How did you learn about horses and what else can I do? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 09-27-2020, 05:32 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2020
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How did you learn about horses and what else can I do?

Hi everyone!

Iím new to horses- started taking lessons in May, switched barns in August and had a bit of a fiasco (thereís a thread somewhere here about that) and I have now settled in to a new place for lessons. Itís a rescue ranch and so far I feel very comfortable with the facility, the trainer, and the health and behavior of the horses. I volunteer once per week (mostly cleaning stalls and taking horses to and from turnout) at the ranch, take lessons 1x per week, and I am on my third 4-hour groundwork training clinic. I am on here a ton, and I am reading a lot of articles. I also purchased 2 books that Iíve read cover-to-cover- the Pony Club Manual and the Horse Care Manual. I ask a ton of questions when I can. What else can I do to become a better rider and horseperson? The goal is to own day lease or own a horse, but I am very far away from that at this point.

I feel very fortunate that I have the privilege of time and money to devote to these amazing creatures, but I often feel at a disadvantage because I donít have any ďhorseyĒ people in my life and because I started so late- at age 37. I am finding that most people Iíve met either started around horses from a very young age or have had someone in their lives who could bring them along. So, especially to anyone in a similar situation, whatís your horse journey? How did you become a confident and competent horseperson? How long did you learn/take lessons before taking the plunge to a lease or own?

As always, thank you for your time and wisdom.
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post #2 of 14 Old 09-27-2020, 05:41 PM
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: California
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I came from a non horsey family.
I started similarly, but with camps, taking lessons and my aunt actually gifted me my first horse when she could no longer care for him.
From there i worked for my lessons/gymkhanas/lease horses. I took every opportunity to be at the barn. I also befriended a couple local trainers. They taught me much of what i know. I also watched top trainers , in my case, barrel racing and colt starting videos. Anything i can find. I read any books i see recommended even mildly related to performance.
Next if you can find trainers around you that will mentor you. I rode with two, one cutting trainer/breeder and a roper in Texas and in the short time i rode for them I learned immense amounts of info!
Also even sitting in on clinics is helpful! If you have the money to do it they usually arenít super expensive but tons of knowledge!

ďBe selective in your battles, for sometimes peace is better than simply being rightĒ
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post #3 of 14 Old 09-27-2020, 05:50 PM
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Canada
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Hmmmm... I think you'll find that everyone has had a different journey. Some are born into it, lucky enough to have horsey parents. Some, like me, just have that horse loving gene but parents who are not at all knowledgeable about horses. Mine still got me my first pony when I was 5 so I can say that I had my first horse before really knowing very much about their care or even how to ride. I know it sounds cute and glamorous to have a pony at that age, but really, she was kept at my uncle's barn with cows and because my parents were slightly terrified of horses in general, but this feisty mare pony specifically, I was only allowed to ride her on a lead line. I don't even remember brushing her. My first real horse came when I was about 11 and I had 6 months of riding lessons, which was more than most people I knew ever had. I read books, devoured Horse Illustrated magazine, but there was no Internet back then, so I just muddled along really. I sold him when I was 17 because I left home for university.

Fast forward a couple of decades without horses, one day, my 6 year old asked for riding lessons and the journey started again. This time, I had enough financial independance to make sure she had all the knowledge she ever wanted and needed. She has been taking lessons for 9 years now, and just got certified for her English rider level 6 (not sure where you are, but in Canada, we have rider levels for English and Western and each one teaches riding, but also stable management, horse anatomy, care, disease prevention - a whole slew of things). I think it's wonderful that kids can do this and receive certification. Coaches must go through each of these steps as well if they want to advertise they are certified by Equestrian Canada. So you might consider looking up a similar type program (or go to the Equestrian Canada website for a TON of free content!).

However, nothing replaces a good mentor. While you might think I knew a lot about horses from previous ownership as a child/teen, everything has changed so, so much since I had horses back then! The only advantage I may have had is an appreciation for the hard work that comes with owning a horse. Otherwise, nutrition, hoof care, turnout, everything has basically changed completely since then. So I still read a ton. I follow some useful websites. I did an online liberty and ground work training course. But one of the best sources of up-to-date knowledge has been my trimmer. She was an unexpected source of knowledge about everything horses. You may find someone like this at the rescue ranch.

