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Hello! I am a new rider, started riding about 4 months ago. I'm 37 and out of shape. I'm about 20 lbs overweight, and pretty physically weak, but I'm working on both.

I had never ridden (aside from a few slow-walking trail rides) before starting lessons. It was my life's dream to have a horse, but I only recently decided to stop waiting for it to feel like the "right" time and just do it! I started with once a week lessons but soon realized that if I couldn't practice more between lessons my progress would be painfully slow. I currently take lessons 3x a week while I patiently look for my own horse. The barn owner leases horse but none are available currently so that's not an option right now. I want to learn western dressage (maybe English dressage someday as my balance improves), ride confidently on the trails in groups and alone, and do gymkhana games for fun (not competitively).

I am progressing, but it's sloooowwwww, somewhat frustratingly so. It's like if I know what my heels are doing, I don't know what my hands are doing. If I know what my hands are doing, I don't know what my eyes are doing. If I know what my eyes are doing, I don't know what my legs are doing, and on and we go. I also feel like I have very limited lower leg control when in a trot or canter. I often still feel like a passenger trying to grab the wheel rather than the driver. I'm getting better, but struggling with balance (in my aids, in my body) and follow-through (not confident enough that I "asked correctly" to firmly expect a correct answer from my horse). We still look like a cluster-cuss in many ways when I ride. I assume this is normal, and my RI says that it is, but I also have no examples to look to for what to expect as an ambitious, beginning, middle-aged rider. Would love some insights.

I have two specific questions

1. How long should I expect it to take to balance my aids? Right now I am in saddle 3 hours a week, but once I find the right horse, I expect to do an hour a day at least 5x a week, and perhaps on Saturday 2-4 hours. I absolutely realize it's highly variable, but I would love SOME frame of reference. I am in it for the long haul.

2. I would like to master Western Dressage. What's a realistic timeline for a complete beginner to advance through the levels?

Any general tips or advice would be welcome as well!:runninghorse2:
 

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I don't have an answer to your questions, but I think the fact that you're even asking is awesome. I rode for a year (3x per week) before even really being able to THINK about what different body parts were doing. I've now been riding for 2.5 years (2 - 3x per week) and I can sometimes use two parts of my body independently of each other. Sometimes. And three would be out of the question. I am a strong and balanced person, but I'm not good at using my body in specific ways. I could never really dance, for instance, and even tai chi challenged me. If you're already at the point you're at, I'm sure you will advance quickly.

I do think that you will do better on a lesson horse right now. With a lesson horse, you can just concentrate on doing what you need to do, while expecting them to do what they should be doing. With your own horse, or a lease horse, that is not as well trained, it can be unclear whether a lack of response is due to you not asking correctly or the horse not being well trained enough to understand what it's been asked, if that makes sense.

To be fair, I am not an ambitious rider. I'm just in it for fun and personal betterment.
 
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Welcome to riding as an adult beginner. I hope you enjoy it.

I started back at riding after 20 years off at the age of 36, but I never had lessons as a child and was not a great rider so you could just consider me a beginner. I can only afford to ride once a week and have had some breaks for various things, mostly recently 7 months because my dog had cancer and I could not afford that treatment + lessons, and then Covid. So I only have had about 98 h of lessons over 3.5 years. I can walk, trot, canter, but still struggle to coordinate all my aids depending on what I am doing.

I would say it takes as long as it takes and enjoy the journey and the process rather than having a focus of a time that you have to achieve an end goal within. But if you can take that many lessons, I imagine you will progress really fast.
 

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The more time you spend on a horse the quicker you'll progress. Balance depends on you. You can develop it and core strength helps. Working on being fluid and not stiff. Breathing....that is one thing many forget to do and find themselves holding their breath. That can make you rigid which leads to feeling imbalanced. Sometimes singing or humming helps. Relax. Enjoy and Welcome to the world of Horse.
 

