Can you read a horse well enough to determine that he/she is calm and responsive enough to keep you both safe?
Reading your horse is paramount when it comes to riding. A high headed, tightly wound horse is not the kind you want to be on. I low headed, dull horse is also not that much fun. Can you read a horse that lives in the middle? Do you know a handful of tests that can easily be implemented to determine ride ability in each gait? If not, comment below. I want to give you what you need to succeed. You need to be able to read into the psychology of the horse. Not just in general but in every specific moment. You need to be able to read the emotions and thoughts as they ebb and flow. If you can, you will know when you have a right to ride. If you can't, you're just guessing and I know where that leads. I know because I used to "think" my horse was ready, only to find out I was wrong. You have to look deeper. Learn the signs. I can show you. Comment below, ask for more.
Can you get up from the ground?
I know lots of people who ride regularly, but struggle to get up from the ground. They prefer to use a mounting block. Me too! I prefer to use a mounting block but I can get up from the ground if I must. The real reason for making this an item in the "to-do" list of riding is simply to know that if you have to get off on a trail somewhere you are practiced at looking for ways to get back on in weird places. I use hillsides, stumps, rocks, ditches, logs, and whatever I can to get on when I need a little extra support. Don't get me wrong here. If you can't get on without support, I still believe you can ride. You just better have a much better horse than most people dream of having. In other words, you don't have to ride a green horse if you can't get on and off easily.
Also, getting on and off from the ground can be good for a horse. It's certainly not as comfortable as getting on from a mounting block but it's still a useful thing to have a horse get used to, just in case.
Can you get off quickly in an emergency?
More important than getting on is getting off. I've seen students struggle to get off their horses and I think to myself. "What are you even doing up there? What if something bad happened, suddenly? Would you survive?" If you've got a calm, well trained horse then maybe it's not a problem. But even the best horses can react without warning. I think if a person wants to ride, they should first show their abilities to climb up and down from a horse quickly and with ease. I know some people cannot get off without assistance. I have a close friend who won the Paralympic games in dressage and she lives her life in a wheelchair. She can't just get off. But she never rides horses that aren't perfectly secure. You shouldn't either unless you're an expert at getting off in an emergency.
Does your horse have a history of excellence?
If you answer yes to this one, you're living the good life. A solid, true blue, horse is exactly what everyone needs. Unfortunately, it's not what everyone has. Therefore, if you want to ride, you should be sure to ride only when things are good. Like on a calm hot day in a sandy arena or safe trail with great horse friends who also have calm horses. The good thing is, if you have a horse that doesn't have a history of excellence, you can get past it with good training. That's what Mastery Horsemanship is all about. Check it out.
Does your horse know you actually care about their experience?
This is the biggest one of all perhaps. Everything up to this point has been about your experience. But what about your horse? Does your horse know you care? How does he or she know you care? What do you do at the end of the ride? What do you do before the ride, and between all rides, day to day? Do you prove on a regular basis that you are the coolest person in the world when it comes to your horse and the way he looks at you?
Right now I've got a mule in training. He doesn't like people. So... should I ride him? NO! Of course not. Why would I ride an animal that doesn't like me? I would be asking for trouble. Even if he never bucked and never bolted, I would still be a horrible partner for that animal if all I wanted was to ride. I like to think about horses in this light. 50/50 bonding and training. That ratio keeps me moving forward and making progress and it also, always ensures the horse knows I care about his experience. I bond with treats, grooming, looking for itchy spots, rubbing all the most sensitive and reactive areas daily to build in a deeper bond, hanging out while grazing, exploring fun new places calmly, and sticking around for long enough after each ride for the sweat to dry.