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Two Riding Horseback: Safety, Saddles, & Who Rides in Front

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When my grandson asked me if he and his sister could ride double on their horse, I wasn’t sure what to say. We did it when we were young, and I remember my dad scolding us, which makes me wonder what the risks and dangers of two riding horseback are?

In general, you shouldn’t ride double on a horse because it can put too much uneven pressure on the animal’s back. Riding this way can lead to injury for both you and your mount. Having said that, you can try riding two on horseback as long as you follow some basic safety rules.

If you own horses, you’ve likely either rode double or been tempted to. Many people see nothing wrong with it, but there is a lot you need to know before trying it yourself.

Picture of two riding horseback

In this guide, I cover the following topics related to two persons riding horseback:

  • Safety rules to follow when two riding horseback
  • Who rides in the front when riding double on horseback
  • Best saddle designed for two persons riding horseback 

7 Safety Rules to Follow when Riding Double on Horseback

When taking on the responsibility of riding a horse with another person, it is crucial to be experienced in handling these animals. There are many things to consider when riding double; not only do you need the right equipment, but you also have to understand how horses behave and react in certain situations.

Riding experience is key, two beginner equestrians should never ride double because they can hurt the horse or get injured. However, If you’re an avid rider who wants some tips about how best to enjoy riding double while reducing the risk of injury, then here’s what I would recommend:

#1. Avoid overloading the horse

Two adults shouldn’t ride double on horseback because their combined weight is typically too much for a horse to carry safely. It’s best to ride for an adult to ride with a small child. After all, a horse is not designed to carry two people – let alone two fully-grown adults. 

The load-bearing capacity is 20% of a horse’s total body weight. For example, if you and your riding partner weigh over 250 lb., ensure the horse is at least 16 hh and weighs between 1250 and 1600 lb.

Even two average-sized adults can exert a great deal of pressure on the horse’s hindquarters. But if one of the adults is heavier than average, the horse’s performance is bound to be impacted, possibly injuring the animal and endangering the riders. 

Never go by the horse’s size alone in judging that it will be able to carry all that weight. Even if you have a draft horse or a horse with a double-boned structure, two adult riders could end up hurting the horse, especially when riding for a prolonged period. Add to this the fact that if one of the riders is inexperienced, the damage inflicted may be even greater.

Bottom line: It is very important to ensure that the horse can carry the weight of both riders. I wrote a helpful article about how much weight a horse can carry, I suggest you check it out.

#2. You should only ride two persons on certain horses.

If you must take two riders on a horse, then choose one that is calm, quiet, reliable, well-trained, and mild-mannered

Even then, it is best to keep the duration short and ensure that you do not over-exert the horse. Even an experienced horse with a great temperament will get tired and injured when over-exerted.

#3. Avoid wearing boots with spurs.

The rider at the back mustn’t have boots with spurs on. When two ride horseback, the rider at the back with long legs could end up unknowingly kicking the horse’s flanks. If their boots have spurs, they could seriously hurt the horse’s sensitive belly.

Moreover, spurs can frighten or spook a horse – especially if it isn’t used to being ridden by two people. This could result in bucking or bolting, putting both riders at risk of being thrown off.

If two short individuals ride the horse, their chances of hurting the horse’s flanks will be low, although not entirely zero.

Later in this guide, I will explain who should sit in the front and back when two-riding horseback and provide my reasoning.

#4. Only ride in a controlled, safe setting.

No matter how well-trained and experienced your horse may be, it is still essential to only ride double in a safe, controlled, and familiar setting.

Avoid riding double on rough or unknown trails or when the weather is harsh. If possible, only two-ride in an enclosed area with a fence and one that has a soft footing. Ride at a slow speed – just a walk or a trot; this is very important to prevent severe injuries in case of falls.

#5. Make sure both riders wear safety gear.

Both riders should wear a safety helmet, regardless of the rider’s experience. Studies show that equestrian helmets can considerably reduce the severity of head injuries and skull fractures in the event of a fall.

It is also important for both riders to wear decent riding apparel. You do not want to spook or frighten the horse with flapping sleeves, capes, or scarves.

#6. Make sure at least one rider is experienced.

Two inexperienced riders should never ride double on horseback. An experienced adult rider will be better positioned to control the horse should it get spooked or become unruly. 

#7. Select appropriate two riding saddles.

These days, you get special double-riding saddles for enhanced safety for two riding horseback. These can keep both riders safe and comfortable when double-riding. 

If you ride with a child, it is best to use a western saddle or a buddy saddle. Western saddles come with horns so the child can hold on to the horn tightly to prevent falling off. A buddy saddle can be attached in tandem to the main saddle. (I review a buddy saddle later in this guide.)

Some adults two ride bareback with just a pad between them and the horse; this is fine as long as you adhere to the seven safety rules mentioned above.

