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Where am I going with pony riding lessons?

8 replies

toomuchtooold · 01/10/2019 08:28

My 7 yo twins did a 4 day pony riding course on holiday this year, and they are really keen to keep going. There are a few riding schools and plenty of stables near us so they could carry it on here.

I've never ridden horses or ponies so I don't really know much about the hobby, and I wanted to ask, you know... where should I expect this to go? How long to children go to lessons for - does there come a point where they've learned enough to just ride independently, and then what, you hire a pony? I've seen people talking about pony shares and things like that...

Regarding lessons, is it better to go regularly, say an hour a week, or to do an intensive course? There's a school holiday course at the local riding school, 6 days/45 hours, and the lady who runs it recommended it over weekly lessons (which they also do). I could see us doing that once in autumn, once at Easter... I would have imagined that it would be better to ride regularly though? It would be a lot more convenient to us to do the holiday courses though.

Thanks in advance for any advice/impressions you can give me!

OP posts:
maxelly · 01/10/2019 11:27

Well hopefully it will lead to a lifetime of enjoyment and fun - it's a great hobby, good for fitness and flexibility but also for teaching children respect for animals and the countryside and a range of useful skills like patience, persistence, leadership, confidence etc! It is however very expensive and time draining (just to prepare you now!).

If you can start them off with an intensive course that can work well, as there tends to be a bit of a beginner 'hump' to be got over where they need to learn the basics before they can do the really fun stuff (hacking, games, jumping etc) - a good school will still make the beginner stage fun and engaging but the sooner they reach a reasonable standard (walk, trot and canter independently, in a balanced seat and under control), the sooner they can join group lessons which are much more fun for them. I wouldn't say with absolute confidence they will get there by the end of the course as all children are different but they would certainly have a good foundation. My only concern with the course would be if it's too tiring/intense which could put them off, it would depend on their general fitness levels and enthusiasm! Also from what you say, would you be planning on just doing the course and then not riding again until Easter? If so then it's maybe not the best plan as really it's best to ride regularly in order to maintain muscle memory and actual memory of what you've been practising. So if you can only afford either the course or normal weekly lessons I'd go for the latter, their progress will be slower but they will get there.

You also ask what happens 'after' lessons/they've reached a good standard, well the first thing is that with riding you are never finished learning, most riders up to the very top levels continue having some form of tuition all their lives. Particularly for children I think it's important both from a safety point of view and to maintain good riding habits that they are under experienced adult supervision most of the time they ride (it's also nice for them to build independence and start to hack out with their friends etc but this should be alongside proper teaching). But there's lots of fun activities they can do once they are at a reasonable standard, some ideas include full and half day hacks/picnic rides, mini competitions and gymkhanas, 'own a pony' days, being a 'helper' at the stables, pony club (like scouts/brownies but with ponies - there are branches for children who do not own their own pony) and pony camp/riding holidays. A good riding school will run a lot of these activities themselves or can tell you where in the area you can go for them.

You shouldn't worry about 'having' to buy them their own pony necessarily. Yes having your own pony gives you more riding time and opportunities, but it is a huge responsibility (both practical and financial) to take on, especially as you are not horsey yourself and you would be the one doing the work. Plenty of pony mad DC don't ever get their own pony and still enjoy themselves hugely, perhaps going on to have their own horse as an adult. You mention pony shares, this is one way of having the ownership experience without the full costs and responsibility but does come with its own issues, there was a recent thread which covered this quite well here . But realistically you are at least a couple of years and a lot of lessons away from your twins being ready for a share anyway, so for now I'd just let them enjoy riding and perhaps (if you are interested yourself), do some reading up and learning about horses? Good luck!

AngelicCurls · 01/10/2019 12:31

I would echo be prepared (if they like it) for a significant financial commitment! I had weekly lessons as a child for years and years, then we were lucky enough to move next door to a lady who had 2 hunters who i exercised for her. But had we not done that I would have continued with lessons as they were no way my parents were going to buy me a pony!

It lead to a lifelong horse addiction, and also eventually led my to my career (vet).

I now own my own and my daughter (6) has a pony as well, but I def wouldn’t recommend thinking about buying/shares whilst they are young unless you are horsey yourself, they need a lot of help to look after them and unless you know what you’re doing that’s going to be tricky.

I’d look at getting them on some pony days in the hols rather than intensive week courses, and continuing weekly lessons. The pony days will help with the stable management/underpinning knowledge so if they are still interested when they are a bit older they could take on a share/loan with minimal help from you.

toomuchtooold · 01/10/2019 17:31

Thanks very much for your advice, both of you - so it sounds like the weekly lessons would be the better bet? Do you think a lesson every two weeks would still be worth it? They have quite busy weeks as it is... I might see if someone does lessons on the weekend.

