Note: This is day 28 of my 30-day blogging challenge. What the heck is a 30-day blogging challenge? Read about it here.
I’ve been a lesson kid off and on since I first started riding at age eight. By lesson kid, I mean someone who takes regular riding lessons on a school horse. I never had a horse as a kid, so riding lessons were it for me. As an adult, even though I had Snoopy, when I took riding lessons it was at a different stable and on school horses. This wasn’t intentional. It’s just that what I looked for in a boarding stable and in a lesson program didn’t exist in the same location. This is relevant because I’m not sure my theory holds for students who ride their own horses in lessons.
Okay, so, as a kid, especially as you get into your teenage years, a good riding instructor will push you. This doesn’t necessarily mean you get the yelling drill sergeant impersonation from the center of the ring, but it does mean you work hard. I remember a lot of no-stirrups riding and lessons on the longe with no stirrups or reins. I remember drilling complex patterns. Sometimes the hard, physical work was disguised as fun, like when we’d compete in a mock sit-a-buck class, but I never had a riding instructor who was afraid to make me work during my teenage years.
Are those stirrups on your saddle? You don’t get to use stirrups until you’re old enough to run for Congress.
As an adult, riding lessons seem to be a bit kinder and gentler. The no-stirrups time is limited to a few laps around the arena. It certainly isn’t the entire lesson. There’s more checking in and less ordering; more, “Do you want to try that course again?” and less “Do it again, and this time do it right.”
I would worry that it was just me appearing more fragile or perhaps less driven as I age, but I’ve observed this trend outside my own individual experience. In fact, I first noticed it when I was in my early 20s, a sort of transition zone between teenage lesson kid and adult lesson kid. At the time, I was taking lessons at the same barn where I’d ridden before I went to college. I cleaned stalls in exchange for lessons, so my lesson time was somewhat variable. I’d find myself riding with a different group from week to week, and noticed that when I was in a group with younger riders, the lesson was more demanding. If I rode with another adult? It was a bit relatively relaxed.
It makes sense, when you think about it. Kids and teenagers are more physically resilient than we olds are. I have a vague memory of not being sore two days after every ride. They also might be more competitive, not just in the sense of actual, horse show competition, but against one another. Meanwhile, adults who take lessons are more likely to be there for a fun, physical activity that gives them a break from the various stressors and mundane routines of adult life. Every kid is an aspiring Olympian. Adults? Not so much.
But where does the change happen? When did I go from driven up-and-coming equestrian to recreational riding adult amateur?
If I showed up to a lesson at this point in my life and my instructor told me to take the stirrups off my saddle because I would not be needing them for the next hour, I’d be a little worried. And I’d definitely be sore for a week. But I’d do it, because while I’m not a kid anymore, I’m also not dead yet and I’d still like to become the best rider I can. On the other hand, simply maintaining some semblance of proper form while remembering a course and attempting to count strides often feels like more than enough of a challenge for this feeble old mind and body. I should be careful what I wish for.
So, fellow adult lesson kids, have you observed this phenomenon? Do you feel a bit more coddled as you age? Do you want to be pushed to your limit, or are you happier with slow and steady progress at this point in your life? Tell me about it in the comments.
Back to The Near Side
Leslie Potter is Sr. Associate Web Editor of @LeslieInLex.. Follow her on Twitter: