Am I being unrealistic re how fast to (re)learn to ride?(25 Posts)
I learnt to ride as a teenager. Had a few lessons at a typical riding school with plod along ponies, but then properly learnt at a private livery yard that did a few lessons - so I learnt on very good quality horses, not your typical riding school ponies.
I only ever did lessons, never had my own or competed. I was never amazing, but reached the point where I was starting to work on the bit, and remember cantering in an outline.
I then didn't ride for 20 odd years.
I started riding again a few years ago but just hacking on a very steady, old, ploddy pony. So not really 'riding' at all!
Last summer I decided I wanted to do 'proper' riding again as opposed to just plodding about bridle paths. I suppose my ambition is to eventually have my own horse and I realised I needed to brush up my skills.
I've been having lessons at a riding school since then. I've not been every week but I've probably had around 15 lessons (mostly private 1 hour lessons). I just don't feel that I'm improving. In my last lesson my instructor was saying my reins are different length, my hands are in the wrong place, my leg position is wrong, I'm leaning in, I'm rising too high in trot...etc etc ..basically I feel a bit useless and feel like I still have all the same faults I had on my first lesson last summer.
Am I expecting too much to have expected more progress by now? Maybe I'm just useless?!
The horses at the current riding school are actually pretty decent by riding school horse standards, but I still feel they are very different from the non-riding school horses I learnt on. But maybe that's just me making excuses.
There's a lady near me who does lessons on non-riding school horses, but I think she's aimed more at dressage riders than complete amateurs like me.
How much do you think you can progress on riding school horses?
I'm just feeling frustrated and crap.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Oh gosh, I'm no great shakes as a rider and mostly only do lessons on school horses, but some of the litany of faults sounds very familiar. Some of it is because I am older and definitely don't have the fine control of my body that I had when younger - I probably should do Pilates or Yoga to help out.
Some of it might be the instructor highlighting things to you without actually saying that you are less bad at X compared to when you started. (if the fault was at 10 when you started, you might be now at a 5, still more work to do, but definitely improved). Perhaps time for a frank heart to heart with your instructor?
Over-rising is one of my many faults, and this is probably school horse related as I can end up over-rising to try and generate some impulsion on something that is not giving you 100%.
I re-started riding as an adult and now 10 years later I am pretty competent (have hunted for 2seasons & do dressage.) BUT I hate to think how much I spent!
Putting £ to one side, one way to improve is to try to pass your BHS stages. That gives you a focus. I got up to Stage 2. It gives you an objective standard for your riding.
You also need to ride more than once a week. That will just keep you ticking over TBH. Once I got into it, I rode 3-4 times a week, mainly on my own horse, but school horses for BHS Stage training.
Thanks for your responses.
Unfortunately BHS exam training is only done on weeknights and I can't make it due to work.
Also I'm in the most expensive part of the country (London fringe) and lessons are £70 per hour so riding more than once per week is not going to happen. At least not until I win the Lotto.
I just feel that at £70 a pop I want to be seeing real improvement.
Re speaking to the teacher, problem is it's always a different teacher. On my 15 or so lessons I've had at least 6 different instructors.
I think this might be one problem as I feel like I'm receiving slightly conflicting messages from them (i.e. One week my reins are too long in canter and the horse is falling out of the canter, the next week my reins are too short and I'm effectively stoping the horse.....)
£70 a week can you travel a bit and find somewhere cheaper, that is ridiculous. I pay less that half that! The constantly changing instructors would annoy me too, as you say everyone has a slightly different approach. That said, I suspect you have progressed more than you think you have. I have been riding all my life, and still get told off for the wrong leg/hand position in lessons.
Riding is a sport like any other and to truely progress you have to have the fitness and the lessons. Look how many times a week even grassroots swimmers and kids doing football train.
Riding uses a pretty specific set of muscles too so unless you are riding a few times a week you won't develop them quickly enough to keep up with the mental side of your lessons.
Just something like using your legs as effectively as possible needs thighs of steel that come from being in the saddle multiple times a week.