It sounds like you're already doing a lot so I'd say just keep it up. Knowledge may come from unexpected places and opportunities, but keep doing clinics, they are also very beneficial.

Oh yes, and if you are interested in the show scene at all -- or even if you aren't ever planning to show but are curious -- volunteer to help out at a show! I joined the regional equestrian association committee and actually just organized my first show. I learned a lot from being around show officials including the judge, steward, etc. I will never show, but my daughter does, so I thought it would be a good way for me to understand what they're all about and how they work, and I was right!

Last edited by Acadianartist; 09-27-2020 at 05:59 PM.
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post #4 of 14 Old 09-27-2020, 07:40 PM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Cariboo, British Columbia
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I grew up with horses, but my parents weren't horse people they were more livestock people. There was small Hobby farms all around us and everybody had horses and lots were horsey people and that's where I learned quite a bit. Then as a teenager I worked on a dude ranch for three summers and the owner and his daughter really taught me a lot. Then it just carried on from there, learning from other trainers mostly, figuring out stuff on my own, before the internet I bought every horse mag on the newsstand. Now with the internet you can Google something and find it out, sort of, lol.
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post #5 of 14 Old 09-27-2020, 10:21 PM
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I grew up in a large US city to decidedly non- horse parents.

I haunted the few vendors who still used horse drawn wagons on the routes. I hung around the mounted police stables and the officers would put me on horses after they were bathed and I could ride while they led me as the horse dried.

I collected returnable bottles and saved up to have bus fare and enough to rent a horse on the outskirts of the city. I stole rides on anything I could catch. No saddle or bridle or halter.

Had some lessons from a police officer who had emigrated from Germany and was kind.

Found some old tall boots in an alley and a teacher gave me old breeches with the puffy thighs and I took a brother's suit jacket. Hung around shows and offered to catch ride. Mostly handy hunter classes. I looked clownish and was told that frequently by the more fortunate kids.

Left home very young, went to work with harness and fiat race horses. Finished high school via correspondence. Managed a TB farm. Come west to see what ranching in big country was like.

The best thing I've done was be very picky about which horsemen I spend time with. I don't even care if they are grumpy or rude. If they are good with horses, I'm there. Learning all the time.
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post #6 of 14 Old 09-27-2020, 10:49 PM
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Location: Seattle, WA
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I think you are doing about all the right things. Please don't let anxiety about your start date take too much free real estate in your mind. There isn't a darn thing you can do about that.

I basically started at 41, if that makes you feel any better. I know that I will NEVER become the rider that I could have, had I started earlier. But, Can I change that? No, I cannot, so best get on with it.

You are at the stage where you will see a lot of clinics and videos, and read books, and each and every one will feel like 'the' answer. Just be aware that in the future, at some point, I bet a million to one that you will throw away some of the solid truths you hold dear now. And, you'll take on new ones.

But, you can't put 'young heads on old shoulders'. There is no shortcut. So, just stay open minded, ask questions, and WATCH. Developing good observational skills is about the best thing you can do for your journey.
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post #7 of 14 Old 09-27-2020, 11:53 PM
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Location: Montana
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Go to the library and rent as many books about horses and riding as you can. This will save you from spending loads of money on things you might not like or agree with, but I have found that widening your sphere of influence will yield the best results. Watch all the videos you can. Listen to podcasts. Try to stay off the YouTubes until you have a decent base, but I know that's very hard. If you do the YouTube route, at least Google some decent trainers and riders and try to only watch videos put out by people who know what they're doing. It seems like these days there are a ton of folks spouting absolute drivel, and it would be a shame to waste your time listening to such nonsense.

I wholeheartedly believe that auditing clinics is a little-known path to awesomeness. And it doesn't even matter what clinic you audit. Go to a dressage clinic, or a cowhorse clinic. Colt starting, showjumping, trail riding, driving, packing, whatever. Just go do it. Most clinics I've been to were VERY reasonably priced to audit - usually $25 or $50 for the weekend. Bring a notebook and a pen or two and take as many notes as you can. Pictures, too, if you can, but most don't allow it. Just soak up as much as you can - you can always pick and choose later if you want, nothing wrong with that.

Take ALL the lessons. Same with above - it doesn't matter in what, just take the lesson. I learned to ride English at like 7 or 8 years old and took lessons for a couple years before my parents bought me my first horse - who was trained to ride western, of course. No biggie, I learned a lot from her. Shockingly, I found that I learned the most from a driving clinic I attended a few years back. I was forced to think about everything I did in a different way, and to this day I firmly believe that that made me a better trainer and horsewoman.