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I've been riding for almost 35 years and haven't mastered anything...LOL

It all depends on you and your athletic abilities to be honest but... I would guess after about a full year of riding you will feel confident and probably be ready to seriously complete at the local levels.

My suggestion is ... don't set a goal to master anything. Once you have done your first show - check your scores and your notes and pick ONE thing to focus on. Fix that thing and move on to the next. I personally can't focus on more than one thing at a time or I end up over correcting and making a hot mess of things....


And have fun!
 

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It all depends on you and your athletic abilities to be honest but... I would guess after about a full year of riding you will feel confident and probably be ready to seriously complete at the local levels.
It really does depend on the individual and their athletic ability.

I also started at 37. Before that, I never even touched a horse.

I am very untalented. It took me six months to learn how to post. It was embarrassing.
I am also a nervous rider and I didn't canter for four years.
I also managed to face plant off a stationary horse once. Yup.

Anyhow, I bought my own horse after four years and I am so grateful that I found horses and can afford them. It really is a lifestyle, not just a hobby.

OP, it is nice to have goals. But don't pressure yourself - that's when accidents happen. It makes no difference if you start competing in one year or ten. No one is watching and at our age we sure aren't headed for the Olympics so there is no schedule to fall behind. I personally don't compete and have no intention of competing. There is no law that says you have to compete or canter or even trot. Or ride, for that matter. It's a hobby and if someone just enjoys spending time with their horse without even riding them - great! I know two very good riders who just stopped riding and enjoy their horses by just grooming and hand walking them.

Just go at a pace which feels comfortable and fun. More than likely you will get to your goals faster that way. And the thing about riding, you never stop learning and aiming for more. So by the time you achieve your current goals, you will have swapped them for new goals.
 

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Kudos to you!!! Not an easy, nor cheap sport to take up. To answer your questions, as long as it takes to get your balance that's how long it takes. It depends on you and your natural balance. Once you get your balance and you want to learn Western dressage that depends as well. if you are dedicated and spend the time and don't give up and don't get frustrated, it will happen. Just remember, horses are individuals,some listen really well, some don't listen at all, some have been trained with substandard methods, and you have to learn through experience how to adjust your cues. Once you crack the code, the skies open!
 

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First of all, I take a wee bit of umbrage to you , at 37, calling yourself 'middle aged'. Seriously, man, give me a break!! you are NOT middle aged. You are young, strong, capable , engaged, excited, perceptive and . . . . impatient.


I loved your description of what it's like to be a beginner rider. It's very easy for us to forget how hard it can be in the early months.



I don't have any specific advice except to get yourself video'd, now, becuase in a year, you will NOT believe the progress you have made.



I do remember, when I had about 1 year of dressage training, I asked my instructor how long it takes to good, really good. She thought about it and said, "more or less ten years'.



I hope that helps you relax about your current progress.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
I don't have an answer to your questions, but I think the fact that you're even asking is awesome. I rode for a year (3x per week) before even really being able to THINK about what different body parts were doing. I've now been riding for 2.5 years (2 - 3x per week) and I can sometimes use two parts of my body independently of each other. Sometimes. And three would be out of the question. I am a strong and balanced person, but I'm not good at using my body in specific ways. I could never really dance, for instance, and even tai chi challenged me. If you're already at the point you're at, I'm sure you will advance quickly.

I do think that you will do better on a lesson horse right now. With a lesson horse, you can just concentrate on doing what you need to do, while expecting them to do what they should be doing. With your own horse, or a lease horse, that is not as well trained, it can be unclear whether a lack of response is due to you not asking correctly or the horse not being well trained enough to understand what it's been asked, if that makes sense.

To be fair, I am not an ambitious rider. I'm just in it for fun and personal betterment.
Thank you! I actually do most of my lessons on an “advanced” horse right now. Long story, but my trainer’s lesson horses have not been usable for varying reasons, and then the barn owner kept having lameness issues with his horses that he blamed on the barn trainers so the barn trainers aren’t using the BO’s horses anymore. So I’ve been using a more advanced horse. Not sure if that’s helping or hurting me, but I’m making it work. It might be good for me because I’m kinda a softy and that doesn’t work with him.

