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NordicMan 11-04-2012 02:45 PM

New Adult - Discouraged
Hi - I am a new adult English rider, 4 months into learning. I take lessons 2x's per week. I am a male, 45 years old. This is something I have always wanted to do, but as a kid, logisitics and costs were just too much for my parents. College, job, and raising a son put things off even further.

When I started riding, I was quite out of shape, but have now lost nearly 30 lbs in 4 months with both riding and supplemental physical exercise.

My frustrations are that I worry I am too old and too far gone. The biggest challenge for me me is flexibility and stretching .. "heel down", being able to keep legs straight for mount/dismount ... and endurance -- I still get winded after long posting trots, and have to ask to rest. I'm the "old man" ;-).

May I ask a general assessment of what my progess is (slow, OK, average) for a 45 y/o adult totally new to English after 4 months?

Currently in summary:

1) Reining is generally good - though I have to remember sometimes to be more gentle in stopping (hands instead of arms). I rein well in trotting.

2) Posting trot is OK, though on sharper turns I still need better leg support. After about 5 minutes of trotting or when my legs tire, I creep up on my toes and need "heels down" reminders. The posting my instructors insist on is very "light," -- they say pretend my butt is coming down on a baby chick and I don't want to squish it.

3) I do ankle and leg stretches daily, but legs and ankles are still like rubber bands. Muscle contract and get hard and stiff .. I need TONS of stretching everytime I ride. Getting flixibility is taking a LONG time.

4) I am learning changing diagonals and steering patterns in ring while trotting. The leg work is coming, but dosn't come really easily.

5) I am OK on 2 point position -- now working on increasing strength by extending time trotting in 2 point position.

6) I have not started ANY cantering yet. Instructors say there's no point yet in starting.

I love the training, and the tough coaching is great for me in many ways. I just feel like a bungler with so many really good young people around.

I just hope I'm not fooling myself, and annoying the riding instructors with being slow. Don't learn as fast as the kids, teens and young adults.

Also - even after 4 months - my legs are still sore the day or two after every riding lesson. I don't mind, but is this also normal?

Finally - I should charge admission for watching my flying dismounts .. quite comical but can finally land on my feet, though not with beauty and grace ;-)P

Thanks very much

Inga 11-04-2012 02:52 PM

I would say that you are doing great! Learning a new skill is hard enough, trying to get back in shape at the same time, takes time. You should be very proud of yourself. Bless you for working on a life time goal, you are way out ahead of many people.

I would love to see pictures, video if you feel brave enough to post them here. Don't be discouraged, instead be proud of yourself... you are amazing!

When I was a kid (mid to late teens) taking lessons, there was a guy who was 65 and had just retired. He, like you, decided to work on a lifelong dream of learning to ride. It didn't come easy to him but he never gave up. There were a few fools that chucked when they would see him coming in with his shiny new boots and helmet. I was proud to know this man, I think of him often. Inspiring to say the least. That man even showed horses for several years. He met his goal, as will you. Keep up the good work.

DancingArabian 11-04-2012 02:53 PM

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It is all totally normal! It DOES get better.

Remember that with children and teens, they have a lot more natural flexibility to their bodies. You also have to consider that if they've been riding longer than you have, they have more experience with riding and with their bodies while riding that it's easier for them to adjust since they know how to adjust - you're still building a foundation.

You can't compare yourself to other riders, regardless of age, when you're still learning the building blocks to good riding. You don't use your legs for most other activities the way you do with riding, so you're basically building new muscle. It takes time. Remember not to hold your breath while posting - that can cause you to feel out of breath when you finally do take in some air.

Good luck and keep at it!

NordicMan 11-04-2012 03:02 PM

Thanks ! ;-) ... On the breathing, that's is definitely something else I need to constantly remember .. I do unintentionally hold my breath.

bsms 11-04-2012 04:52 PM

I started at 50. Since I was stupid enough to buy a horse and THEN start learning (bad idea), I was able to ride 4-5 times/week. A couple of things I found:

1 - 40 years of jogging left me with very tight hips. Tight hips make it very hard to relax into the saddle. It keeps your thighs squeezed together and shoves you out of the saddle. After 4 years...I still have problems. Rode yesterday, and had cramps in my hips near the end of the ride.

2 - Heels down. Often preached, but I honestly think older riders deserve some slack. When people told me to put my heels down, I tired to SHOVE them down, creating tension thru my entire leg and making my riding much worse. If you have to choose, and a lot of older beginners do, a relaxed leg is far better for good riding than heels down.

