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Adult beginner with a few questions

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  • Adult beginner with a few questions

    So, after a couple of months spent researching what new sport I wanted to add to my life (I'm usually pretty anal about things), I chose riding. I started taking twice-weekly lessons at a local farm recently, and I am loving it so far. My instructor is awesome, and we seem to be a good personality fit. There is definitely a lot to learn, but I'm loving it all so far, and picking a horse's feet is surprisingly satisfying.

    I did a bit of western-style riding as a teen at my uncle's farm (maybe an hour or two of trails a week for a couple of months in summers from ages 12-16), so I've been on a horse before, but not for about 12 years (I'm 28 now). However, my riding experience never extended to care/grooming/formal lessons, since there was always someone present to tack-up/put-away the horses. The only real advantage, I think, to having some riding experience is that I'm not really nervous on horseback, even if my previous experience basically amounts to zero with respect to technique/form/knowledge. That said, I did get a little freaked out during my first lesson when my instructor was relating stories about the importance of helmets and vests. When I was a teen, we used to ride the horses at a pretty good pace through the woods without any protection whatsoever. I'm amazed I'm still alive and have never fallen off! Ah, to be a teenager again.

    At any rate, I did have a few questions that I'm hoping someone will be able to provide some advice on. Right now, my goal in riding is eventually to work my way up to jumping, as that seems to interest me the most, but we'll see. At what point in a riding career should someone consider partial-leasing/leasing/buying their own horse? Some of the lesson horses are also available for lease/partial-lease, but I'm not really sure what the advantages of that are, or the advantages and disadvantages of buying a good beginner horse within the first six months to a year of beginning to ride (assuming finances and costs aren't an issue). I don't really plan on riding in a non-lesson environment for a while; even if I had my own horse, I'd probably prefer the benefit of a watchful instructor to ensure that no bad habits form, etc.

    Second, and this may seem like a stupid question, but is it generally advisable for a beginner to get a pair of riding breeches and decent boots (whether it be paddock boots and half-chaps or tall boots)? To use an example of why I'm asking this: I also golf and ski. It sometimes looks pretty silly if a complete beginner hits the ski slopes or the golf course all decked out, only to hit the ball 5 ft or fall flat on his face. I don't want to be "that guy," but it seems that with riding there is a definite functional element to breeches that make them a better choice than regular jeans. Ugh, I hope that question isn't ridiculous.

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

  • #2
    I would take lessons for 4-6 months and see how you feel. At that point, you may feel like half leasing makes sense. Leasing means you get to dip a toe into horse ownership with less commitment. Sometimes you can even half lease the same horse you lesson on, which is nice. If you don't want to ride independently yet, you're not really ready to half lease yet. Just take more lessons. The benefit of half leasing is more saddle time... but if you're not going to take advantage of that outside of lessons it's likely more cost effective just to lesson more.

    People aren't going to laugh at you if you show up wearing nice, well fitted, good quality clothes. Any basic pair of breeches or boots that fit you well will do. Maybe if you showed up in show clothes, or trendy $500 Italian stuff from head to toe, but any good basic stuff should do the trick. You can get nice schooling breeches for $50-70ish (less if you snoop ebay or wait for sales) and good quality paddock boots and half chaps for $100ish give or take. You have to get a good rated helmet that fits you! That you have to do ASAP. Otherwise, breeches, paddock boots, and half chaps should do. Much more comfortable than jeans.
    "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


    • #3
      First of all, welcome!

      It's very exciting to hear a new person like yourself trying to do it "the right way," at least in regards to learning the proper technique and form so as to be as safe and functional as possible. While horses are not by any means out to get you, riding does inherently include a degree of danger as we are riding very large animals that can think for themselves. As for your questions, I am going to address them in reverse order:

      If you are planning on riding in 2 lessons per week for the next 6 months-1yr I would absolutely invest in one decent pair of breeches, pair of boots/inexpensive half chaps (you can get the washable suede ones), and if you don't already have one a helmet. Obviously you want to look like you fit in with the crowd but if you are hoping to make riding a regular sport having equipment that fits you properly will make riding in the correct position easier. Boots/half chaps/breeches will prevent your leg from sliding around and fit better in the stirrup as well as provide better ankle support. If you don't already have a helmet there are some really nice schooling helmet options out there that are very inexpensive.