When my kids were young, we used buddy seats when two rode horseback. I would simply attach the buddy seat to my saddle so they would be comfortable sitting on the horse.

Some innovative riders I know even design their own ‘double saddles’. One such design includes the use of a 1.5-inch foam with a canvas cover over it and some straps to help secure it to the main saddle. 

While a young rider can comfortably ride with an adult using this setup, I strongly recommend the use of well-made two riding horseback saddles that are available on the market. This is very important to stay safe when two-riding horseback.

Picture of two riding horseback

Who Should Ride in the Front When Double Riding a Horse?

Scenario 1 – An Adult and a Child

If you’re an experienced adult rider, you can easily ride your horse with a child. It is best to have the child ride in front while you sit behind. This helps in three ways:

#1. Your child can get accustomed to riding

When the child is in front of you, you can control the reins from behind. This helps your child get accustomed to riding before s/he rides solo. It is a great way to instill confidence in a young rider. Moreover, if a young rider is afraid or nervous around horses, or this is their first time riding, this is a great way to reduce that fear.

#2. It helps you teach them how to communicate with the horse

An adult rider can teach the young rider in front the subtleties of reining. One can also teach the child the right ways of communicating with the horse.

Also, since the young rider will be right in front of your stomach, s/he can feel you shift your weight and understand how you use it to communicate with the horse. 

Thirdly, the young rider can watch how you use your hands as they have a clearer view of your hand movements on the reins.

#3. Your child will be safer in the front

If you use a western saddle, then the young rider in the front can hold on to the saddle horn, enhancing safety while riding.

Here is a video that shows double riding with the child in the front. Do check it out.

Scenario 2 – Two Adults

I strongly urge you not to two-ride horseback with two adults. I have mentioned this before, but it is still worth repeating: a horse is not built to carry two adults.

If you find it necessary for adults to ride together on horseback, the heavier person should sit in the front. This way, the lighter adult will be on the horse’s weaker section: its loins. This will help the horse carry the extra load a little more easily.

As mentioned above, keep the duration of two riding short and the speed of riding very slow.

Best two person horse saddle – Tough 1 Ride – Behind Tandem Saddle for Western Saddle

Tough-1 has designed this excellent saddle addition using sturdy Cordura nylon material. The best part is that it comes with stirrups so the second rider can easily alter their center of gravity and better stabilize.

You can easily attach this ride-behind tandem to any western saddle. They have not mentioned any weight limit for it but my 70 lb. grandkid easily two-rode with me on it- although not for too long.

The dimensions of the saddle are 24 x 18 x 18 inches, and it weighs slightly less than 4 lb.

I had recently let a friend try it out with her kids. She wanted to test it out before buying one. She later mentioned that her average-sized 8-year-old found it too small while her 5-year-old was quite comfortable.

Many people may also want to know if you can attach this to an English saddle? The answer: if your English saddle has D-rings, then sure, you can easily attach the Tough-1 buddy saddle to it.

How to attach the Tough-1 buddy saddle?

It does take a bit of work to understand how the Tough-1 tandem saddle actually goes on so it is a good idea to play around with it at home before you actually attach it to your horse.

Note: this buddy saddle takes up a considerable amount of space on the horse’s back. So, it is ideal for use with a large horse but not on a pony or a donkey.

We attached the tandem to the billet straps or rings for the front cinch and tightened it on both sides. I find that the saddle butted up to the cantle and although it does not have a pommel they have given a sturdy woven loop in its place.

Pros

  • Sturdy and durable
  • Easy to fit.
  • Versatile
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Needs more padding

Below is a YouTube video about how to ride double on a horse.

FAQs

Can two adults ride on one horse?

Two adults can ride a horse together; however, it isn’t recommended because it leads to improper weight distribution, which can injure a horse. If two adults have to ride double on horseback, don’t go fast or too long, and make sure the horse is proportionately sized and has a sound temperament.

Can a horse carry three riders?

A horse can theoretically carry three small riders. A horse should only carry 20% of its body weight. Some large horses are known to carry up to 300 lb. However, three average-sized humans would exert too much pressure on a horse’s loins and cause severe damage.

Is it safe to ride double on horseback?

It’s safe to ride double on horseback if you follow some basic rules. Do not overburden the animal, do not run, use a strong well-mannered horse, and have an experienced rider onboard.

Key takeaways

Two persons riding horseback is acceptable when you do it in a safe and controlled environment. It is also important to not overload the horse or ride it at a very high speed when riding double.

A child and adult can ride together with use a buddy saddle, a pillion, or bareback with a pad. Ideally, the child should sit in the front and the adult behind. I recommend using Tough-1 Saddle Buddy or Tandem saddle for riding double with a child. You can use it with your western saddle and make your riding experience a lot safer and more comfortable.