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Return to the saddle

23 replies

Disneyblueeyes · 11/09/2022 14:51

I grew up obsessed with horses. I had riding lessons once a week and helped out at the weekend. I got my own pony at 14 and spent every minute I could down at the yard. I loved show jumping/XC and went to lots of shows. When I outgrew my pony I chose an eventer who completely knocked my confidence - she was a nightmare - reared, napped and bit chunks out of me. Eventually I quit altogether to go to uni. Since then not really done much. Entered the adult working world and couldn't really commit much time or money.

Fast forward I'm now 33 and every now and then I feel incredibly sad about it all. I just want to go back. I know it wouldn't be the same though. I have a 3 year old now. I've tried taking her to spend time around ponies but she's still so young and just wants to play in the dirt.

I feel like if I went back to it all I'd have to go all-in. Just dabbling here and there with other people's horses doesn't feel like enough. I want to go back to riding every day, schooling, show jumping and I'd like nothing better than to jump an XC course. That's my ultimate dream. I bought a horse to do that but she threw me off and shattered my nerves before I ever got the chance.

How do I go back now? I feel like I can't. Too many responsibilities. It just wouldn't be the same. Even riding lessons I've tried before but I know how to ride.

Has anyone gone back as an adult with children? I feel like it's impossible nowadays.

OP posts:
Lastqueenofscotland2 · 11/09/2022 15:01

I know you’ve said you’ve tried lessons but are there schools near you that cater to more experienced riders? I do feel your pain, there are two near me and they are both useless once you’ve got past the basics of learning to w/t/c and not wobble off the side.
However if you put a rough location someone might be able to help?

Could you eventually afford full livery? That way you could ride as often or as little as you liked and know that everything was taken care of.

twistyizzy · 11/09/2022 15:29

I know you say you can ride but your muscles will have changed and the ones used for riding will be very rusty. Find a good riding school near you which caters for more experienced riders. The thing I love about riding is that the more you learn, the more you realise you have to learn. So yes you can ride but how about learning the more advanced lateral work etc? If you want to do an XC course then there will be a lot you need to brush up on again eg riding forwards over varying terrain, seeing a stride, the more technical jumps eg skinnies which are more prevelant now in a lot of XC courses than they ever were 20 years ago.
Even Olympic riders still have lessons to keep them sharp.
Book a series of 6 lessons, see how you feel then why not look to loan or part share a horse? But look to keep having lessons from a good instructor alongside riding on your own.

maxelly · 11/09/2022 16:54

I hear you, it is hard but I wouldn't write off playing around with other people's horses and/or taking lessons again, not necessarily forever but until you can get through the small kids phase - there really is something in just turning up and riding and not having to worry about 6am mucking out or endless fittening work or fretting about injuries and everything else that goes with being seriously competitive in evening (or any other horsey discipline really). Especially when you have little kids demanding a lot of your time and energy.

I think you'll find your nerve comes back quite quickly with some time on a good schoolmaster type, or even if you never quite recover that teens/early 20s bottle for SJ/xc (who does?) it's fine to enjoy riding as more of a hobby/me time rather than putting a lot of pressure on yourself to succeed competitively. Like the others say, why not book yourself a few lessons at a really good school (better to travel further/pay more and go less often than settle for the local kick and pull, trot one by one to the back of the ride establishment IMO) and see how you feel? If you honestly do then feel it's eventing or nothing then you can get saving as really I think you do need at least some funds behind you as a mum trying to compete, not just the obvious expenses but buying yourself time and help, with the kids and the baby! Good luck...

Floralnomad · 11/09/2022 16:58

You need to find a better riding school , nobody can do it all perfectly .

Mollyplop999 · 11/09/2022 17:57

I had my first horse when my children were 8 and 6. I was on part livery which helped enormously. I did start off having lessons priory that nut unfortunately wasn't in an ex race horse who had only come off the track 3 weeks previously. That totally knocked my confidence. I knew early on that I wanted my own. But having said that I'm just a happy hacker so don't have to worry about fitness levels etc. Good luck whatever you decide to do.