      As far as leasing/buying goes there are no set rules but the big reason you would want to do this would be to regularly spend time with the same horse (if you have a favorite horse to lesson on) and are comfortable with hacking (walk/trot/canter) on your own outside of your lessons. Since you are still working on your horse care basics I would encourage you to wait until you feel confident in your foundation and are comfortable riding on your own. Once you feel ready to do that I would absolutely say go for it! But I would advise towards leasing an older "been there done that" teenager mount rather than buying as the horse you will be looking for in the first few years may be older (not necessarily old, maybe just stepping down from showing high fence heights and ready to show someone new the ropes) and you may not want towards retirement/maintenance if you were buying.


      • #4
        Originally posted by antikantian View Post
        When I was a teen, we used to ride the horses at a pretty good pace through the woods without any protection whatsoever. I'm amazed I'm still alive and have never fallen off! Ah, to be a teenager again.
        Welcome to the club! There are many of us on here who shouldn't be around any more based on our teenage antics.

        As for leasing/buying, leasing is definitely a good first step. It's far less permanent. Your skills will grow quickly, so the horse that's good for you now may not be as good for you in a year. A lease means you're not stuck on Mr. Saintly Rank Beginner when you're ready to move onto Mr. First Move-Up. Half leases are a wonderful thing, too, as you can get some extra riding in to practice what you're doing in lessons. I used to ask for homework.

        Clothing - wear what is comfortable. We HAVE to wear boots and a helmet. My trainer does have some of each for the first lesson or two, but most people get their own after that. She also suggests that they pick up inexpensive half-chaps at that time. Breeches are far more comfortable to ride in, so you're not likely to be out of place there either. Even our beginner riders wear riding clothes after their first few lessons.
        A proud friend of bar.ka.


        • #5
          Congrats on taking up a new hobby!

          I would second the recommendation to get some well fitting breeches, half-chaps, and paddock boots. You will not be laughed at for dressing appropriately for riding! You obviously don't have to buy the most expensive stuff out there.

          Leasing/half-leasing a horse definitely has it's advantages. As the previous poster stated, you get more practice time without the commitment of owning a horse. Once you get to a certain point in your riding, more saddle time will be essential to improvement. However, I agree with your sentiment that you should not be riding outside of lessons for at least a while. Once you get to the point where you feel like there are things you can definitely practice on your own, and you are comfortable tacking up/riding by yourself, you might want to think about half-leasing. However, a lot of lesson barns offer something that's even less of a commitment than half-leasing: practice rides. Once you get to this point, I would ask your instructor if you can just pay for an extra practice ride once a week or so, and then go from there. That way, you can get the extra saddle time and get an idea of what it would be like to ride your own horse with no commitment whatsoever.

          Good luck, and I hope you have lots of fun learning to ride!


          • #6
            Welcome. I started riding at 30 and well, ahem that was some time ago. I bought my first horse very quickly, I had a lease fall apart and was heart broken and did not want to ride the school horses anymore. Leasing is the way to go and really allows you to bond and enjoy not just the riding. I bought a nice but difficult horse that is a legend in my area as awesome/crazy. She taught me a ton.

            I would also second the good breeches, boots and a good helmet. I also ski and no, no one will begrudge you for looking like the idiot skier who snowplows down the hill in the best equipment money can buy.Breeches need to be comfortable and jeans will ruin a saddle.

            Good luck it is a fun sport, just one that can take over your life.


            • #7
              Originally posted by stolen virtue View Post
              Good luck it is a fun sport, just one that can take over your life.
              ...and your pocket book LOL!


              • #8
                Golfing, skiing AND riding? Your pocketbook must love you!

                I think I really got the urge to lease a couple years into my lessons. I think when you're first starting out, its really helpful to ride as many of the different lesson horses as you can because once you start riding one horse all the time, its easy to get sucked into their quirks and develop some bad habits. So I would say wait at least 6 months.

