Learning to ride on one horse vs multiple horses - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 02:03 AM Thread Starter
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Learning to ride on one horse vs multiple horses

Hi! Okay maybe this has been asked before but here it goes. I am a lesson student who doesn't own a horse. I ride the program horses at my barn. Now as we all know horses are all different from temperament to riding. I've been on a bouncy horse, "lazy" horse, "downhill" horse, "uphill "horse, fast paced horse, and recently a very green horse (older gelding who is coming back to business after 10 yrs in pasture). They all ride so different, my bouncy sweet lesson mare horse passed away recently and I was never able to sit here trot (after 1.5 years of riding her). Anyways, when I learn, say, canter a horse with ease in the transitions the next lesson I am paired with another horse and even though I give the same cue's it doesn't work, lol. I get so frustrated with myself. I am just not progressing vs the ladies that started with me and own their own horse. They are already cantering and jumping while I am called into the middle of the arena to just watch because obviously my whole lesson was relearning how to ride again. I can't really demand to be put on the same horse as the horses have their own schedule with other riders.

Recently I've been paired with the older gelding and I feel it's a case of the blind leading the blind. We are all over the place as he is in training to steer, pace the trot, pretty much everything. The more experience riders are teaching him to canter.

I only ride on weekends and to make matters worst my lessons are often cancelled bc of weather, shows, or clinics with top trainers, so I am not spending much time in the saddle.

MY QUESTION: Did you learn riding one horse or multiple ones? Is it easier to learn the muscles you need to ride on one horse and then move on to other horses and develop more muscles?
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post #2 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 06:26 AM
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I took lessons on several horses...
We worked in 2's or 3's...2 or 3 weeks on a horse then switch to another.
Learning to ride just one horse is great but limits what you have learned you've already discovered.
Those ladies can do many things with "their horse" but give them a different horse and they will be doing as you are...learning to find the buttons to push to make a team work together.

Why not ask your instructor if you can ride the same horse a couple times in a row then move on to the next horse once you have worked and learned that task on the assigned mount, move to another and learn to do it again and again and again...
Riding different makes you are more rounded rider, able to ride many different horses...
Riding one allows you to master one, then flounder on others...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #3 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 07:07 AM
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I mostly learned on one horse, whom I call Perfect Lesson Pony (PLP). She was one of those BTDT lesson horses who knew what you were going to ask before you asked, because she had done it all before, hundreds of times. She was also one where, of course, you had to prove yourself or she would take advantage. Not in a dangerous way, but she just wouldn't move out for instance. After about six months of almost exclusively lessons on her (I'd ride one of my own every now and then) I started getting moved to different horses. Probably because she was needed for other beginners, but by that time I had enough of an idea of how things were supposed to feel that the variations between these horses didn't feel too great. I also started riding a hot horse, Chance, but he sadly passed away not too long after that. Now I almost exclusively ride one of my three. I have really gotten to know all of them, and it's been great because they are all different enough that I have to ride differently each time.

However, I would like to ride a new horse, honestly, at this point, just because I feel like I've gotten a little too comfortable in my routine with them.

IMO, it's better for a beginner to ride just one or two well-trained horses, to get the basics of riding; but better for someone a little further along to ride more horses, for the experience.

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person
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post #4 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 07:22 AM
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I've been mostly riding one horse for the last four and a half years. I can tell you, if you put me on a horse I've never ridden before, it certainly looks a LOT different!!! Cantering a different horse for the first time is especially challenging, as there's so much going on and it can feel completely alien.

I think the ideal situation would be to learn, up to an intermediate level, on ONE horse that's a pretty straightforward ride and has all the right buttons, and then start adding in some variety. But we don't always get the ideal situation!!

I agree, talk to your instructor. You are, after all, the paying client. Ask if you can do, say, at least three lessons in a row on one horse so you can get some feel for them. Why not ask? It's reasonable, and at worst they say no.
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post #5 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 07:32 AM
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See to me riding different helps you learn balance and you. Riding one teaches you that horse and your muscles (memory) aren't so elastic as when you go from one to another. The learning is a package deal. It also teaches you early on how to find what works with the many and then you can focus on the few or the one and refine things. I guess what I am saying is if you are started on more then your adjustment time shortens. There are pros and cons with both but in my my the pros of more outweigh the cons.

Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #6 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 08:05 AM
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I don't know what it would be like to only ride one horse.

When I started I was begging rides on anything that had four legs, a mane, and a tail.

So whether it's better to have one horse to ride, I don't know. But, I do know that I quickly became known as someone willing to hop on any horse and would try to do right by them.

However, you having to ride a super green horse doesn't sound like you're getting your money's worth from a lesson, either. If you're paying the barn can provide a horse that is well-trained in basic cues, IMO.
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post #7 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 08:27 AM
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Oh, I could write reams about this! I was the eternal lesson horse rider.

First of all, as you already know, every horse is different and each horse has something to teach us. Many lesson horses, however, are in a class of their own. Different breeds, sizes, shapes, mostly older, often stubborn or cranky, some misused and many improperly trained or de-trained by newbies, poor riders, kids, etc. The list and the possible combinations of variables are endless.

Now, to get to your specific question: whether it is ‘better’ to learn to ride on one horse or multiple horses in terms of learning and muscle development. Well, it depends. (HA! What did you expect?)

As you have said, the other ‘ladies’ you ride with seem to have progressed more in their riding with their own horses. From this comment and your question, I assume you are an adult/older rider (I am!) who is still gaining strength. Correct? Are the other ladies stronger/fitter than you? And, more importantly, what about their horses? Are they stronger, fitter, younger than the horses you are riding? I bet they are, and I bet they also came better trained. So this comparison of your riding versus theirs is completely unrealistic. Like comparing apples and oranges.