However, it will get better with time. This is one area I've made progress:

I'll also note that it is far easier to get your heels down if your feet are slightly forward of your hip. I shoot for the back of my heel aligned with my belt buckle.

3 - I was also told toes front. Right. Like that will happen. After 4 years of riding, I'm happy if my toes are only 45 deg out. Trying to get my toes further forward again results in tension in my leg.

My favorite book on riding is "". He argues the key is to learn to feel your horse's movement and balance, and to move in harmony with your horse's balance. In my experience, too much concern about my 'position' was harmful to learning to feel and move with my horse.

I had a back injury (thank you, Mia, for the bolt that led to it!) that is only now, 4 years later, starting to work out of my lower back. I didn't realize at the time how much that limited my progress. I didn't start cantering for 3 years, but then, I didn't take many lessons either. And cantering with a very stiff, rigid lower back wasn't going to work anyways, as I look back on it.

In my limited experience, most younger people really get a kick out of an older guy learning to ride. I've met with lots of help, and have yet to have anyone try to discourage me. My youngest daughter and I ride together regularly:

Yes, that is Mia...our current goal is for Mia to become a good trail horse. We recently started on solo rides in the desert. Riding is a lifetime exploration. I enjoyed watching a video on campdrafting, and in particular the competitor who was 80!

Paradise Lagoons Campdraft - YouTube

Also - I think western riding is more forgiving for an older beginner. I've become a *******ized rider. I ride an Aussie-style saddle with a forward seat, except with longer leg than normal and use western reins. The western lessons I took for about 4-5 months were very good. the instructor was very big on teaching how the rider's position affects the horse's balance and willingness, and that is very important no matter what your riding style.

Good luck! In 5 years, you'll be as old as I was at the start...:twisted:

Oh - holding breath. When I'm nervous riding Mia in the desert, I sing. She doesn't mind, and I have a hard time being tense while singing "Red River Valley". Or "Four Legged Friend":

Customcanines 11-04-2012 05:53 PM

I rode exensively as a youngster - I showed and trained jumpers and never got tired or sore. Fast forward 40 years. At 59, I started riding again. I KNOW what to do, but my body sure doesn't cooperate. I'm still not even able to mount without a mounting block, but I'm working on it. I know I'll never ride like I used to, but I'm having the time of my life and it's worth every twinge and ache. You'll get better and I think it's great that you're learning to ride. There is no "normal" time frame - everyone learns at their own rate. As long as you're having fun (at least most of the time LOL) DON'T STOP!!! It will be worth it, and MUCH more fun than working out at a gym!!!

justashowmom 11-04-2012 05:59 PM

You sound like you are doing great! The problem I have run into, and I will be 58 next year, is that as soon as I fix one issue, another one crops up. Sigh. Fix my swinging legs, now the left shoulder wants to lead everywhere along with my left hip which resulted in some "lovely" bulging left diagonal circles. Work on that, forget to breathe or relax my arms and hands. Now my back hurts on the right side because I am trying to fix my being crooked.

Keep it up - on the days it all come together, there is no better feeling.

boots 11-04-2012 08:34 PM

I see people in their 40 and 50s every summer learning to ride and to play polo at the same time. They have many of the same issues you are having, but eventually do amazingly well.

Keep it up, you'll have a fun, healthy hobby for the rest of your life.

kitten_Val 11-05-2012 01:11 PM


Originally Posted by NordicMan (Post 1743970)
My frustrations are that I worry I am too old and too far gone.

NM, I know number of people who started riding around your age (BTW, I got my horses and started serious lessons/learning well pass my teenage years :wink: ), and do just GREAT! So don't be discouraged: learning correct riding is not fast, and just need practice-practice-practice. Also if you take lessons for just 4 months (and to me sounds like you do a very good progress), it's still quite short, so no wonder you didn't try to canter yet. Canter will come - don't worry about it.

As for soreness... How intense are the lessons? I sometime have sore muscles after my dressage lessons (and I try to ride every day with lessons once/week usually). I'd suggest to do some stretching and warm-up exercises before you get on a horse - it'll make your muscles "ready" for the ride.

BlueSpark 11-05-2012 01:17 PM

Magnesium suplements can help if you have overly tight muscles, and drinking a few glasses of water after each lesson will help reduce soreness.

mainly it is just practice, practice, practice. It sounds like you are doing well, keep it up!

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