View Full Version : Re-riding question: muscle memory

Mar. 17, 2011, 08:25 AM
I was an avid rider (4-6 rides a week) all through university, showed in the low hunters, helped train ponies, and played polo. However, I stopped while doing my masters for the last two years. Well...after a very stressful month of working on my dissertation, I felt the urgent need to start riding again and get horses back into my life. Always a good de-stresser.

My first lesson is tomorrow. I'm sure I'll be riding an old schoolie, but I am more worried about how much I can remember after not riding for 2 years.

Does muscle memory stay for that long? Or should I be prepared to be very out of balance and my muscles taking a beating? How much should I prepare for not being able to do things I once found very simple - such as 2 point, jumping, etc...? Or, do people find it very easy to get back in the swing of things?

Mar. 17, 2011, 08:44 AM
if you've only been out of riding for a couple of years and have keep up a reasonable degree of physical fitness during that time, I bet it will be easier than you think to get back in the saddle. I bet you will be more sore than you think for the subsequent few days! :)

After a period of time off riding I love the feeling of sitting in the saddle, taking a deep breath and realizing how much I love that feeling!

Have fun!

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:29 AM
I was out a bit longer than you, I rode consistently until I left for college, then once in college I only rode once or twice a week and had summers off. I didn't ride at all my last year in school. Once I started really riding again, the biggest thing that I had happen to me was when I rode before, many things were just automatic. My reactions to situations were instinctive. Now I caught myself doing rookey mistakes because I didn't do these things automatically.

Look out for that! It took me a while to catch on that this was my problem, but the more I get into it, the more this stuff all comes back as auto reactions and I get back to my old rider self.

Other things that happened: I would get really sore when I came back from the summers off, My balance wasn't as great, my legs weren't as strong and since my legs weren't as strong I did more no-nos because I didn't have the muscles.

But only two years out, you should overall be OK, have fun!

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:30 AM
Yeah, I think if your fitness level is the same and your weight is the same it should not be too hard. If either of those have changed it may be somewhat challenging. You may get tired quicker. Take your time and ENJOY it!

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:32 AM
I found it easier than climbing back on a bicycle. Don't let your first ride colour your expectations.

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:38 AM
I just had a re-rider adult start with me after 5 years off (to start a family etc) and she said that at first she just felt loose and jiggly and was a bit sore the first few lessons. After that she said it got easier and easier.

She rides twice a week now and plans on going horse shopping later in the summer. From what she says, she does things she knows are "oopsies" (cutting corners on course, getting left behind, etc) but that she isn't quite fit enough to fix them consistently.

It is getting much better and I see her leg fitness is a ton better now than it was two months ago when she started back. She can now posting trot without stirrups twice around without gasping for breath! ;)

Take your time and enjoy your return, it will come back!! :)

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:42 AM
90% of it is instinctual and easy. I spent about the same time out of the saddle with a retired horse and two jobs with crazy hours. I started riding 3-4 days a week in Dec.

The worst is that, Like Bananna said, I find myself making little rookie mistakes that I never used to make. I find myself getting too far forward, especially at posting trot, and I used to have the opposite problem where I wanted to be too vertical (came from DQ land)

The only other thing for me is fitness. I was reasonably fit in my "off time" but you forget how hard it is while you are gone. But, I'm on a greenie, so it is a bit different. If you have a horse that will let you, spend some time without stirrups.

Mar. 17, 2011, 09:47 AM
You've only taken two years off? Oh, you won't have any trouble. I took 15 years off from riding, and thought I was going to die after that first lesson back. I was so sore I couldn't go up and down stairs - and I was in an office at the time that only had stairs with my office on the second floor. Even with that amount of time off, my body still knew what to do. My brain was another story.

Mar. 17, 2011, 10:23 AM
I hadn't gotten on a horse in over five years when I hopped up on the BO's paint last winter to tool around (Lucky was just arrived and getting time off.) Hadn't forgotten a thing. The only problem I had was jumping on a Western saddle after riding almost exclusively English from about age 13 on. The muscle memory was definitely for forward seat.

Overall, don't worry. I hadn't ridden with a pelham since I was twelve and the reins were still easy to pick up or bridge one-handed. It comes right back.

(Well, okay, it does for me. I danced a competition after six months of nothing and hadn't forgotten any of my routines, much to the surprise of everyone except me. I have very good muscle memory. Where I get in trouble is trying to actually THINK about things!)

Mar. 17, 2011, 11:53 AM
I took quite a few years off and was out of shape when I started back about a year and half ago. The muscle memory was there, but the muscle strength ... yeah, not so much :winkgrin:

Part of me was surprised that I wasn't terrible and that it really was like riding a bike, but part of me was mad because I was quite sloppy at first, reverting to my old weaknesses. I did come back quickly, though.

