Adult "re-rider" issue - am I really that out of shape?
I started taking lessons after a 25 year hiatus about three months ago. The last month and a half I've been trying to take 2 sometimes 3 lessons a week. The whole endeavor has been humbling, but I am completely embarrassed by how winded I get at the trot and canter. The horse is barely breaking a sweat but I am a sweaty red-faced mess who can't finish a complete sentence!
I am definitely not in the best shape of my life, but I run (well jog really) and do a floor aerobics class at least 3 days a week. Is it really that different/difficult because of the large muscle work (posting, 2 point)? I am wondering if I am forgetting to breathe? It was particularly bad yesterday, but I also felt like I was so busy trying to fix everything I was doing wrong that maybe I wasn't breathing. Is that even a possibility?
Also, did/do any beginners ever feel like it is information overload? I really want to ask my instructor if we could just focus on 1-2 things until I do them well. I asked yesterday if I could ride without my crop so that I could really focus on my hand pressure and reins. She said something to the effect of you are going to have to learn it all at some point anyway so I rode with it (poorly) anyway. Is it normal to feel like you can't remember all of the things you are supposed to be doing? Is it a middle-age fog? I thought I was a fairly decent multi-tasker.....
Just by reading your post I'm going to say, "BREATHE". I think you sound like you're getting so wrapped around the axle about all the different things that you're not breathing regularly.
Yes, to the info overload, no it's not middle aged fog or maybe it's a little bit, but info overload for sure. I agree, you will have to learn to ride with a crop and probably spurs eventually but I don't feel like that means it needs to be today. If she won't slow down and break it down for you, I'd find another instructor. Remember who's pay who!
Welcome to middle age! You're older, your body is changing, and your stamina just isn't what it used to be. Contrary to what the non-riding general public thinks, riding properly is hard work. Fun as well, but still hard work.
Oh do I HEAR YOU!!
I, too, thought I was in pretty good shape cardivascularly...walking 2-4 miles at least 4 d a week, doing sit ups, lifting 15lbs, push ups, etc...NOPE! Riding has challenged me physically (& MOST CERTAINLY MENTALLY!) more than anything after MY 15 year break (rode17 YEARS until quitting @ age 23)...I'm 39, but many of the earlier days (1st 10-12 lessons) I couldn't post more than 3xs around the arena with about 20" between EACH ONE TIME AROUND, for the whole HOUR of my lesson and would become very tired simply trying to maintain forward impulsion to the bridle AND POST on a "more challenging to get moving"/read:slower ) horse...my steady starter mare, Fancy.
Add to that, I have very short legs, so wrapping/draping them around her was NOT A POSSIBILITY until I became secure enough to ride sans stirrups. PLUS, my instructor does NOT BELIEVE (Arghhh!) in even a plastic roller snub spur (which has no possibility of of accidentally "poking" OR A DRESSAGE WHIP OR CROP)!!.
She is of the school that one "builds" enough lower leg strength to squeeze and release, no "kicking"...no real even "tap-tap" w/ heels or side of boot unless horse REALLY NEEDS TO WAKE UP...AND...well she's ridden everything and NEVER EVEN OWNED spurs or a whip thus I shan't either! Many days, between the confusion ("bend her WHICH DIRECTION AND KEEP HER HEAD POINTED WHICH WAY? AND OUTSIDE LEG, INSIDE REIN TO STAY ON THE FENCE??AHHH!!) and being about to pas out from "post up, squeeze, sit, squeeze, up, SQUEEZE --DA*?!IT--SIT, SQEEEEZE..."! I thought "well, I don't have to worry about dying in a spooking/throw/bucking accident ...I'll definitely die FIRST OF OVEREXERTION"! Haaa!