Disneyblueeyes · 11/09/2022 18:13

Thank you for all your sound (but honest) advice. I know I'm probably being a little unrealistic about the whole XC thing. If I was going to do it properly I should have done back then. Having a small child greatly complicated things now (and let's face it I no longer have my parents financially helping with livery costs etc!).

I actually live in a small village full of horse owners and I've just taken my little girl 2 minutes down the road to see a small Shetland, just to groom and get comfortable being around. Got talking to the owner too.
It's a step in the right direction.

OP posts:
twistyizzy · 11/09/2022 18:41

Sounds good 😊.
I gave up horse ownership while my DD was little as it was just way too much tkmt and money but got my current horse when she was 3. Not going to lie, it was incredibly hard especially in winter as I had no-one to look after her when I went to the yard (DIY livery as couldn't afford part or full). Going up twice a day in the middle of winter with a young child is a nightmare, you have to constantly have an eye on them as yards are dangerous places plus after 2 mins they start whinging that they are: cold, tired, wet etc so it was just 1 massive stress headache. The weekends were easier when my husband was at home and I got a few hours by myself at the yard.
My DD is now 10, at pony club but doesn't have her own horse. It is easier now she can help out etc but if I want to compete it means compromising family time as you can be gone the whole day so it needs careful planning.
The cost of everything is crazy so I sacrifice haircuts, nights out, new clothes/make up etc. I look a complete mess 99% of the time but for me it is worth the sacrifice.

DrHadenough · 11/09/2022 19:12

I'm very much like you OP, but 10 years on from where you are in terms of my age and DC's age.

I was obsessed with horses from a young age, weekly lessons from age 5, own pony at 12, then at 15 bought a 5yr old to bring on, but struggled to put the time in around school/exams etc. I sold her to go to medical school at 18, then had very little to do with horses through my 20's and early 30's as I built my career, travelled a lot and then raised a small child.

I got back into regular riding at age 39 (when DS was 9), having weekly lessons at a good school where (once I got my riding fitness back) I learned a lot about dressage that was new to me. I also learned that I still love jumping!
I helped out one morning a week for 6 months to get up to speed on modern horse/stable management (lots has changed in 20 years!), then found a part-loan 3 days per week bringing an ex-racehorse back into work for her owner (who had small children of her own and hadn't ridden in 2 years). I did the part-loan for a year and then took the plunge and bought my own.

I've had my mare for 2 years now, on DIY livery but with help from a freelance groom 2 days per week to cover my long days at work. I'm back doing XC/SJ, fun rides, beach rides, learning how to teach a horse proper dressage with help from a lovely instructor.

DS is 13 now. He had lessons initially, and then borrowed a friend's horse so we could hack together, but in the past year has lost interest completely. I can do this because my DH is very supportive and can see how much joy it gives me.

So, it can be done, but I wouldn't have been able to manage when DS was 3 and it's become much easier in the past year or so now that he can get himself home from school and doesn't need constant supervision in the house.

Good luck!

Disneyblueeyes · 11/09/2022 19:41

@DrHadenough thank you that's such an inspiring post. For some reason I've got it in my head being 33 means I'm somehow running out of time and 'lost my chance'. Of course that's rubbish but I do feel ahead of my years sometimes.

I'd love for my DD to get into it as even if I don't, it's a familiar world to me so I'd be 100% behind it. I can't force her though.

It's nice to hear you got back into it once your child was older though. I've got time yet!