I’m kind of hoping that whatever horse I get will be a little bit easier than the horse I train on, haha!

I should say that I’m ambitious because I want to be a good rider, not just a passenger, and dressage seems like a great way to do that.
 

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Welcome to riding as an adult beginner. I hope you enjoy it.

I started back at riding after 20 years off at the age of 36, but I never had lessons as a child and was not a great rider so you could just consider me a beginner. I can only afford to ride once a week and have had some breaks for various things, mostly recently 7 months because my dog had cancer and I could not afford that treatment + lessons, and then Covid. So I only have had about 98 h of lessons over 3.5 years. I can walk, trot, canter, but still struggle to coordinate all my aids depending on what I am doing.

I would say it takes as long as it takes and enjoy the journey and the process rather than having a focus of a time that you have to achieve an end goal within. But if you can take that many lessons, I imagine you will progress really fast.
Thank you so much for the feedback! I am glad I am not the only one struggling to coordinate my aids!
 

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The more time you spend on a horse the quicker you'll progress. Balance depends on you. You can develop it and core strength helps. Working on being fluid and not stiff. Breathing....that is one thing many forget to do and find themselves holding their breath. That can make you rigid which leads to feeling imbalanced. Sometimes singing or humming helps. Relax. Enjoy and Welcome to the world of Horse.
Great advice, thank you! I am definitely working on balance and strength both in and out of the saddle. Both need improvement to be sure.
 

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I've been riding for almost 35 years and haven't mastered anything...LOL

It all depends on you and your athletic abilities to be honest but... I would guess after about a full year of riding you will feel confident and probably be ready to seriously complete at the local levels.

My suggestion is ... don't set a goal to master anything. Once you have done your first show - check your scores and your notes and pick ONE thing to focus on. Fix that thing and move on to the next. I personally can't focus on more than one thing at a time or I end up over correcting and making a hot mess of things....


And have fun!
Thanks so much for the encouragement! I am willing to take how long it takes... I just wish I had some frame of reference. This thread has helped.
 

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It really does depend on the individual and their athletic ability.

I also started at 37. Before that, I never even touched a horse.

I am very untalented. It took me six months to learn how to post. It was embarrassing.
I am also a nervous rider and I didn't canter for four years.
I also managed to face plant off a stationary horse once. Yup.

Anyhow, I bought my own horse after four years and I am so grateful that I found horses and can afford them. It really is a lifestyle, not just a hobby.

OP, it is nice to have goals. But don't pressure yourself - that's when accidents happen. It makes no difference if you start competing in one year or ten. No one is watching and at our age we sure aren't headed for the Olympics so there is no schedule to fall behind. I personally don't compete and have no intention of competing. There is no law that says you have to compete or canter or even trot. Or ride, for that matter. It's a hobby and if someone just enjoys spending time with their horse without even riding them - great! I know two very good riders who just stopped riding and enjoy their horses by just grooming and hand walking them.

Just go at a pace which feels comfortable and fun. More than likely you will get to your goals faster that way. And the thing about riding, you never stop learning and aiming for more. So by the time you achieve your current goals, you will have swapped them for new goals.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It helps a lot to hear from so many others who started later in life. Oh I love riding, and want to be really good at it. Dressage seems like a discipline that will help me BE good at it. It’s not the competition part that interests me, it’s the specific goals and progression in your riding that interests me
 

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Kudos to you!!! Not an easy, nor cheap sport to take up. To answer your questions, as long as it takes to get your balance that's how long it takes. It depends on you and your natural balance. Once you get your balance and you want to learn Western dressage that depends as well. if you are dedicated and spend the time and don't give up and don't get frustrated, it will happen. Just remember, horses are individuals,some listen really well, some don't listen at all, some have been trained with substandard methods, and you have to learn through experience how to adjust your cues. Once you crack the code, the skies open!
I’ve gotten tiny glimpses of the skies opening. Mere seconds at this point, and not every lesson, but when I see it I just want more of it!! I worked on shoulder out my last lesson and got it right for 3 strides on one of my passes and felt so happy and proud!! Can’t imagine how fun it is to be able to do what I want when I want every time!
 

