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Advise Please: Gaining Experience

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  • Advise Please: Gaining Experience

    I'm an adult re-rider, back at it for about 6 months now. I quickly caught the fever and haven't looked back since starting. As much as I want to purchase a horse of my own, I know now is not the right time. I am trying to ride as much as possible and just fix myself right now. I take lessons 3 times a week.

    After reading many articles and books, it seems that the only way to really get better is to ride as many different kinds of horses as you possibly can. How do you go about finding those horses to ride? Other than school horses and paying for lessons, I was hoping to get advise on finding additional horses to ride to gain experience with many quirks.

    I am taking dressage and jumping lessons right now. The jumper that I am riding is an old show jumper that retired to become a broodmare and is now back as a lesson horse. She likes everything to be done perfect, which I am finding really helps me with my riding. I believe she is known as having the typical mare personality, which I don't really mind. The dressage horse is the complete opposite, doesn't try to pull anything and just does what he is told. I spoke with my dressage instructor and she is going to put me on a different horse in my next lesson, hopefully more like the jumper mare.

    I don't want to ride easy horses. I just don't know where to start looking to find other horses to ride. I don't think now is the right time to get a lease, as I want to ride as many different horses as I can. Is there a way for me to gain the experience I am looking for? Could it be that I am just trying to move too fast?

    Thanks in advance for the help!

  • #2
    If you are just "trying to work on yourself" right now, then it sounds like that gelding was perfect for you. Maybe a little too compliant, but a horse who will just trot around the ring on a loose rein offers the perfect opportunity to learn to balance WITHOUT the reins, or without stirrups, or any other number of activities. Don't discount the "kick to start" horses....they can be invaluable.

    As for finding rides: Just ask.

    Although, quite frankly, as someone with two horses who I would like to have ridden more regularly (for free), I would not be letting someone back in the game for 6 months on them. They are not "easy" (one young, and one difficult) and therefore I would not let anyone but a solid rider on them.

    The people who are going to offer you rides at this stage in your re-riding career are most likely those with the so-called "easy" horses. I would amend your attitude about them and be grateful for what is offered to you, as every horse has something to teach you. An "easy" horse (I prefer "kind"!) will also offer you a chance to try teaching the horse something, like being sharper off the leg or lateral movements, etc.


    • #3
      You can start by asking the trainers at the barns where you ride for ideas-- they may know someone who is (for example) going on vacation or having a baby or something and would like someone to exercise their horse. The barn I rode at in college allowed us to earn extra riding time by doing barn work-- sometimes that's an option. Pick up the local horsey classifieds for your area at a tack store and see if anyone is advertising free part leases or work to ride opportunities. Look for a working student job that fits around your work schedule.

      BUT-- do be aware that while you learn/ benefit from saddle time, and it's good to ride both made and green./ difficult horses, it's easiest to learn to do it right on a well-trained, willing horse before you try training/ reschooling one.

      This might sound snotty, but, honestly, anyone who would let an amateur with limited experience ride their difficult horse-- is NOT someone you want to ride for. It's a good way to get hurt! I get on problem/ green/ out of shape horses for a living and I am VERY careful about riding horses that belong to people I don't know or trust. One person's "difficult" is another person's "by the way he put three people in the hospital last year." Be very cautious about just getting on anything.

      You get better by riding lots of different horses-- but you don't have to ride them all at once. If you can afford a lease (or half-lease) I'd probably go that route. You may have better luck finding rides if you have more experience (i.e. someone might be more likely to let you ride a greener horse or do more than just hack if you can say you have competed up to Novice on an experienced one.)


      • Original Poster

        GoForAGallop - thank you for the advice, I appriciate the feedback and gaining a different point of view on my situation. I feel that I am impulsive and impatient, so I am trying to get as much experience as I can before I actually purchase a horse of my own. I wouldn't say the mare is easy, and I've been able to ride the spooks and antics that she throws my way very well. I don't think I have issues with balance (I ride regularly without stirrups in my jumping lessons), which is why I think I can better myself as a rider by trying to take on the more difficult horses. I can see where this may not be the case, sometimes I just don't feel a challenge on the gelding like I get with the mare. I will look at changing how I view the rides on the gelding to work on more things to better myself.

        Highflyer - I actually spoke with my trainer at the dressage barn about riding different horses, she suggest I ask people and after is when we decided to change from the gelding to a different horse. I worry about just asking people "Can I ride your horse", that isn't something I am very comfortable with. She also suggested a lease, which I am open to but I don't want to just settle on one of the school horses that they offer for half leases unless I feel that I will gain from the lease. It is something to think about.