OP posts:
maxelly · 11/09/2022 21:47

Sorry I didn't mean to sound discouraging, I think doing some SJ and XC again is a very very achievable goal even within the next few years, and it's absolutely not too late to have your own horse again and restart some grassroots BE once the kids are a little older. I'm quite considerably older than you but had a break of 5ish years from riding at all and over 10 years not owning my own while kids were little (and even after that it was sensible family nanny ponies and mother daughter shares for a good while) and over this summer I've been on fun rides, XC schooling and some local SJ comps on my loan connie pony, the only thing holding us back from doing even more is my absent bottle really, plus a lack of dedication to getting him properly fit, otherwise he'd happily pootle around a 80cm hunter trial without batting an eyelid although he is 20 so getting a few grey hairs to match mine! It's nice when you give yourself permission to choose something safe and sensible rather than a nutter WB with the potential to go round badminton, most horses will go round 80cm ish with the right schooling, maybe not with a super competitive score and time but I value the reliability and sanity of my boy more than all the rosettes in the world...

You are a spring chicken at 33, you have loads of time, all you need really is the time, money and right horse which might take a while to come together but don't give up on it as a possibility if it's what you really want! There's a man on our yard in his late 40s who after a mid-life crisis pitched up as a total novice with a dream to ride at Olympia. Sounds impossible/ridiculous but you know what I think he might just do it one day, he took lots and lots of lessons, recently bought himself a lovely 120cm BS schoolmaster for £££££ and has all the gear, a fancy van etc., and a pro rider coaching him, he's gotten quite a few eyerolls for all this on the yard as you can imagine (we do have other competitive people who spend plenty on their horses but there's a bit of a sense that you're meant to serve your time and refrain from flashing your cash quite as blatantly Grin ) and the return on investment hasn't quite come yet for him in terms of competitive success but with enough dedication, a bit of luck and the entire contents of your bank balance Grin, (nearly) anything is possible!

Disneyblueeyes · 11/09/2022 23:00

@maxelly you weren't discouraging. It's not that simple after all. I've always got to be practical and realistic with these things. Owning a horse is hard work. I remember the cold winter nights very well and that was as a teenager with very few responsibilities other than school.
My best bet is to wait until my little girl is a bit older really. If I do end up getting my own I'd probably go for part livery at least anyway.

OP posts:
dogrilla · 12/09/2022 02:06

It doesn't need to be all or nothing. Find a good riding school for starters for a few private lessons. If you can really ride most places will have some good 'off menu' horses you can access. When I went back to riding after a break in my 20s I learned so much more than I did as a teenager and thought I knew everything and just wanted to charge around and compete. After that, try a share/part loan. Most yards near me seem to be populated by women who have gone back to riding and owning when their kids hit a certain age.

Disneyblueeyes · 29/03/2023 12:49

I'm sorry to bring back an old thread but just thought I'd update.
I dithered about it all the last few months especially with it being winter and miserable, but I've finally plucked the courage to book a private lesson at a local (good) equestrian centre.
I realise I have absolutely no equipment, so I've bought myself a decent riding hat and some jodhpurs and got some boots on the way.

I am seriously excited now!

OP posts:
Tinkerbell1281 · 29/03/2023 12:53

I had horses until I was a teen then nothing for 2 decades. Started riding again at 40 and re-learnt to jump. Have been showjumping again. It was really worth having lessons, it was a complete re-learning process and I was rusty and stiff. Go for it!

Mollyplop999 · 29/03/2023 18:31

Enjoy! Let us know how you get on.

Stugs · 30/03/2023 11:54

I'm 57 and only started riding again 10 years ago. I regularly do small xc courses! I prefer it to shoe jumping tbh,much easier as at the tiny heights I jump there is no need to see a.stride.

underthehawthorntree · 31/03/2023 09:06

Your original question was about managing horses and small children. The answer is where there is a will there's a way. I took up riding again nearly 18 months ago when my second daughter was a tiny dot. I've recently just got my first part share and go down several times a week to ride and muck out etc. it's great. It's a juggle but it gives me something to talk about, think about and I've lost weight and my mood is noticeably better with all the fresh air, alone time and new experiences. I took my elder DD to see the pony and she was interested in grooming but I'm going to take it slow with them both... for now it's my hobby and that's ok.

Enjoy your lesson!