Go sit at a barn and just ... absorb. Osmosis learning is very underrated. You can learn a lot about what to do (and what not to do!) but simply observing other people work with their horses, if you're paying attention. See if you can sit in and watch a lesson.

Volunteer. Most barns are happy for free help, even if the help barely knows which end bites and which end kicks, as long as the help is willing to learn and tries hard. Feed, muck stalls, and learn.

I could go on and on but I think that's enough to be getting on with. Don't worry about the late start - the beauty of horses is that you can have them in your life for as long as you want. There's a fellow down the road from where I board who is still chasing cows down the fence at 84. Just dive in, keep your ears and your eyes open and learn from everyone, because every single person on this planet has something to teach you if you'll listen. And once you start riding, the horse will teach you even more than any human can. : )

-- Kai
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post #8 of 14 Old 09-28-2020, 06:04 AM
Join Date: May 2014
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I grew up in a large city and only saw horses (and cows, sheep and goats) at the zoo. My entire extended family was decidedly animal-less. Not really anti-animal, just living in small apartments which didn't lend themselves to having anything other than gold fish. I never physically touched a horse until I started taking lessons at 37 - like yourself. I remember taking apples and carrots to my first lesson - I had peeled them and cored the apples as you would for a pie. I didn't quite connect that horses eat grass off actual dirt - no one washes the grass for them. My instructor was rather downcast when she concluded that I am a city girl.

Anyhow - I started off with weekly lessons. I am very untalented and not exactly athletic by nature as well as a very nervous rider so it took me five times as long to learn everything but eventually I bought my own horse after three years. I stable her at a yard which isn't particularly glamorous but the owner loves horses and is very hands on so I had lots of support. I continued with lessons on my mare for another year or two and only started riding independently after about five years of lessons. All in all, I have been riding for eight years and now I jump (small jumps) - which my mare didn't know how to do, I have managed to teach myself and my mare collection, leg yields, various shoulder ins and other assorted dressage figures and we are currently working on flying changes. She seems to know how to do them innately (obviously), it's me that's the problem. I don't have access to other horses which already know how to do them so it's hit and miss but we are getting there.

I have read a lot, watched a lot of videos, asked a lot of questions both in real life and on this forum. Around here yards aren't too big on volunteering because of cheap labor (it doesn't really make financial sense for them) so I missed out on that but I still managed to learn just through taking lessons. Overall, I am very happy that I found horses and have enough money to afford them.

You seem to be on the right track, enjoy the journey.
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post #9 of 14 Old 09-28-2020, 07:16 AM
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Sunset, TX
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I pick up information all over the place including this forum. If you are looking for some books to read everything written by Heather Smith Thomas is quality horse information. Wendy Murdoch is great for general riding instruction and her advice will make you a better rider in any discipline. Martin Black is my favorite at the moment for understanding and getting along better with horses of all kinds. Other than that I learn a lot from talking to the farrier, the vet, or really anyone who I recognize as knowing something I don't. I've had fascinating conversations with saddle makers who are also serious horseman, the kinds of things that you only get from taking the time to talk with people.

As for knowing people in the horse world that will come from just being in it and around it. On buying or leasing a horse, take your time and enjoy the freedom you have to wait and look for the right one. If you are interested in a particular discipline start reading about it and learn what you can. is a decent place to rent horse related DVDs from a huge selection of topics. Good luck!

Last edited by jgnmoose; 09-28-2020 at 07:22 AM.
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post #10 of 14 Old 09-28-2020, 12:35 PM
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Canada
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Originally Posted by Kaifyre View Post

Don't worry about the late start - the beauty of horses is that you can have them in your life for as long as you want. There's a fellow down the road from where I board who is still chasing cows down the fence at 84. Just dive in, keep your ears and your eyes open and learn from everyone, because every single person on this planet has something to teach you if you'll listen. And once you start riding, the horse will teach you even more than any human can. : )

-- Kai
All of this. I bought a horse trailer from a lady who was 92 at the time. She was still riding, but figured she might be done going to shows, lol. I recently heard, two years later (so she's 94!!!) that she's looking for a new horse to buy! Her friends are trying to convince her to lease because, well, 94!!!! She is my hero.
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