I am sure that their younger, well-trained horses are very good at listening to their rider’s aids, have a comfortable trot and always pick up the correct canter lead by simply giving a leg aid. This is obviously true, or these horses would not have been bought. But you? You are having the darnedest time getting your lesson horses to listen to your aids, and you are convinced that this has to do with muscle development. Well, muscle development might have something to do with it (only you know how fit you are), but do you think that a tired, stubborn lesson horse is really going to respond better to more muscle? More importantly, do you think that the other ladies in your class, who are riding the same well-trained horses every day (and ONLY their own horses), would do any better on those lesson horses? I bet not.

When you ride many different horses, you are able to develop a different skill set than single-horse riders. How to read a horse, finesse your aids, find which is his better side/better gait, how he responds to more contact/leg/seat/bend/flexion, etc. Over time, you learn how to adjust your aids, making them clearer or softer, constant if necessary, applying leg, seat, bend, etc. and the horse will know who is boss. And being the boss is BIG with many lesson horses. I am sure you have heard it before, but as herd animals, horses need to know who is their leader. And if the human on their back is not leading, then they take over. And, with a lesson horse, this is GAME OVER.

I work with a trainer, and I do not have my own horse. My riding hundreds of horses over the years have made me a desirable assistant, I guess. I am currently working with a privately owned horse he is training, as well as a children’s lesson horse (weekly tune-ups). Now, the lesson horse gets away with just about anything with the kids, but with me he knows I am all business. To give a clear example, he is older (21) and does not like taking the right canter lead. So, with the kids, he starts with the left and then changes (he is a GP trained Dressage horse). But, I am stronger than the kids, and I’d like to think I’m smarter than the horse. That is when the finesse and clarity of the aids come into play. I do not simply apply a leg-back canter aid. I sit deep, shorten my reins, take him into a corner, more contact, apply my inner leg so he is bent around it, weight to the inside, a bit of flexion… and then he is practically begging to jump out of the corner with the correct lead when I finally give the canter aid. And none of this has to do with a lot of muscle strength. Yes, my core is strong, but I have 3 broken bones in my left lumbar area. It’s just setting him up, with the proper timing, so he has no other option than to do what I ask.

So, in your case, I would work on my mental approach. Read more and watch more videos about the aids and the specific problems you are having (CRK training is good, so is Dressage Mastery by Natasha Althoff, Jane Savoie, and there are many more). Understand the importance of a good seat, contact, etc.

Also, talk to your coach and ask if it is possible to ride the same horse a couple of classes in a row to make some more progress. And, when you are frustrated, tell him/her. Happy clients are paying clients! I am sure they wouldn’t want to lose a client. But, also know that riding the same horse again and again is not the best solution. It is just the easiest one.
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post #8 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 08:44 AM
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Interesting what @Spanish Rider had to say. I do think that riding better-trained horses would help you progress faster. As someone who now rides only her own horses, I see that myself, but sort of reverse to what @Spanish Rider said.

My horses are not trained for arena work (except Teddy, who has really bad anxiety that has to be addressed almost every lesson). Riding with people who are riding trained lesson horses or leased horses, I see them progressing a lot faster than I am. Having said that, I'm sure none of them would have any idea how to deal with any of the many undesirable (from my POV) behaviors my horses display. So you could make the case that I'm learning different things (I can now sit out a tantrum BAREBACK on my Pony and then make him move forward!) than they are. I know when I had to go back to riding PLP a few months ago, all the sudden I felt like I was a perfect rider. I cantered an entire course on her multiple times, and it was super easy.

So yes, if you ride well-trained horses, you will progress to higher levels faster. But then if you ever do end up on a horse with an attitude, you wouldn't know what to do.

Having said all of that, for the level where you currently are, I think it would be better for you to just ride one (or maybe two) well-trained lesson horses. I would ask your riding instructor about it.

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person
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post #9 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 09:02 AM
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My learning experience was very different to most.

At the riding school you never had arena lessons until you were happily cantering off a lead rein.

All novices started off on a lead rein, lead from another horse ridden by a staff member. Group rides of at least eight out and about. You had to master the sitting trot before you were allowed to post. Cantering after this was easy.

Instruction was given the whole rode but, mostly you were left to find your own balance and learn to relax.

Then when cantering off a lead you were taught in the arena.

We children all had out favourite pony/ horse but we were never allowed to only rode that one.

Each was individual and you learned to ride them all. Strong ones, lazy ones, comfy and jarring, you had to be able to sit and ride the lot.

Being that the first say dozen lessons were on the trails it was in many ways easier. The whole rode trotted together, cantering they went individually and the horses knew both where to canter and where to stop. No corners to worry about.

I have seen many so called 'good' orders on their own horse winning at shows, put them on something different and they hadn't a clue!
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post #10 of 24 Old 02-28-2020, 09:11 AM
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From ACinATX
IMO, it's better for a beginner to ride just one or two well-trained horses, to get the basics of riding; but better for someone a little further along to ride more horses, for the experience.
I think this is the perfect answer. My belief is that riding should be FUN. And it is more fun when you have the same horse that you know really really well . . . and he knows you really really well. Part of the fun of riding is that esoteric feeling you get when you are in perfect sync with your horse. One reason why I loved driving so much. You had to be even more in sync with your horse because all you had were the reins, your voice, and your mind thoughts.

After you have gotten good at all the fun things you like doing with a horse, then it becomes fun to connect with other horses. But in the beginning, it is not fun to be floundering around trying to figure out stuff with horses who don't like you, don't want to know you, and don't listen.
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