride would try this method they would soon learn, and without the expense of a riding master either. Of course, they might get a few bruises at first.

To keep a proper seat in the saddle just sit down as though you had a chair to sit on. Sit firmly and erect. Let your legs hang down on either side of the horse, and hook your toes in the stirrups.

Don’t use a short stirrup, but have them just long enough so that you can rest a little weight on them and so place your weight evenly on the horse’s back. Press your knees in tightly to the horse’s body and get a grip on him. This will steady you, and you will be able to move more with the horse.

Just fancy you and your horse are one and in sympathy. This will save you from getting tired quickly and will save your horse. Follow these instructions, and practice, and you will soon be able to ride a horse.

Riding Horseback

Riding horseback has to come natural, I think; at least I know it did for me. I had a fancy that I would like to ride, and so I got a horse, mounted him, and soon taught myself how to. I have never been taught how to ride. I know the various rules laid down by riding-masters, and can follow them, but often I just want to be comfortable on the horse, and so do as I please.

First of all I thoroughly understand my horse and learn his gaits. I use a short stirrup, and rest a great deal of my weight in it. A great many are now trying to do away with the short stirrup. I don’t think it is at all easy to do so after one has long been used to riding with them short. A long stirrup may have its advantages, but one has to learn to ride with a long stirrup. When in the saddle, to ride correctly throw your right shoulder back, sit squarely facing your horse and keep your head back. Hold your reins short enough to feel your horse’s mouth and keep the hands well down.

However you may sit on your horse don’t keep your hands up in the air and jump up and down as the horse moves. I usually get on my horse the best way I can; sometimes I am assisted and sometimes I have to help myself. In racing I always hold a very short rein and lean well forward over my horse's head while he is running.

Keep a good lookout always where your horse is going. Don’t think because he is quiet and sure-footed that he will never shy or stumble. By looking well ahead and keeping a feel on your horse’s mouth you can often save what might be a serious accident.

Buffalo Bill on Trick Riding

I have ridden horseback for a number of years, and I have found out now what I think is the safest seat and the most comfortable one. I always ride now by stirrup balance. That is I use the stirrup so long that to place my foot in it my leg has to be extended straight down. I rest a part of my weight in the stirrup and part of it in the horn of the saddle. I think there is more grace in sitting this way than in using the short stirrup.

With the short stirrup the leg is bent and twisted, and it is not at all comfortable to twist yourself round in the saddle to face your horse properly. With the long stirrup you can sit squarely with your horse. The proper way is to be looking straight ahead, with your shoulders and head thrown well back.

Don’t bend down over your horse, because if he should stumble you would stand a good chance of being thrown over his head before you could save yourself. Hold your reins in the left hand and short enough to just feel your horse’s mouth. If you hold them too loosely he may stumble and fall before you can save him, or he might, in fact, do anything before you could stop him. The whip can be carried under the arm or in the right hand. I always train my horses very carefully, and teach them to do a great deal by first talking to them. Horses are very intelligent, and can easily lie taught. Mine all perform a great many tricks.

To teach your horse to rear is very easy. You just simply sit back in the saddle, touch him with the spur and rein him in. At first he will hardly understand what is wanted, but he will soon learn that when you say 'up' and rein him in that he is to rear.

To teach your horse to walk lame you tap him on the leg sufficiently hard to make him feel it, and at the same time lead him forward a little. The tap will attract his attention to his leg and he will limp. By repeating this he will soon learn that when you touch his leg he is to limp. Always pat your horse after he has done what you wish him to, and speak kindly to him. You can make him do a great deal more by kindness than you can by cruelty.

To train a horse to take a handkerchief is a very easy trick. Put a pin in the handkerchief and prick your horse gently. He will quickly turn his head to defend the injured part. Then prick him again. He will soon know that it is something to do with the handkerchief that is annoying him and take hold of it with his teeth. After repeating this for a few times he will learn to take the handkerchief whenever he sees it near him.

Texas Mustang Training 

To break and ride a Texas mustang is one of the hardest things to do. These little horses that have perhaps gone until they are 8 or 9 years old before being saddled, don’t take kindly to the idea of carrying a man at all.

We will consider that you have caught one and saddled him. This is by no means an easy job. Then get hold of his bridle and gradually get a strong hold on him. I usually put my thumb through the head-gear and my fingers in the ring of the bit, holding the reins in the palm of the hand.

Then I pull his head round to one side. In this way I have a great power over him.  Then I watch for my opportunity, put one foot in the stirrup and swing over his back. Just as soon as he feels the weight in the saddle he will buck, jump, and unless you have a good hold, send you flying. Stick to him, holding on with a good grip of the knees. You must watch out that he does not try to throw himself or he may hurt you if he should roll on you.

If you can convince these unruly equines a few times when they are young, then you can make useful horses of them; but if they should throw you first, then they think they can always do the same.

How a Lady Might Ride a Horse

The saddlery for the use of ladies is similar to that devoted to gentlemen’s riding, except that it is more ornamental and the saddle is furnished with crutches for side riding. The saddle should he carefully fitted to the horse, and there should always be a third crutch. The stirrup may lie either like a man’s with a lining of leather or velvet, or it may be a slipper, which is safer, and also easier to the foot.

The lady’s whip is a light affair, but, as her horse ought seldom to require punishment, it is carried more to threaten than to give punishment.

A spur may be added for a lady’s use; it is sometimes needful for the purpose of giving a stimulus at the right moment. If used, it is buckled on to the boot, and a small opening is made in the habit, with a string attached to the inside, which is then tied around the ankle, and thus keeps the spur always projecting beyond the folds of the habit.

A nose martingale is generally added for ornament; but no horse which throws his head up is fit for a lady’s use. In mounting, the horse is held steady, taking care to keep him well where the lady stands.

The gentleman assistant then places his right hand on his right knee and receives the lady's left foot. Previously to this she has taken the reins in her right hand, then with her left on the gentleman’s shoulder she makes a spring from the ground and is easily lifted into the saddle. As she rises she still keeps hold of the crutch, which throws the body sideways into the saddle.

The right knee hooked over the crutch keeps the body from slipping backwards, whilst the left keeps it from a forward motion, and thus the proper position is maintained.

In all cases the right foot should be kept back, and the point of the toe should scarcely be visible. In spite of her side-seat the lady should be square to the front, with the elbow easily bent, and preserved in its proper position by the same precaution.

The whip is generally held in the right hand, with the lash pointing forward, and towards the left, and by this position it may be used on any part of the horse’s body by reaching over to the left and cutting before or behind the saddle, or with great ease on the right side.

In dismounting, the horse is brought to a dead stop, and his head held by an assistant.The lady then turns her knee back again in from the position between the outside crutch, takes her foot out of the stirrup, and sits completely sideways; she then puts her left hand on the gentleman's shoulder, who places his arm around her waist, and lightly assists her to the ground.