        You get better by riding lots of different horses-- but you don't have to ride them all at once.
        I think this is great, it is probably what I have been overlooking when I decided that I have to ride as many horses as possible. I feel that I am becoming a good rider, but my impatient self is telling me that it is not fast enough. I am fearless jumping, and working hard on the dressage, but I don't have any way of knowing if I am progressing quick or slow which is probably the most frusturating part.

        Thank you both again for your adivse, I will take it to heart and look at how I can use it to become a better rider.


        • #5
          I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish - no criticism, just don't understand. If you're trying to make yourself a better rider, establish/understand and standard in whatever venue you want to ride (and don't misunderstand, they're definitely different). Practice and measure yourself against those standards. Once you have understanding and expertise as a rider, you can worry about the horse part.


          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by secretariat View Post
            I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish - no criticism, just don't understand. If you're trying to make yourself a better rider, establish/understand and standard in whatever venue you want to ride (and don't misunderstand, they're definitely different). Practice and measure yourself against those standards. Once you have understanding and expertise as a rider, you can worry about the horse part.
            Thanks, maybe I need to start youtubing dressage tests at different levels that score high so I can understand what the movements are supposed to look like. Same with jumping at different levels. I'm pretty set on Eventing as the my discipline of choice. This will be helpful too.


            • #7
              I think putting yourself out there as someone who's willing to just be helpful around the barn (exercising young horses, tack-walking rehabbers, doing trot sets) could get you the requisite saddle time that everyone needs to develop to the next level. It also would probably help, if you're set on eventing, to go and groom and volunteer at some Horse Trials, to get the unconscious familiarity with how the sport works. Obviously I'm assuming here that this type of riding is within your abilities. I could definitely use someone to tack-walk my horse right now, and have in the past had to bargain with the devil to have someone do trot sets or some road work with my horses! It's boring and time-consuming, but no hour spent in the saddle is wasted.
              Click here before you buy.


              • #8
                Consider starting with "working with a lot of horses to gain experience" instead of focusing so much on riding. Has riding a lot of horses helped me determine what I want in my future horse? Absolutely. How did I get there? Well, 15+ years of riding and never owning a horse, having trainers with several different school horses and a lot of variety, showing IHSA (want to go back to college? THIS will get you more experience than you want sometimes), working for a trainer.

                However, just working on the ground with horses can also give you (and me) a good idea of what you like and don't like with a horse. I know I HATE a horse that drags me around, and that's a deal breaker for me. I know I don't mind a spooky horse on the ground as much as some people...

                To get this experience, see if your trainer (or another trainer) will allow you to be a working student or helper on Saturdays. Hand walk, lunge, braid, clip, tack, do whatever with the goal of handling as many horses as possible. Also, make it known around the barn that you're willing to turn out, lunge, hand walk, etc. horses whose owners are out of town. For a while, it might just be that, but after the owners get comfortable and begin to trust you, you can start to get some good ride time out of those situations as well.

                Finally, (and I hesitate to recommend this not knowing your full situation) you might want to start looking for an additional trainer that just has a larger pool of lesson horses. Our trainer has probably 12 lesson horses and I rotate through about 6 of them. They are all very different and all teach me different things. Honestly, THAT has been how I have gotten a good idea of what I like and don't like.
                Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique


                • #9
                  Speaking of youtube, watch this series of videos:

                  Very articulate explanations of the movements and how to execute them. Probably one of the best videos I have ever come across.


                  • #10
                    Along the lines of what Wonders12 said, just helping out at the barn got me more experience and rides than anything. At one barn where I previously rode, I rode a lot of different horses in lessons and then would come another day a week to hack (and paid a "hacking fee.") This also allowed me to start riding a couple different greenies/difficult horses that no one else liked to ride. (though at this point I had been riding 6-7 years). And then at another barn, I got to ride a lot b/c I was there a lot. I went everyday after school and while I did 1/2 lease, I also helped the younger kids groom and tack up, cleaned tack, helped with barn chores, and just hung out. B/c I was there, I was usually the one to get on a lesson horse if a rider was having trouble and was one of the first (after my trainer of course) to try the greenies she brought to the barn on trial (and if I really enjoyed one, then it would become mainly my project). Although all barns are different and at this point I had been riding quite a while, if you are a confident, capable rider (which it sounds like you are ), then hopefully this will help!
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