Flixon · 31/03/2023 15:28

I picked up riding again aged 55 ! Now I have two horses .... and I do X country ( its low level stuff but I love it) Ive been drag hunting and show jumping and have a great time :-)

sighsloudly · 31/03/2023 15:36

I bought my first pony at 40 after being a pony mad teenager even though I didn't have a pony to ride. I have loved it and I am a happy hacker and just love spending time with my pony hanging out.

Disneyblueeyes · 01/04/2023 11:27

Thank you all.
My lesson was great. The instructor was an older lady who is a dressage rider first and foremost. She worked alot on my balance. It wasn't that it was terrible, but I was taught to sit back and push my heels down whereas she wanted me to sit more forward and relax my ankles a bit more.
I'm not sure at the moment how I want to move forward. I explained my goals to her and she told me it might be worth going for the BHS exam to really get myself back up to speed (they offer this), coming to their horse care mornings on a Sunday to brush up on the stable management side of things. She did say if I wanted to get a horse eventually it might be better to aim towards doing a low level dressage test before throwing myself over an XC course. I know she's biased towards dressage but her thinking was that it'll help prep me for any other types of riding?

My daughter is showing a bit of an interest now at 3, but she recommended to work on my own riding for a bit first as she's still only little.

OP posts:
twistyizzy · 03/04/2023 11:22

@Disneyblueeyes definitely the foundation to all riding is dressage so your instructor is right about that. There are many stages you need to pass before you are ready to throw yourself around an XC course. The first one is getting used to riding up and downhills in a balanced seat, it is a lot harder than it looks and you need to be fit (a lot fitter than you may think). For XC you need to be off the horse's back and know how to ride a horse forwards so it jumps out of its stride rather than you constantly interfering with the stride, that's where a good grounding in flatwork comes in.
I would concentrate on getting your fitness and balance up first with both flatwork and hacking and then progress up to jumping poles before thinking about XC.
BHS stages are great as they provide a marker as to your progression and cover both the riding and the XC although I believe they are 'easier' (not as demanding or stringent) now than they were 25/30 years ago when I did them but I don't know this for certain.

maxelly · 04/04/2023 14:06

Brilliant, glad you're back on board and it went well. Like PP I think aiming at a dressage test is a great first step, you don't need to turn full dressage diva and be perfecting your tempi changes before thinking of going XC, but I would say until you can make your way through say a Novice dressage test on a well schooled horse, with the moves and transitions happening in roughly the right places and maintaining a quiet contact, reasonable balance and nice forward rhythm with the horse between leg and hand, you aren't ready to go XC, even to do a small course of fixed fences IMO you need to be able to send the horse forward in a nice flowing jumping canter but bring him back again as needed, staying in balance in a light seat and utilising your half half and leg aids effectively. I'm not saying you need to work for months on getting a 70%+ score or start obsessing about 'outline' or anything (hate that word anyway) but just to be effective enough to do the moves accurately whilst remaining reasonably tidy in your position yourself. I'd say you don't need to do an actual test to prove it either but maybe you are the kind of person that likes a competitive goal?

For me I'd do enough flat lessons to be fit and balanced enough to canter a couple of laps of the school in light seat, then start to alternate lessons between flatwork/dressage, polework and grids, showjumping in an arena (start with some diddy cross poles but build up to jumping a course of 'arena eventing'/portable natural style fences ideally) and lunge/position focussed lessons if your school/teachers can offer these - maybe if you can some pilates (even just via youtube at home) and also work on your cardio fitness will all help. You absolutely can get back to XC if you work at it, good luck!

lifesabitchandthenyoudie · 04/04/2023 17:14

Great that you've got back into it! I know it's tempting to go all in but every little helps, as they say; and better that than try to do too much and fall at the hurdle (see what I did there! ) My story is much like @DrHadenough 's. To get back into horses I started helping to look after someone's in the village, including riding them to keep them fit. My DC were in school by then, I don't think I'd have managed it before. After a while I got my own and a share for the kids, have had one ever since (about 20 years).

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