                As for the clothes, definitely invest in a pair of breeches and boots! I remember holding off on half chaps for awhile because like you, I didn't want to seem like a "poser" (looking back now though, how silly of me!) and instead suffered with pinching leathers and bruises on the inside of my calves for months. I would go the route of paddocks and half chaps, only because you can probably get better quality stuff for the same price as an okay pair of tall boots. I know I bought my first pair of half chaps for like $40 (the Dublin suede ones) and they are still alive and kicking 6 years later.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by KateKat View Post
                  I know I bought my first pair of half chaps for like $40 (the Dublin suede ones) and they are still alive and kicking 6 years later.
                  ::high five::

                  I have those, and they are SO durable! I put in virtually no maintenance or cleaning on them, and they keep on trucking.
                  Blog chronicling our new eventing adventures: Riding With Scissors


                  • #10
                    Boots (I prefer tall boots for my students), breeches, and gloves are all tactical pieces of equipment that will make learning easier and more effective (and with less pain!)
                    Arita heritage boots are economical and hold up long enough til you're ready for some nice Petries.
                    SSG all weather gloves are my go to for students
                    Tuff Rider or Kerrits brand breeches wear like iron. They are all I buy.

                    When you get to the point of counting strides and doing cross rail lines you're ready for a half lease on a horse to practice your flat work.

                    Don't buy until you've had enough exposure to know exactly what you want. I have a feeling with your attention to detail, you're going to prefer the intricacies of dressage.
                    chaque pas est fait ensemble


                    • #11
                      Ditto the TuffRiders- these are my favorite schooling breeches: http://www.doversaddlery.com/tuff-ri...es/p/X1-35476/
                      Blog chronicling our new eventing adventures: Riding With Scissors


                      • #12
                        Welcome to the BB, and the wonderful world of horses!

                        I'll agree with those who've said that it's a good idea to wear the attire that is designed for the sport. There is no need to start out with the most expensive custom boots, but quality equipment is always a good investment.

                        If money is not an issue, the time to think about a half-lease or a lease is whenever you feel ready to enjoy it. That would probably be around the time you think you would like to spend more time in the saddle outside of lessons. Depending on where you ride and the program there, you might be able to work it out so that the instructor(s) can "keep an eye on you" when you ride on your own.

                        One piece of advice- when it's time to buy a saddle, think about getting a quality used saddle, rather than a lower end new saddle. A nicer saddle will hold up better to wear, and it can take a long time to break in a new saddle, especially if you don't ride hours every day.

                        Good luck and have fun.


                        • Original Poster

                          Thank you all so much for the responses. They were all extremely helpful. I took the plunge and ordered some necessities from Dover Saddlery. There certainly seems to be quite a large selection of items for female riders, but for males, not so much I take, therefore, that most riders in the US are women?

                          I'm definitely looking forward to learning a lot more about this sport. It's all been super interesting thus far, and I'm excited to see the progress over the coming months. I'll definitely re-visit the possibility of leasing down-the-line, once I'm comfortable riding by myself.

                          Originally posted by KateKat View Post
                          Golfing, skiing AND riding? Your pocketbook must love you!
                          Oh yes, I often ask myself why I'm not drawn to less expensive sports like, say, running, lol. Although, luckily, when I lived in the northeast, I skied more and golf less, now that I'm in North Carolina, I golf more and ski less, so it kind of balances out


                          • #14
                            I was going to ask if you we're male or female because of your "that guy" comment.

                            So for a male, in my opinion, good news, bad news. My husband started riding at age 29 or 30, so I am familiar.

                            Bad news is that it is much more difficult to find a variety of riding clothes for men. And even harder to find less expensive stuff. It is out there, though. Also a challenge to find boots. My husband likes his paddock boots and half chaps. We use a cheaper half chap made by Ovation. 39 buck I think we paid.

                            Good news is that from my experience and observations, and yes, I am generalizing. But MOST men seem to advance much more quickly than women! Maybe it's the challenge, the athleticism guys have, I don't know. I know my husband is much more fearless than I am. But my husband started riding like I said, as an adult, and within about six months (probably less) he was jumping, and probably within a month of jumping he was doing 3' foot fences. As you are new to this, this really is a fast track compared to most riders I know. It also seems you don't often see guys at the lower levels, but when you get to the shows at the higher levels there are a lot of guys. I have never quite figured out where they come from! Quite the phenomenon.

