When I started riding lessons a few months ago I was starting them off the back of having had owned horses for over 7 years. Admittedly, I hadn’t done a lot of riding in those years but I was lucky in that I already owned a lot of the required equipment and had a fair idea of what to expect from lessons. If you’ve been out of the saddle for a while, or if you’re starting lessons for the first time ever, then you may be unsure how to prepare for your first horse riding lesson as an adult rider. Today I wanted to share with you 5 things that you can do TODAY that will help prepare you for a horse riding lesson as an adult rider!
Have the right gear (or at least find out if you can loan it)
This may vary from riding school to riding school, but generally speaking, you will need to wear either jeans or breeches/jodhpurs, enclosed shoes with a heel and a helmet for your riding lesson. It’s a good idea to make sure you either have at least one pair of comfortable jeans or breeches and a pair of good riding boots of your own before you start lessons.
If you don’t have boots or a helmet, it’s a good idea to check with your riding school as to whether they have some that they can loan as they may have either one or both of these essential items for students to lend. My riding school has both boots and helmets. Borrowing is a great option if you can’t afford to purchase your own right away or if you’re unsure if you’ll be sticking to regular lessons.
Come to the lesson open-minded
As someone with previous horse experience I took in a lot of knowledge about my own horse and my horse experiences to my lessons, and one thing I quickly discovered was that there is always something new to learn. Not all horses are the same, not all experiences are the same and not all instructors are the same. I thought I knew a lot about horses, but it turned out what I knew was just the tip of the iceberg.
My instructor is so good at what she does, which other than teaching people how to ride, is pushing people out of their comfort zones… because that’s where the magic happens right?!
I do have to admit that the old me probably would have gone home and sulked about being yelled at while in a group lesson, but the new me is embracing the opportunity to learn, being open-minded and remembering that we only get better when we are being challenged.
So when you go to your lesson remember to take an open mind with you, be a knowledge sponge and soak up as much information as you can!
Go easy on yourself
This one is SO important.
When we become parents our lives change for EVER, we already know that, but sometimes we fail to remember that so do our bodies and our minds.
Where there was once a confident rider, there may now be someone who struggles with fear. Where there was once someone who could do a sitting trot and make it look easy, there may now be someone who can barely rise to the trot. Where there was once someone who could spend hours a day at the farm, there is no someone who can only squeeze in a one hour lesson a week.
Things change, and that’s okay. You change, and that’s okay. Just make sure you remember that going in-to your lesson, and go a little easy on yourself.
This one is completely optional and comes down to personal preference, but I 100% believe that being fitter makes riding a lot easier.
When I started riding again after my daughter was born I had been running so didn’t find the aerobic aspect of riding difficult. What I did find was that I struggled (and still do) to maintain balance because of how weak my core was, which is totally normal after pregnancy and birthing a human being.
If working out is your thing, then exercises like yoga, pilates and swimming can be a great way to increase your aerobic fitness and strength for riding.
Banish those nerves
One thing I know about is nerves. Oh yes. I had confidence issues before my daughter was born, from a couple of bad falls, and they did not go away after she was born. If anything, they’re worse because I now have the added worry of thinking that if anything were to happen to me, then who would look after her.
Over the course of my last few lessons I’ve learnt that overcoming fear and nerves is something that happens with time and putting rides under your belt.
It’s still something I’m working on and some of the strategies I’ve been using are:
Remembering that when I’m in a school environment that I am safe. I have been placed on a horse whose abilities I am suited to.
Counting or singing a tune in my head.
Setting small goals for each lesson.
Pushing myself slightly out of my comfort zone each lesson, it’s a great confidence builder!
To own my nervousness. Some days I get particularly anxious about a lesson and I don’t know why. On those days, while I’m driving out to my lesson I say over to myself (out loud!) “I am nervous, and that’s okay”.
Breathing exercises. I breath in as deep as I can, hold for 3 seconds and then release slowly.