Surprisingly, my eye for distances was actually not too bad. I would mess up when my body wasn't strong enough to finesse things. But as I progressed and got stronger, I started to be able to finesse better and prevent "rookie" mistakes, as bananna called them.

One thing I did find is that I wasn't as brave as I was when I stopped riding (probably because I am starting to realize I don't bounce as well as I did in my youth). 2' to 2'6" jumps that I used to do in my sleep, were a bit intimidating to me, especially oxers. It took me a good six months to feel good about 2'6"; and another 3+ months before 3 ft+ was no big deal. Every once in a while, though, I still have to tell myself that the airy swedish oxer is perfectly within the capabilities of me and the horse ;)

You will be glad you started back. It really doesn't take long. Enjoy your ride!

Mar. 17, 2011, 01:31 PM
2 years? You'll be fine. Sore, probably, but fine. I teach a fair amount of re-riders, and 2 years isn't a big deal at all. Really, the worst thing is probably building those muscles back up. Once you're fit you'll be good to go.

Mar. 17, 2011, 02:41 PM
have fun! I think it will be easier than you think. Like someone else said, its muscle strength that will probably be the issue.

Mar. 17, 2011, 03:16 PM
Don't be too hard on yourself until you're back in the swing of things. It can be frustrating because you KNOW what you're doing wrong but you just don't have the muscle to keep things in place. In my case I still felt comfortable and natural on a horse, but for example, I had a hard time keeping my lower leg from creeping too far forward.

Apr. 9, 2011, 08:58 PM
You'll be back in shape quickly. Have fun!

Apr. 9, 2011, 09:07 PM
I just had a re-rider adult start with me after 5 years off (to start a family etc) and she said that at first she just felt loose and jiggly and was a bit sore the first few lessons. After that she said it got easier and easier.

:yes: The worst part will be feeling loose and weak. After two years, you shouldn't have forgotten too much and it should be pretty instinctual. I had a 12 year break and the majority of it came right back. I liked having someone there to verify certain things that had gotten fuzzy (outside diagnoal, inside lead, etc) but for the most part it was just there. My trainer had me doing little jumps my first lesson which kind of freaked me out...but I must not have been as terrible as I felt or she wouldn't have done that. :)

Now...walking two days later was special. But that goes away with more frequent saddle time. :lol:

Apr. 9, 2011, 09:38 PM
Two years!?! No problem! Expect to be lacking strength in certain, riding specific muscles, but really, don't worry. I started riding again last August after 30 years off, after a reasonably successful junior career. I was afraid I'd be a total wreck and embarrassed. Surprise! The muscle memory was still there. Yes, I was totally weak and loose in some areas, but I was able to walk, trot and canter, on the right diagonal and lead, respectively, with an independent seat and hands (per trainer, not me) right out of the gate. My leg was still and quiet! Can't imagine how that happened ;). I didn't try to jump for some months. And, yes, expect to be sore! I could hardly walk two days after the first lesson...let's not talk about getting on and off the toilet then! Several weeks in, riding 3 times a week, the soreness was gone and hasn't come back. I'm still not the rider I was, I likely won't be again, but, then I'm 49. You are young!

Apr. 10, 2011, 12:38 PM
I have actually found some *improvement* in areas of my riding after long breaks!

The general muscle memory is there, but the finer points of the muscle memory (like the ones that define a bad habit versus good equitation!) had eroded a bit so I actually had an easier time riding correctly. It was divinely bizzare :)

Have fun! And just remember to focus on how fun it was, and how much you *do* remember, and don't compare it to how you used to be. You'll get back there!

WB Mom
Apr. 10, 2011, 04:00 PM
Jaideux - I totally agree! My pony was laid up last year and I didn't ride for 4 months. When I came back, I started taking more lessons and my trainer made the comment that the break had sort of erased some of my bad habits. Just some.
I had no idea....
Only 2 years off? You'll have no problem! I took off 25+ years off. You may be sore and creaky for a while, but it will come back. Be sure to get good instruction while legging back up so bad habits don't sneak back in!

Apr. 11, 2011, 01:28 PM
I recently started riding again after about 2 years off (same reason - super busy with school and work, but realized I absolutely NEED to be on a horse to release my stress). I was also nervous, but I was happy to find that once I got on, it was like I had never been off. Everything still felt totally natural and I was still pretty confident. I was really sore after the first few rides and my legs still aren't quite where they used to be, but as far as remembering how to do everything, it's still there.