It finally, slowly improved (thank you, G-d!!) and now can ride a 90" lesson and be PRETTY ORGANIZED, in control, AT least till the FINAL ROUND OF NO STIRRUP POSTING. Then, I'm STILL a sweaty, panting mess! :0)
I promise you are NOT ALONE! AND, doing 13 things at once with minimal oxygen will soon become MUCH EASIER! I applaud you for sticking with it after so many years off!!! Now. if I could just BORROW YOUR CROP?? Ha. Sorry...just jealous of your assistive devices! :0)
Best 2 you!! B2H
Exactly this. I had to finally admit to myself that riding is hard and it takes a long time to become the rider we want to be. But man when you do feel that progress, it's such a rush! I've found the best advice and tips came from people on this board who were only a little bit ahead of me in terms of how skilled a rider they were. I think a lot of times it's easy for a trainer who has been riding many years to forget what it's like to begin or return to riding as an adult. So don't be afraid to ask questions here. There are plenty of us who can give you little tips or at least some empathy when you feel like you aren't advancing as fast as you'd like to.
Best of luck!
I still have days when I have a hard time coordinating all the stuff at one time - heels down, thumbs up, head up, shoulders back, leg still, knees out, relax back, bend knees, breathe. My biggy was forgetting to breathe, until I almost passed out. Trainer during lesson: Breathe, breathe, BREATHE!
A lot of times in a lesson, my trainer will instruct to pick two things to concentrate on and let the rest take care of itself. Funny, when you quit worrying about some of the stuff you find it's just there.
I can definitely relate to feeling out of shape and getting a real workout at my lessons. I found I would hold my breathe sometimes as I was concentrating so hard, so I try to relax as much as possible and remind myself to breathe. I was told that if you sing a song while riding, even quietly to yourself, you will be sure to breathe. You can choose a song with the same beat as the horses gait. Can't hold your breathe while you're singin'!!
The short answer is yes, you are really that out of shape. The worse answer is, it will harder for you to build muscle to begin with and equally hard to keep it on. Try drinking a protein drink after your rides. It seems to help my intermediate ages body.
Thank you all so much for the thoughtful replies and ideas, it definitely helps! I feel like I ask a nonstop stream of questions at the barn so it is really helpful to be able to ask questions here too. I think I am probably that out of shape, but I am determined, and trying to remember to breathe. I got a fitness book for riders on Amazon, and I am only in the second week but I think it will really help with the strength issues.
My instructor must have been reading my mind because she kept telling me to breathe during my last lesson. Then she put me on a longe line and had me do bicycle and scissor exercises with my legs and sit the trot without stirrups. I wish I could do that all day every day for a month, it was so helpful to really be able to concentrate on my seat. We also figured out that I am really gripping with my knees and inner thighs to compensate for using my lower legs which may be 1) keeping the horse from moving forward and 2) pitching my butt back and my upper body forward. I am seriously thinking of rigging up some kind of a barrel on some sawhorses so I can practice how to sit daily because I can only ride 2 - if I am lucky 3 - times a week. I have no idea what this contraption will look like but if I figure it out, I will compose a post.
Thank you again!
Check in - improvement!
In case anyone needs a bit of encouragement, I wanted to check in and say my fitness and riding have really improved! I realized after my lesson yesterday that I really did not get very winded at all and I feel much stronger. Granted, I am not flying around a course with jumps, but posting the trot for 15 minutes straight, some 2 point and cantering. Stuff that 6 weeks ago would have left me gasping for breath. I upped my lessons to 4 sometimes 5 times a week if I can swing it. I've also been doing the Success in the Saddle DVDs and following the weight training/strength exercises in The Riders Fitness Program pretty consistently (I am on week 4). My riding seems to be getting a lot less floppy and sloppy.
Back when I originally posted this thread, I was determined, but also pretty afraid that maybe I was just never going to have enough fitness to improve. The first few times I picked hooves I was huffy and sweaty :oops: I don't think I will be off eventing or endurance riding any time soon, but I am getting better. And singing or counting while riding - totally helped keep me breathing. Adult beginners or re-riders - there is hope!
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