You are there! Your horse has been desensitized, leads well in hand, and stands still when you tell him to. He is reliable and obedient. Every time you ask for a particular response, you get that response and no other. You are ready to ride.
For the young horse, the more contact with humans the better. Thus, it is best to ride bareback for the first time. I will warn you now – first, if your horse is not ready, bad things could happen. Make sure he is ready both emotionally and physically before mounting. Second, this will not seem like riding to you. It is more like desensitizing the horse to the presence of a human on his back. As with any desensitizing, this is to be taken slowly. In fact, the slower you go the better your results will be. Slow down, take a step back, relax. You will get to the point of riding eventually. Things that are waited for are often the most rewarding.
This DIY Training post is broken down into steps. Each one should be repeated until the horse shows signs of relaxation. This can be done either before or after desensitizing the horse to the saddle and girthing him up, however, I prefer to ride him before saddling so that the process of riding is broken down as small as possible, so you are not introducing too much at once. So I will describe this as if you are bareback.
Step 1: Jump up and down beside your horse, making no contact with him. It is best to do this step, actually, all of them, on both sides. You never know when you may have to mount from the right side, and you will want a calm horse if you ever have to do this. Continue jumping, with a light contact on the lead rope or reins, until his head goes down, he licks his lips, or shows other signs of relaxation. Then you can move on to the next step.
Step 2: Now you may jump up and down, making contact with your horse. Jump up and slide down his side again, but don’t push him over! Continue until he shows the signs of relaxation.
Step 3: Jump up and hang over his withers. Continue until he is relaxed.
Step 4: Jump up and slide around until you are lying on his back, flat out. Rub his haunches with your feet.
Step 5: Crouch over him by sliding your legs down his sides a little. Don’t sit up straight just yet. Move up and down between lying flat and crouching.
Step 6: Sit up. Your legs may now hang beside his sides where they should be. Resist the urge to tell him to walk forward – he does not know the cue yet.
Step 7: Pat him all over, wherever you can reach. Go slowly and be non-invasive. If you are in the habit of stretching and exercising on your horse when you get on to loosen yourself up, go through your usual exercises now. Now is as good a time as any to get him used to them. Sit in odd positions, but don’t get too crazy.
Alright, that is all for now. Get those down pat, and the next lesson will be the steps to ‘real’ riding!