A Plan for Progress
National Dressage Pony Cup 2017.
As a riding instructor, I am often asked by students what they can do to make the fastest progress towards their riding goals. Conversely, I am often struck by the surprise students experience when they realize that riding horses is not easy and certainly not something to be picked up in a weekend. I'm not sure exactly where the myth comes from. Possibly it's the result of having done a public trail ride on vacation - which most riders with some experience realize that those horses will follow the butt in front of them whether they carry a rider or not. Or perhaps people believe that riding a horse is much like driving a car, all you need to know is how to push the right pedals and use the steering wheel. Regardless, reality is much different. Especially for adults. On the physical side, I would consider learning to ride on par with learning to rollar skate or ice skate. Learning to balance your body on a horse is a completely different experience from our normal everyday balance. Add into it a lack of physical activity in general and a normal amount of fear and it becomes a real challenge for the typical adult. I am writing this article not as a discouragement but so that students may be properly informed of what they need to do in order to be successful equestrians and also be aware that it is a struggle more or less for all budding riders. It is a worthwhile endeavor however, the rewards far out way the drawbacks. Being properly informed of what is needed to be successful and having an instructor who can guide you through the process in a way that makes it manageable will make all the difference. Lastly, having access to the right kind of horse for each step on your journey is imperative. The wrong kind of horse will cause you to give up riding in a hurry. These "right kind" are few in far between. In fact, in horse jargon they are often referred to as "unicorns" because of their rarity and special qualities of tolerance. So if you are fortunate enough to be able to ride such a horse, whether as a school horse, owner, or lessee, please don't overlook the privilege that is. There is much that goes into creating a "unicorn". Three things in particular - the inborn personality of the animal, the training/education it has received, and miles/exposure it has experienced. In my experience, the natural personality/temperament of the horse will trump good training on a bad tempered animal every time. However the best horses have had a healthy dose of all three.