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Horseback Riding Lessons

Aging Lesson Kids

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 have a theory about getting older in the world of riding lesson stables, and I’m wondering if anyone out there can back me up.



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.

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Leslie Potter is Sr. Associate Web Editor of HorseChannel.com. Follow her on Twitter: @LeslieInLex.

 

Leslie Potter

Leslie Potter is a graduate of William Woods University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Science with a concentration in saddle seat riding and a minor in Journalism/Mass Communications. She is currently a writer and photographer in Lexington, Ky.Potter worked as a barn manager and riding instructor and was a freelance reporter and photographer for the Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar and Saddle Horse Report before moving to Lexington to join Horse Illustrated as Web Editor from 2008 to 2019. Her current equestrian pursuits include being a grown-up lesson kid at an eventing barn and trail riding with her senior Morgan gelding, Snoopy.

View Comments

  • I think part of it is not so much coddling, but just being adults. Kids are able to be molded; they are balls of potential that can go in a lot of directions and need a lot of work to live up to it. Adults are already in their mold. For the most part they know what they want from riding, and will work at a pace acceptable to them to get there. No one wants someone making demands at them, and I think an adult is more likely to back away from riding (or from a certain instructor)that orders them to work hard or says "do it again, and do it right" too often.

  • That's a good point, Laura. Kids are probably more accustomed to taking orders, for lack of a better term, from teachers/parents/authority figures. And maybe it's more natural for instructors to be more authoritative over kids than adult riders who are the same age or older than they are.

  • I taught lessons to 4-12 year olds throughout highschool and when I went away to college I began teaching lessons to my peers there. I have found that the college students are much more reserved and tentative about riding. I have also found that they have much more of an intuitive idea of when something feels right. So, when I see them struggling, I ask them if they want to do it again. This helps them gauge how they are doing. Little kids could go around doing something inherently wrong but they don't necessarily feel it. That is why I tell them to try something again. I also think that kids don't always realize how dangerous horses can be, whereas adults are aware of how scary riding can be.

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