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First of all, I take a wee bit of umbrage to you , at 37, calling yourself 'middle aged'. Seriously, man, give me a break!! you are NOT middle aged. You are young, strong, capable , engaged, excited, perceptive and . . . . impatient.


I loved your description of what it's like to be a beginner rider. It's very easy for us to forget how hard it can be in the early months.



I don't have any specific advice except to get yourself video'd, now, becuase in a year, you will NOT believe the progress you have made.



I do remember, when I had about 1 year of dressage training, I asked my instructor how long it takes to good, really good. She thought about it and said, "more or less ten years'.



I hope that helps you relax about your current progress.
Haha, I wondered about that when I wrote it. I just googled, and you’re right, middle aged is not until 45. My apologies! When I watch my kid drive to his friend’s house in his own car and when my joints ache in the morning, I FEEL OLD!

I love hearing that actually. I just have no one to look at for an example of this. Everyone seems to fall into 2 buckets: riding basically all their lives, or non-rider. No in between.

Ok. 10 years. I got 10 years.
 

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I’ve gotten tiny glimpses of the skies opening. Mere seconds at this point, and not every lesson, but when I see it I just want more of it!! I worked on shoulder out my last lesson and got it right for 3 strides on one of my passes and felt so happy and proud!! Can’t imagine how fun it is to be able to do what I want when I want every time!
That exactly how you do it.
 

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I’ve gotten tiny glimpses of the skies opening. Mere seconds at this point, and not every lesson, but when I see it I just want more of it!! I worked on shoulder out my last lesson and got it right for 3 strides on one of my passes and felt so happy and proud!! Can’t imagine how fun it is to be able to do what I want when I want every time!
You know what happens when you get it right every single time? You progress onto a horse which isn't well trained and you are right back where you started - not being able to get it right at all :) People are funny.
 

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Haha, I wondered about that when I wrote it. I just googled, and you’re right, middle aged is not until 45. My apologies! When I watch my kid drive to his friend’s house in his own car and when my joints ache in the morning, I FEEL OLD!

I love hearing that actually. I just have no one to look at for an example of this. Everyone seems to fall into 2 buckets: riding basically all their lives, or non-rider. No in between.

Ok. 10 years. I got 10 years.
I basically started at 41. Or was it at 40? Anyways, the learnin path gets steeper the older you are, so be happy you are where you are, at present.

Yeah, and I've got two. Adult children, that is.
 

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I'm headed for 60 and not on the slow boat. More the fast train. I cried first day of school this year as my child drove off in my truck. Time seems to have flown.
I was in my 40s when I had him. Feeling old is a state of mind. Both he and Horses have kept me young. I'd like to be able to think I am cruising through middle age now.
 

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Congrats on taking the steps to reach your goals!!

I have been riding for a very long time, but still sometimes feel like a complete noob in some situations. I have been taking western dressage lessons for the last...3 or so years and I am now riding elements of the Basic tests. But I am also on a green horse, so we are both learning.

Enjoy the journey!!! I have to say that has been my favorite part - is seeing the progress. I don't even care about riding in shows, but just comparing where we are now to say, 8 months ago is what makes it all worth it.

There are so many pieces to the puzzle, but you will find that they start coming into place - and the stuff you are learning will become a learned habit of riding, so you don't need to concentrate so hard on where your hands are b/c you will start to instinctually feel where they should be. It just takes time. Everyone progresses at their own speed, so just be happy with where you are going and enjoy the experience.
 
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