I would request the same instructor each week for continuity.
I have to get back in the saddle after 15 years out of it this year. I am fully antiticipating riding like a beginner for the first 6 months until I get fitter.
With frequent changes of instructor and lessons once a week progress will be slow unfortunately.
For £500 you could have an intensive 3 day course at Wellington. I think if you shopped around you could find something cheaper. I'd stop the lessons for a bit and put the money towards an intensive course. Use that to give you a boost up to the next level.
You will struggle to get the average riding school horse in an outline as most pupils won't be able to do that so the horses just aren't used to going like that. Competition horses and privately owned riding club horses are more used to going "in good form" so they'll help you more because they expect to be ridden like that. They're also more like to have better conformation which makes it easier for them. (Those are generalisations of course).
Don't get down - it's a great sport. But it does take time and I do think something more intensive would benefit you.
Slightly out of the box thinking, but consider finding a horse share slightly outside of London, then have lessons. £70 is ridiculous. I was living in So London & paid nowhere near that. I quickly went to getting a horse on working livery & had lessons, which worked out cheaper.
You will have to ride more than once a week to improve.
If you cannot ride more often, you won't get better, simple as that. That would be true for any sport - tennis, yoga, Zumba, you name it. 2-3 times a week. Minimum.
I would hazard a guess that the type of lesson you are getting is not what you need.
And - the leap from school horses to nonRS horses is massive. And then to go back again is not great.
Do these lessons ever involve outside the arena work? Hacking, some light xc? All these other things are amazing for your balance and in time, when you go back to a very hands here/leg here type lesson, you can achieve it - well presuming the horse is half decent. It's very hard to knock a tune out of a riding school horse.
It's. A big leap but all these things fall in to place when you have your own animal.
Like you I learned some level of basics as a kid but I really only got riding as an adult. I started with a share, rode anything offered to me, sat up on everything, then got my own.
Fast forward 9 years and I had two babies and sold the horses. I went to a RC last summer to get some time back in the saddle and it was awful! So hard, no fun, and I felt so crap. My body is weak. But worst of all I was being told to pull more pull more yank into an outline and all this crap that if I didn't know better I'd think was really advanced riding. It was actually the sort of stuff you then end up unpicking with a decent trainer later on! I spoke up on my my next lesson and said something like "look I've been thinking if this horse was mine what would I do. She doesn't listen right now. This is what I'd do..." (and I was afraid I'd piss them off talking like this but no) and the instructor said ok and we changed approach and it was really positive.
I think there's a RS mindset that is so uninspiring in its way of teaching.... but are you enjoying the lessons? Do you feel you're making any progress? Do you jump?
RS lessons can be good but they're dependent on the instructors singing from the same hymn sheet and knowing their horses. Unless you're always on the same horse the different faults might just be how each horse is different - where I ride some will fall in/out if allowed to, some are forward but not properly off the leg, others are not that forward etc.
On the horse I ride most often I am pretty good at my reins staying the same (right) length but last lesson the horse I was on more or less made me overshorten my outside rein and I was constantly correcting it!
When I lived in London I was so shocked at the prices that I went for a week's riding holiday in Scotland with 2 lessons plus hacking every day for less than the equivalent number of lessons in London. Something like this might jump you up to the standard where you could look at a share or higher level lessons...
Thanks for all the constructive feedback.
Issue is I want to get good enough to buy my own horse. So I need to reach a certain level of competancy. But I'm finding that hard to achieve.
I don't think I'm good enough to share a decent horse yet, perhaps a ploddy type but I'm trying to move away from 'plod along' riding. No way would anyone let me share a half-decent competition type horse yet and I wouldn't feel confident enough myself.
Yes it's difficult that in the past I've ridden some pretty nice competition horses as every time I get on a riding school horse I feel the difference. To be fair the horses at my riding school are pretty decent by riding school standards but they are ultimately RS horses.
To answer some questions:
I don't jump and my lessons are always in the school.
