Not quite "new" but I'm comically terrible. Please Advise - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 03:15 AM Thread Starter
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Not quite "new" but I'm comically terrible. Please Advise

Hello
Thank you for the great amount of information this forum has.

My question is pretty straight forward.
I like horses and want to learn to ride very much, but I'm just terrible at it. To give you an idea of how bad I was, I took lessons 3x a week for 6 months or something like that and still couldn't post the trot.
Learning the proper way to sit in the saddle and use the reigns seemed impossible for me.

Of course using patient school horses I could manage to make the horse walk and turn and do the two point while trotting etc but holding the reigns at the correct level of tightness and having my hands placed where they were supposed to be like literally seemed impossible to me.
I'm also very stiff in the saddle.
Plus I feel a lot of anxiety around how dangerous horses can be and that definitely doesn't help things.

I'm not asking for tips on how to fix these specific issues really but more just trying to paint a picture of how bad I am.

I even had an instructor fire me once because she was so frustrated with me. I think she thought I wasn't paying attention or didn't care? But I actually try very hard every lesson, it's just that I...suck.
I probably have dyspraxia.

All of these words are basically to ask..
Have you ever known someone so bad? Can it get better?

Maybe there's just such a lack of ability on my end that I can't be taught?

I'm looking into starting lessons with an accomplished woman whom I explained my situation to and she said she could work with me. Having a sympathetic instructor has definitely helped me more than a harsh one, but even then I'm not able to learn much.

But like...what's wrong with me? Should I just accept horse riding just isn't for me and move on? Do you have any idea how I can turn this around?

I'm an educated 27 year old woman who is fairly successful in her field so it's not like I'm too stupid or just like, a small child whom you might expect to have more difficulty understanding and utilizing what the instructor teaches me.

Any comments would be appreciated, thank you.
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post #2 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 04:12 AM
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I wouldn't worry yourself about progressing slowly. Everyone goes at their own pace and it may just be that you need to build that confidence, feel and balance a little more before you feel comfortable. At my old school, loads of people progressed really slowly and a lot of people had to ride frequently just to keep the skill they had. It's easy to compare yourself to other people, especially children who seem to pick it up really quickly, but you just need to focus on yourself and your own progression rate. As long as you're not aiming to be an Olympic champion, just go and have fun with it.

Tbh some of the things you mentioned take years of practise to do well. I've been consistently riding for over two years now, I've been riding daily since the start of the summer holidays, and my main aims are still to improve my seat, my leg position and to keep a soft contact on the reins. These kinds of things are never perfect and you will always be able to improve on them!
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post #3 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 06:31 AM
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Few thoughts
1) If you've no real prior experience of bigger animals then horses are big and quite intimidating; so its normal to have a bit of a fear factor which does distract you. It doesn't help that when most people (esp those not horsey) speak of horses its nearly always in a negative light of "kicks/bucks/rears/death/danger" so society itself can somewhat reinforce the danger aspect.

2) Horses, like all animals, have a language and it takes time to learn that language; whilst you don't know it it can be very hard to pick up on subtle tells that let you know what's going on and when something is about to happen (or likely to happen). Until then you feel a step behind everyone else because you can't read things as clearly; and again its another thing to think about.

3) When doing any hands-on skill there's a huge chunk of time when you have both too many and not enough hands all at the same time. Most things in life are pretty simple, but are more complex because they have to happen at the same time as many other simple tasks. Soemtimes this means that taking things a few steps back and focusing on just one or two for a long while until they are second nature really helps.

4) Worry about progress generally results in reduced performance because you're adding stress and another thinking factor. With animals it can also be a worry they pick up on which makes things a little more tricky yet again.


To me it sounds like you might benefit from ground lessons; getting more familiar with horses in general and overcoming some of that fear factor. Furthermore reinforcing what you do know and then taking that forward into the riding lessons. Again going at it slow but as regular as you can. Lots of lessons a week is great for building experience; but at the same time you won't see much change for a long while (and shouldn't). Fast learning doesn't always happen in most subjects; but more regular lessons is more reinforcing what you do know.
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post #4 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 07:20 AM
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No matter how easy riding looks on TV and when you see an experienced person do it, it's one of the hardest "sports" to learn because you have hundreds of details to learn and you're dealing with a thousand pound animal with it's own mind.

It's quite possible that your instructors have an agenda in mind as to how fast you should progress and this is not helpful. Find a more easy going, very long time experienced instructor with more patience. At the same time, don't beat yourself up about it. I've been giving lessons for more than 30 years and although I push, I can recognize when a person simply needs to relax, practice a few small things and progress at their own pace. A lot of my counterparts get frustrated and push too hard, also they don't seem to have the patience for the early concentrating on the small stuff first! It is true that some people look like they have natural ability on a horse but the first time a horse "disagrees" with them, they fall apart. They have had it too easy and get complacent (or afraid). There are a couple of my students who have perfect equitation, look fantastic when they ride but freak out and get off if a horse takes one step sideways!!

Your fear is coming from inexperience in "reading" horses. Watch them more, not only in the arena but how they act in a pasture if you can. It would be great if you could find someone who explained some of the body language signs that horses give off all of the time. I do this with my students whenever I get the chance. Knowing how to read a horse prevents a lot of mishaps and is the reason you see people confidently handling them. I agree with the other poster in your handling them more on the ground but I know it's hard to find an instructor who teaches "horsemanship" along with riding.

