In the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna and Neville ride the thestrals to rescue Sirius. They do this after they were caught by Dolores Umbridge in her office.

Since the thestrals can be seen only by people who have seen death like Harry and Luna, how did they manage this?

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    ... with a lot of holding on for dear life, I imagine. – Radhil Aug 25 '17 at 1:40
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    Wonder Woman flies an invisible plane, so there is a precedent. – Blackwood Aug 25 '17 at 1:54
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    It's probably just like riding an invisible horse. – Misha R Aug 25 '17 at 1:55
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    invisible != intangible – nedlud Aug 25 '17 at 6:37
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    I don't understand why is this question asked when there's almost a whole page describing how terrifying experience it was for those who rode the testrals without seeing them. – Tomáš Zato - Reinstate Monica Aug 25 '17 at 9:18

Firstly, it's three of them who can see the Thestrals, not two. This is made clear in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix chapter 21:

‘The only people who can see Thestrals,’ she said, ‘are people who have seen death.’


Professor Umbridge smiled indulgently at them and then turned to Neville.

’You can see Thestrals, Longbottom, can you?’ she said.

Neville nodded.

‘Who did you see die?’ she asked, her tone indifferent.

My … grandad,’ said Neville.

Chapter 34 describes the riding on Thestrals in detail. The other three students indeed have difficulties, but they manage with help.

Ron, Hermione and Ginny, however, were still standing motionless on spot, open-mouthed and staring.

‘What?’ he [Harry] said.

‘How're we supposed to get on?’ said Ron faintly. ‘When we can't see the things?’

‘Oh, it's easy,’ said Luna, sliding obligingly from her Thestral and marching over to him, Hermione and Ginny. ‘Come here …’

She pulled them over to the other Thestrals standing around and one by one managed to help them on to the back of their mount. All three looked extremely nervous as she wound their hands into their horse's mane and told them to grip tightly before she got back on to her own steed.

‘This is mad,’ Ron murmured, moving his free hand gingerly up and down his horse's neck. […]

After that each of them just have to hold on strong to the Thestral and it does the flying on its own. There's no need to control Thestrals, they find their own way.

‘This is bizarre!’ Harry barely heard Ron yell from somewhere behind him, and he imagined how it must feel to be speeding along at this height with no visible means of support.

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    And now we know why books are so much better than movies, in the main. Hollywood can show anything, yet explain nothing. The movies, and special effects that Hollywood creates on screen always pales to the scenes the authors create in my mind, and I never miss what someone said. – Chindraba Aug 25 '17 at 2:57
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    It will be interesting to know why 3 of them who couldn't see the thestrals didn't just ride behind the 3 that could see them, instead of each getting their own thestral. From the last book we know that a single thestral is strong enough to carry more than 1 passenger. – user13267 Aug 25 '17 at 5:40
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    "Ron said, gingerly". Nice Tom Swifty there. :-) – Hellion Aug 25 '17 at 13:34
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    @Hellion I remembered thinking when I read the book, "Everything Ron does is done gingerly." – Jake Aug 25 '17 at 13:45
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    @Ryan Yea, I understand the limitations of Hollywood. Usually they do pretty good with the limits they have, and the HP movies are good, they just aren't as good as the movies in my mind, directed by JKR of course. – Chindraba Aug 25 '17 at 16:46

Since the thestrals can be seen only by people who have seen death like Harry and Luna, how did they manage this?

They just can't see them. But they can ride on them.

In this scenario, they don't really have a choice. So they took the risk and held onto the thestrals. In the movie, one can clearly notice Ron being very scared mid way into the ride.

So they just held on to whatever bony structure they could feel, and held on tight for their life.

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