I tend to ride different horses each lesson but there are a couple I ride more than others. They are all different but similar if that makes sense, e.g. Most of them are cob-type horses, that can be a bit lazy (but not too lazy, e.g. They all canter when asked).
I'd definitely be happy to pay £500 for an intensive course - where exactly is Wellington?
One specific problem I'm having is getting my position in canter right when I have to use quite a lot of effort to keep the canter going my position goes to pot.
Also the thing about my reins being a different length, the horse I was riding seems to 'twist' its head quite a lot so I didn't realise my reins were not correct
Can I ask, why don't you jump? Even a foot high cross pole is great for learning your balance for flat work. I think - and this is just my opinion - you almost learn to ride when you're not looking - as in, you'll be concentrating on getting to fences and realise your balance and position between fences is much better - because you're not trying to tackle it head on.
If I were you (an I'll be taking my own advice) I'd go away for a long weekend riding. You will come on leaps and bounds, ususlaly rhey involve riding morning and afternoon and will mix it up, the hours in the saddle will be so invaluable.
Don't know if Irish holidays appeal to you. It as I'm Irish I know of the two best spots in the country - Flowerhill and Annaharvery. They cannot be beaten for what you are trying to accomplish.
You'll get there, keep trying!
Instructors have never suggested I jump.
I don't especially want to get into jumping (bit of a scaredy cat) but I'd happily pop over a small jump or two in a lesson.
Overriding in canter (and into canter) is a common problem. How's your sitting trot? I usually do group lessons but do get a private when I feel my position is slipping or I'm a little less skint... Lunge lessons might be worth a try?
If you know a horse has a tendency to twist, lean on a rein or fall in/out it's easier to solve. Think about using the warm up to think about what is going on.
Jumping or just working over poles is great for putting a bit more pressure on - it's obvious if you change your mind. Intro and Prelim dressage tests are also good for schooling ideas too.
Could you perhaps change to group lessons and hacks, and use the money saved to fit in additional private lessons? Specifically, a monthly 30 min lunge lesson would work wonders for your seat.
Also what else do you do exercise-wise other than riding? Pilates is great for working on "core" strength and balance.
For me it should be possible to get a tune out of any horse not just one that is a private horse. Lots of rs ponies have had a previous life where they were well schooled in private homes. Certainly at the riding schools I know anyway.
This is where your fitness comes into play. A fit rider can wrap legs around and create impulsion from the seat. When I was fit I could get the hairiest cobs pinging around the school, doing a simple course or whizzing around out hacking. But I was riding every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day if I was schooling something or taking hacks out and in the winter months doing excercise rides.
Because you don't have the muscle tone in your legs and in your core you will be kicking rather than squeezing which will til you forwards. Dd is having the same problem in canter at the moment and is currently working on her sitting trot on the lunge.
I would try and find a way to ride more often if you can. And I would maybe really consider having something on loan for 6 months if you can over spring/summer. Even a part loan. Imo it doesn't matter how many riding lessons you have owning your own horse is massively massively different. Riding even 3 times a week instead of once will improve your riding tremendously and you will come on leaps and bounds.
Wellington is in Hampshire, details here wellington-riding.co.uk/
For me it should be possible to get a tune out of any horse not just one that is a private horse
Absolutely, if you're an experienced rider. However, if you're more of a novice, it will be difficult. IMO you want to learn on a schoolmaster who will work in an outline fairly readily if you ask correctly. My boy is very good at this and would be ideal to teach stage II and III pupils. He's also been used as an interview horse before as he will work well when asked but will show up people who claim they can ride but can't, without being dangerous.
OP you could share a quieter horse until you feel you've improved. Or you might be really lucky and find one who will be quiet until you improve but will move up the gears with you. They are worth their weight in gold though, medal winners or not.