Even though my background is in hunters, I always start my beginners riding western, loose rein and teach them how to develop soft, responsive hands before letting them switch to direct rein. I even use a soft western shank bit with clips at the bit so that I can switch them back and forth from shank to direct snaffle. Posting is always a clumsy mess when you first start practicing it but your body will slowly learn to match the rhythm of the horse-it takes time and no one does it beautifully starting out. Don't put a time frame on it-it will come.

Please stop beating yourself up and keep trying. If you can't communicate your issues with an instructor, look for someone else who actually listens. This is an extremely complex activity and everyone has to start somewhere!
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post #5 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 09:36 AM
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Having a good, patient instructor is a great place to start. Having realistic expectations (both of you) and a common goal will get you where you want to be, eventually. Having no set time frame for you to accomplish your goal and being okay with that helps too. Look at it as therapy if you truly feel you have dyspraxia. One of the prior posts mentioned getting familiar with horses on the ground first. That is a great idea combined with lessons. Getting your own horse out of the stall or pasture, grooming, tacking and then reversing that after lessons can boost your confidence and give you more of a vested interest by developing that relationship with the lesson horses you ride. There is more than one student (youngster to adult) where my child rides that have limitations. I can't say enough good about his instructor and the time and care she puts into every rider from the ones that (realistically) will never get anywhere further than her rings and pasture to those that go on to become international competitors. At the end of the day they all go home feeling like winners. She works really hard to accomplish that. Her goal for her students is first and foremost for them to be a safe rider. That means working from the ground up, knowing the basics to the point that it becomes second nature and being able to follow commonly accepted rules for sharing your space with other horse people. Sometimes starting out on a lunge so that you can work on relaxing and balance is a good place to start once you are in the saddle. My child thinks of it as melting into a horse. Lunge work lets you focus on one thing at at time. It may be that doing that for a warm up would be beneficial and you would not need your entire lesson to be on a line. Once you are warmed up then focusing on your hands may be easier. Good luck and let us know how things go.
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post #6 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 09:50 AM
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I might suggest to you that you look into learning to ride western style. Not that riding western properly doesn't have its own set of challenges however, it does generally have a feeling of being more relaxed.

The saddle feels more secure and in an emergency there is the horn to grab which might make you feel more confident.

There is a proper way to manage the reins and you will still need to learn to do a direct rein (vs. neck reining) at some point, but again, the reins are much more loosely held and so little mistakes don't feel so substantial.

Thirdly, there is no need to post a trot, you get to sit, which can be difficult at first but, once you learn it, you pretty much have it down.

Fourth, most western trained horses are quarter horses and while there are exceptions to this, they are generally more calm and compliant than some of the other hotter breeds normally found in English riding.

IMO all of these things would go a long way to contributing to building your confidence in your ability to ride. Its never any fun when you feel like you can't do anything right. At some point down the road, perhaps you will want to explore English again and be able to go into it with more of a can-do feeling.
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“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer


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post #7 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 10:18 AM
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I agree with riding Western for a while. I, too, feel that I am comically terrible and find that learning about horses and riding is hard enough without having to learn to be "proper" about it LOL.

I feel like the way most instructors want to teach things is backwards for me. My previous instructor spent a lot of time teaching me to sit properly, which was great I guess, but I told her that I was nervous because I needed to learn good horse handling before learning to ride properly. I didn't know what I should do if a horse misbehaved and I wanted to learn general horse handling skills before I learned to be proper about things.

My current instructor took things back to basics and is doing a great job of teaching me about my horse. Why does my mare do this? Why is she doing that? How is she interpreting my behavior? In what ways am I confusing her? Where am I being too harsh? Where am I not being assertive enough? What do I do when she acts up in this way? How about when she acts up in a different way?

After only four lessons with this instructor, I feel like I understand my mare better and she's calmer and more responsive to me. This is getting rid of the burning pain in my stomach from fear and nervousness, which is causing my mare to be less nervous and more responsive. Once I'm certain she's not going to unexpectedly buck, rear, or bolt, my anxiety will go away and then I will be able to concentrate on learning other things.

Maybe you're not terrible, you're just anxious and the anxiety is getting in the way of your learning?
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post #8 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 05:14 PM Thread Starter
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I really appreciate all of your thoughtful, compassionate posts. I feel more encouraged to keep trying. :)
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post #9 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 07:54 PM
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I am as bad as you are. Litteraly. It took me aprox. two years to learn to post properly. Four years in I still can't canter to save my life. Well, I don't fall off but I look like a frog desperately trying to hang onto an angry squirrel. But I really don't care. I enjoy my time with my horse (I even have my own horse!) and I'm getting a ton of physical activity and fresh air. What more could I want? :)

If you are enjoying it find an understanding, relaxed instructor and have fun. Don't let anybody dictate your progression, stick to what you feel is a comfortable pace.
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post #10 of 11 Old 08-02-2017, 09:24 PM
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I'm in agreement with the advice to go at your own pace, and don't worry about how long. Celebrate each small accomplishment, and drive on. If you thin you have a medical condition, look into a diagnosis and possible treatment. That can give you knowledge of what your dealing with, and possible ways to push through or work around it.

Do find an instructor who wants to teach you to ride, no matter how long it takes. Not one who wants to rack up ribbons and a reputation. I think the advice on learning to sit the trot first is a really good idea. When you can sit the trot, you feel, and move with the rhythm of the horse. To me, that's a necessary first step to learning to post.

Learning to ride as an adult is a daunting undertaking for most folks. My hat is off to all of you adult new riders and re-riders!
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