                            Anyway, good luck, and welcome to the sport.
                            “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
                            ¯ Oscar Wilde


                            • #15
                              Yes, the reality is that guys get better so much faster and I think it is their strength in their lower body. Breeches are still a must.

                              Enjoy, and I ski much better when I've ridden a lot.

                              Edit: Ice hockey is way more expensive....


                              • #16
                                WHOOPS: Started this before I did errands and when I finished it I saw you had replied already. In any case, it mostly applies.

                                It sounds like you're doing everything right! Kudos to you for considering all these things ahead of time rather than jumping into horse blindly. Unfortunately there's something about horses that must encourage that.

                                I'll start with the breeches/clothing question. I would recommend that you get a proper fitting helmet and boots with a heel ASAP. For me, that's just a safety issue. However when I first started lessons as a kid, I didn't start with paddock boots. My mom and I went to a thrift store. We found boots with a heel that fit me, and that's what I wore until she found out I was serious about this whole horse thing. If you have some laceup boots with a small heel already in your closet, you can just use those. I think paddock boots would be better, but technically as long as you have boots with a heel you're fine. Some inexpensive paddock boots are these Dublins, these Saxons, or these Ariats.

                                Personally, if you think this riding thing is going to stick, buy the best you can afford, and buy leather. It will last much longer than anything synthetic. I'd also buy a step up from the lowest model, but that's just me. Some great boots are Ariat® Heritage III Lace Paddock or the Tredstep Giottos. If you do get paddocks, you should get half chaps as well. They don't need to be fancy. You have a whole range of choices from basic to advanced.

                                I personally prefer riding in breeches. It's more comfortable, and I don't have to worry about rubs. I also "stick" a little more qand I don't have to worry about my jeans scratching the saddle. You won't look silly if you ride in breeches as a beginner, you'll just look well prepared. It's up to you, but I would give them a shot.

                                I think you should lease when you are comfortable riding independently and could really benefit from more saddle time. At the beginning, honestly you're going to be sore and new enough to everything that riding two times a week might be all that's really feasible. But when you're comfortable taking care of the horse before and after riding, can ride independently without supervision, and know some basics of horse care it might be time to consider a half lease. I would definitely do some half leases for a while before even thinking about buying a horse. The problem with buying a horse too early is that in the first two or so years of riding your riding skill will increase exponentially. It's likely you'll outgrow a schoolie or two. The last thing you want is to buy a horse only to surpass their ability within the year.


                                • #17
                                  Where in North Carolina are you? I am in the Triangle area and love to enable!

                                  I would wait on a lease or half-lease. Make sure you really love it first, and wait until you have enough skill to be able to ride (safely) without an instructor.

                                  My guess would be that it won't be too long before you're hopping over crossrails, as I expect your skill level will increase quickly (especially since it sounds as though you're already an athlete).

                                  I see that you've already bought some stuff from Dover...congratulations! You're going to have a fabulous time.
                                  "A horse gallops with his lungs, perseveres with his heart, and wins with his character." - Tesio


                                  • #18
                                    Lots of excellent advice given so far! I'll try not to repeat what others have said, but here's some other things to think about and discuss with your trainer:

                                    I don't know how tall you are, nor do I know what size saddle you're riding in, but many adult male beginner riders find themselves riding in school saddles that are much too small. This is not universally true, but it's often true. Because most beginning riders are children, teenagers, and young female clients, many beginner-appropriate school horses are fitted in 16.5" and 17" saddles that are made to accommodate smaller people. Many men need a 17.5" or 18" saddle, and some even need an 18.5" or 19" saddle, to really have an effective and correct body position. And because you're a beginner who's understandably just getting control of their body position on a horse, it may not even occur to you that the saddle could be part of your struggle.

                                    Thus, if you stick with this sport for more than a few months, you may want to ask your trainer if the saddle is a good size for you and whether it would be wise to invest in your own saddle. They may say "Nope! You're riding in something that's the right size already," but they may also say "Oh, I'm so glad you brought this up! Saddles are expensive and I didn't want to step on your financial toes by suggesting one until you were sure you'd be sticking with riding for the long term."