I returned to riding just under year ago having not ridden for 10 years (I used to be a horse owner). I try to ride at least once a week usually twice sometimes three times, last week I rode twice a day for 6 days, I ride at a very well regarded stables, they train to FBHS, so they definitely don't have your typical riding school horses lots of advanced schoolmasters/mistresses. But there are still times when I wonder if I've making any progress; I still make the same errors and then times when I think yes this is definitely improving.
I think the key to making significant improvements is 1. to ride as much as you can, 2. to ride a wide variety of horses, Are you able to ride a variety of horses, how forward going are the ones you ride? Its good to ride a mixture of both forward going and not forward going and different types of horses, Im naturally drawn to proper galloping horses, I'm hopelessly in love with flat race horses, I understand them, know how to ride them, big galumphing warmbloods just don't do it for me, but Ive discovered that it does my riding a power of good to be outside of my comfort zone on an advanced warmblood dressage school mistress. 3. to not stick with the same instructor lesson in and lesson out. I have two instructors that I have most of my lessons with and then occasionally change and have someone else and they often may see or explain things in a different way from my usual instructor, or they might just have a different approach to working a horse, 4. choose top a instructor, mine are all competing or have competed at a very high level including an Olympic Games their knowledge and understanding of working horses and ways of approaching problems is superb.
One made a very valid point, novice riders make rapid progress; you can go from not being able to canter to being able to canter in 1 lesson and both rider and instructor feel very satisfied but the changes a competent rider makes are much more subtle, and less obvious and may also take longer to achieve.
You say your position goes to pot when you canter and have to use a lot of effort to keep it going, are you using a long school whip to back up your leg if necesary? Are you actually positioning yourself correctly to help the horse maintain the canter? Are you reins short enough to keep the horse balanced not only through the transition but also once the canter is established? Go for hack maybe you'll feel more relaxed your find it easier to maintain your position out hacking.
You could also try another stable for a couple of lessons or as suggested above have a riding holiday somewhere else I can highly recommend where I go PM me if your interested.
Some stables run competitions for their customers this is good fun and you may also find it easier can measure any improvement your making.
I've ridden all my life and it never ceases to amaze me how difficult riding is, it requires constant self analysis, I drive a lot and drive along thinking about my last lesson, where did I go wrong, what went well? I might go over in my head the aids for shoulder in, or the preparation needed to execute a good round 15m circle in canter, what position my body had to be in to get a good smooth transition to keep the horse balanced etc. Anyone can learn the basics but after that to be even half decent its a life long learning sport.
Just reread your OP, 15 lessons since the summer is frankly not enough to really see and feel any kind of significant improvement.
Update - had a private lesson at a different yard.
The teacher identified that in canter, although I wasn't consciously asking the horse to stop I was inadvertently "blocking" it with my seat/core which was making it go back to trot. So that might explain why I'm struggling with the canter.
I'm going to have another lesson there then see which yard/instructor I prefer. Would be good to stick to the same instructor if I find one I like.
Good luck hopefully you'll find an instructor/riding stables where you'll feel that your really are making progress.
This might have been suggested already, but have you thought about getting someone to video you so that you can refer back & see for yourself? If you have an idea of what's going on with your legs, hands and position, it might be easier to improve it?
For £70 an hour I'd say they're eeking it out
And why isn't hacking out riding? Find a small log to pop, practice whilst your out walk trot canter, don't overthink your reins, position, etc etc. Find a low branch to duck under, practice different positions whilst riding, find your balance. Just relax and enjoy it and take the pressure off. Most of all HAVE FUN!
Have you looked at HOOF take back the reins courses - you can do them in a group or as an individual and they are a series of lessons aimed at getting back into riding after a lengthy absence. I learned to ride in my 20's but I now find I'm both useless and scared. This is pretty silly as I have done two riding holidays in the last 7 years ( coast to coast Scotland and Iceland) and I found that eventually, after a day or so of being petrified it did all come back, but then left again. I've got to lose a bit of weight before I do any more, I've also lost the ability to get on and off! But I will look for group lessons later in the year. If there is someone in the group who is a little bit braver and better than you it does help you get better. Riding is certainly not like riding a bicycle.
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