There's a, I don't know what you call it in English, but a Verein - it's like, a members-run club - in the next village over that charges 100 euro per child per year and you/the kids have to chip in with the work of caring for the ponies etc. That's probably where we're going to end up if this is something that they want to carry on. I don't really want this as a hobby myself but DD2 is absolutely nuts about animals of all sorts (she cried for two days straight after we left the pony camp thing this summer) so I think I will be getting a hobby whether I like it or not Grin

OP posts:
maxelly · 02/10/2019 08:53

Ah you're in Germany/Switzerland? The standard of riding instruction there is supposedly excellent, there are a few germans/Swiss on my yard who are very forthright about the poor standard of our riding/teaching and the general way in which the kids are allowed to bomb around not riding 'properly' here, I'd be prepared for some strict lessons Wink

Lessons every other week sounds OK if that's what you can manage, I know plenty of kids who only do that much for various reasons, split weekends between 2 homes or financial reasons or whatever. They get along fine although sometimes they take longer to get to the stage where they have mastered the basics that the kids that come more frequently. I don't know how it is where you are but in the UK you'd have no trouble finding lessons at weekends, in fact Saturday and Sunday are the most popular times.

We don't really have the Verein system at all here, the closest equivalent would be that some riding schools let the more experienced children 'share' their ponies, i.e. come and ride at the less busy times for the school in exchange for help with the care of the pony and a financial contribution - over here it would be a lot more than £100/100 euro a year - probably more like £100 a month or even £100 a week (!) so your Verein sounds an excellent deal although I suppose it depends how much work you also have to do and how much riding they get?

Crusytoenail · 02/10/2019 09:17

I agree with the other two posters wrt to the financial and time aspect. And also as Maxelly says, riding isn't something you learn to a certain standard and then go off on your own. There's so many different types of horses and ponies, and each one rides a little different and requires different approaches. You learn the basics usually on a reliable and quiet one who's patient and used to novice riders, and forgives the mistakes. Then once you can do that it's like fine tuning, riding horses with more spirit, who move differently, ones who are forward going, ones who can be awkward about things, young inexperienced horses.... All sorts. And then the different disciplines to learn too, flatwork, dressage, jumping, X country, games are the main ones.
Weekly lessons are a great place to start, and the Verein system sounds ideal for someone who can ride to a basic standard independently and ready to move on, and also learn about care and keeping horses - the two go hand in hand and the best horsemen/women are the ones who feed early mornings or sit up all night with a sick horse.
With Swiss/German instructors I would anticipate the standard to be very high too, I had a German instructor when I did some training, I had already passed my British Horse Society stage 3, which is one level away from an instructor here, and he literally pulled my riding apart and he 'dispaired' a lot! But my goodness, that instruction changed my whole outlook on riding and horses and even life!
As my first instructor said to me, it's not really a hobby but a lifestyle. Could you learn with them? It's so much fun and so rewarding too!

Pleasedontdothat · 02/10/2019 11:05

Riding every other week would be better than riding twice a year, but they won’t progress as quickly as children riding every week so it may get frustrating for them

toomuchtooold · 02/10/2019 14:05

Thanks all! I think what we're going to do is book them in for the holiday course (DH was surprisingly keen on it, I suspect because he has time off then and would like a few lies in Smile) and if they like the school and the people, we'll send them for the weekly lessons. I appreciate what you're all saying about having weekly lessons to progress - school weeks are really busy as they get a ton of homework, but the weekly class is a Friday afternoon so that's not so bad.

Another potentially stupid question: does riding usually go on through the winter? And in snow? I should just ask them actually.

Thanks again!

OP posts:
maxelly · 04/10/2019 21:59

Re riding in winter/snow, on the whole yes, riding activities carry on. It will depend a bit on what kind of arena/riding area the school has - ideal obviously is an indoor arena which means you can ride in any weather. If there is an outdoor area with a good (artificial/ all weather) surface then you can also ride in most kinds of weathers. In the (south of) the UK, I pretty much ride in our outdoor all year round whatever the weather, I might stop if there is lots of very compacted snow on top of the surface (it balls up in their feet) or lots of ice (slippery), and I wouldn't be doing any fast work or jumping, but TBH I have more problems getting to the yard down un-gritted country roads in an unsuitable car than I do riding in the arena - I guess you don't have that problem in Switzerland though! I tend to ride pretty hardy/sure footed ponies which helps - I wouldn't care to go out in snow on my friends huge clumsy warmblood who tends to nap/spin, that's for sure.

Places that only have a field to ride in or just do trekking would tend to limit riding in winter and probably stop entirely in snow (but then again maybe things are different in places that cope better in winter!).

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