                                    Breeches/boots/chaps are easy enough to shop for, even for an amateur, but you'd really want to consult a pro regarding your first saddle purchase. It's a bit like purchasing your first set of golf clubs or skis: if you do it without guidance, you'll probably end up either overspending or buying sub-par equipment that doesn't suit your needs.

                                    Finally, since this will be your first winter of riding, consider talking with your trainer about cold-weather riding gear. North Carolina isn't terribly cold, but your trainer will probably have suggestions for a few pieces of gear that will help you get through the winter. For example, I would not be without my fleece-lined winter riding gloves and SmartWool socks under my boots!
                                    Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Originally posted by Sku View Post
                                      WHOOPS: Started this before I did errands and when I finished it I saw you had replied already. In any case, it mostly applies.
                                      Your reply was definitely helpful, especially the boot suggestions. I've actually been using a pair of paddocky-looking boots that I have, but I wear those with suits in bad weather, and I don't think they'd hold up very well for riding AND still look good paired with a suit

                                      Originally posted by Donkerbruin View Post
                                      Where in North Carolina are you? I am in the Triangle area and love to enable!
                                      Uh oh, I'm actually very susceptible to enabling, or at least that's what all my enabler friends tell me. I'm in the Triangle as well (Durham).

                                      Originally posted by jn4jenny View Post
                                      I don't know how tall you are, nor do I know what size saddle you're riding in, but many adult male beginner riders find themselves riding in school saddles that are much too small.
                                      Ah, I would never have thought to ask that. I'm close to 5'9", which isn't terribly tall, but I'm also (un)lucky enough to have a metabolism that keeps me at a 28" waist; so, I'm pretty lanky. Does saddle size relate to height or width, or a combination?


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by antikantian View Post
                                        Ah, I would never have thought to ask that. I'm close to 5'9", which isn't terribly tall, but I'm also (un)lucky enough to have a metabolism that keeps me at a 28" waist; so, I'm pretty lanky. Does saddle size relate to height or width, or a combination?
                                        Unfortunately, it's a combination of many things: height, weight, the length of your leg/inseam, the length of your thigh relative to your calf, the length of your torso, etc. To make this even more complicated, the same person might need a different saddle size in different brands and models. Finally, the "right" saddle size is somewhat a matter of opinion. Some people like their saddles with a little extra wiggle room, and others--particularly in the hunter world--like to ride a little "tight." I find this is more common among female riders than males; y'all have some ::cough:: anatomical arrangements that make it unpleasant to ride in way-too-small saddles.

                                        If you've ever had the non-pleasure of shopping for jeans with a woman, well, saddle sizing is a little like that.

                                        If you really forced me to guess a good size for the average male who's 5'9" and very lanky, I'd guess 17.5". There's some good tips here about fitting a saddle to a rider and knowing whether your current saddle is a a good fit:

                                        If in doubt, when the time comes, shop at a saddlery with a big selection of saddles, a pastic or wood saddle horse where you can sit in the saddles before you buy, and a good saddle fitter on staff. There are people who make their entire living fitting saddles to horse and rider! M&M Tack Shop in Raleigh has a good one, and I'm pretty sure she frequents COTH forums.

                                        Finally, you sound like you've got a healthy pocketbook, so here's a warning: saddles can be expensive, but they don't usually need to be. When it comes time for you to invest in a first "horseless rider saddle," know that you can buy good, serviceable tack to fit many horses and riders for under $1500. But saddles can retail up to $5000+, so it's easy to spend more than necessary if you try to "wing it." I'm sure the same is true for golf and skiing gear!

                                        When the time comes, I strongly suggest that you buy a used saddle, not only because you get more saddle for the money but because many riders go through multiple saddles across their riding career and you want to avoid losing money on resale. This is especially true for new riders, who often specialize/switch disciplines/end up buying a horse that doesn't fit well in their starter saddle/etc. Most used saddles will hold their value, and just like with cars, a new saddle will lose 10-30% of its value as soon as you break it in.
                                        Last edited by jn4jenny; Oct. 20, 2012, 11:36 AM.
                                        Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/