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Can someone just not be able to learn how to ride horse?

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    Can someone just not be able to learn how to ride horse?

    Hi all, I have been reading post on this forum for a while but this is one of the first few posts i posted here.

    Like the title said, can someone just not capable of learning how to ride a horse?
    Sorry it is a bit long...I started riding as an adult (25 yrs old) and have been riding for almost 3 years now. During first year, I was taking lessons twice a week. For a good whole year, I was only doing walk and posting trot. I was never able to sit the trot or canter. My trainer tried to get me to canter (on a lunge line + easy pony) but I was never able to do it right i.e. not able to get the horse to canter, going back to trot after a couple strides.
    Then because of a job relocation, I had to move to another state and I rode in a new barn. The new barn was a little bit far from where I lived, so I could only do lesson once per week.
    My instructor in this new barn taught very differently, instead of correcting my seat /leg position, she would be happy if i can ever canter regardless of how sloppy I was on the horse (toes point outward to almost 90 degree from the horse, and lift my leg up to kick to get the canter) She never corrected my seat/leg position. I "progressed" pretty fast and in less than 6 months, I was jumping a full course of 2'6. Although my seat was never solid, this definitely gave me a boost of confidence that I always lack as a rider.
    Couple months ago, due to another job relocation, I had to switch barn again. My new instructor teaches more in a more "traditional" way, focusing on correct hands, leg and seat. She made me realized that my legs were moving a lot during posting trot, my body looks so stiff like a rock during canter, and my knees pinch so much that my toes and stirrup are way back at the flank of the horse (maybe exaggerated a little bit). She would only allow me to do flat work for now since obviously, I am not ready to jump. I have been having lessons 3 times per week for the last 2 months, but I do not see any improvement still.
    At this point, I am very frustrated with myself. I have been doing yoga and stretches hoping that it would make my hip more flexible. I have also been pep talking myself before every lesson so I can relax. However, I really don't see any progress in my riding. And I reach a point that I am even scared of going to lessons because I am so stressed out about not doing it well.

    Is it possible that someone is just not "teachable"? And will I be only doing walk and trot for the rest of my life??

    again, sorry for the kinda long story and I'd really appreciate for any insight/suggestion!!

    Thank you~

    You are likely being too hard on yourself. After all, if the horse is between you and the ground, you're riding.

    Riding 1-2x a week is a hard frequency to progress at, so it makes sense that things might have felt a little slow there. That isn't to say it can't be done, it's just harder to train your riding muscles. 3x a week will likely give you much faster progress.

    Also, changing trainers often comes with an adjustment period and sometimes a few steps back, even for advanced riders. Each trainer has fresh eyes and often a different approach to how they can help you succeed. Just about every trainer I've ridden with has a pretty fundamental change they like to see in my riding (like my hip angle or my rein length.) Adjusting to these changes takes time and can easily make you feel like you can't ride for a few weeks. The good news is that the more you do this, the more dynamic your riding becomes. But it can be extremely frustrating in the moment.

    And on top of all that, riding as an adult vs riding as a kid are very different. As adults, we worry about doing it "right" and that can make progress slow, though correct. Many kids just want to do it and don't worry how they look or how many times the trainer tells them to put their heels down. Neither of these is right or wrong, but know that the progress you make as an adult is very different than the progress you might see kids making. Sheer amount of time in the saddle is not the same for everyone!

    It sounds to me like you have a new trainer who has some suggestions to change your habits. Given that you're riding 3x a week, I'd give it a few more months to see how you progress. If you still don't feel like you've gotten anywhere after that, it might just be that this trainer isn't a fit for you.
    If the pony spits venom in your face or produces a loud roar, it is probably not a pony. Find another. -The Oatmeal


      You may need a different approach. It might help if someone would put you on a trustworthy horse and let you ride bareback. Hand walk you around safely and let you learn how to relax and let your body muscles go and hang loose and natural, feel the rhythm and movement of the horse and how to follow that more naturally with your seat, let your leg hang long and straight and sit up and down into your seat bones. It's exactly how little kids get so good. And it's the flow that they use for therapy riding. You'll need to do the movement exercises that will help counteract stiffness and tension.

      Unorthodox maybe. Then go to the lunge line with a saddle and no stirrups, no reins, with your inside hand back on the cantle to keep your shoulders from tipping, then your arms out to the side.

      A lot can also depend on the saddle that you are using and the horse, if it has short choppy or quick movement. A good capable instructor should be flexible and teach more than just an up/down lesson.
      The cue card kid just held up an empty cue card. For a minute there I thought I had lost my sense of humor. --- Red Skelton


        Agree with Sweetmutt that you are likely too hard on yourself, you may not have the best equitation, but you can't be that bad and "unable to ride"'if you are jumping a 2"6 course, even the horse you were in was a packer or a saint . (speaking of adults here, kids could be different story !)

        Also agree that different trainer will have different training methods and style. Riding without stirrup will help though some will argue that for knee pinchers, that might make things worse, so make sure someone watches you so you're not developing more bad habits.

        Give it sometime, once your new trainer trust that you are not gonna fall off because lack of balance, poor seat etc, and start you over cross rails hopefully, no stirrup no Reina jumping will also help fix flaws. I'm in the same boat with bad equitation and I'm okay to go back to basic and work on solid position.


          First of all, good for your instructor to focus on correct position. Taking some time to do correct flat work will help your jumping, not hinder or delay it. Tell yourself that it is a GOOD thing to make these changes and you will progress to a strong, capable rider, one that a horse will be glad to carry. Keep reminding yourself that it takes time to undo muscle memory and create new habits. This time is always much longer then the time it took to acquire them in the first place.

          Riding is a journey, enjoy the sights along the way. Feel the swing of the walk, appreciate the personality of your horse, remind yourself why you wanted to learn to ride. Laugh at yourself, then say " I will never give up." Right now as you are trying to create new muscle memory, your brain and body are working so hard that some of the other things go backward as you focus on these new patterns. Imagine your riding as a jigsaw puzzle; you have found the corners and now you are building outward. Right now that piece you are looking for is hiding in "pain sight" but you do have all the pieces and you will find it.

          A good barn friend who has had many ups and downs in her riding said "adult riders learn to measure success by the teaspoon." I would bet that you have at least a teaspoon in each of your lessons if you look for it. If you focus, keep trying and have a sense of humor your instructor is glad to teach you. Hey at least you don't giggle yourself off the horse, or burp the alphabet during the lesson.

          OK, enough with the Yoda, just tell those @#$% voices at 2 o clock in the morning to SHUT UP! I feel for you cause I am the queen of the little voices and self doubt in my own riding. When worst come to worst I pull out my old PC instructor. Imagine a petit British lady shouting at a kid (me), who is on the other side of the jump with out her horse. The kid is lawn darting forward face first in the dirt, sliding forward at a rapid rate. Instructor is chanting in cheerful British voice "Get up, get up, have another GO". Of course kid scrambles up, grabs the horse and jumps the fence. Who wouldn't, that lady was fierce!


            Having or not having talent for riding and being teachable or not teachable are two different things. When I think of a student who is not teachable, I don't see someone like yourself. Instead, the not teachable ones are the ones who don't really try, don't listen to the instructor. They may or may not have talent for riding. In addition, there's a lot of truth in the saying "you can't teach feel." You can teach the basics of position, but you can't teach feel. Feel is not necessarily the same as talent in that it's more of an instinct thing, and I think some people can have good feel without a lot of talent and vice versa. George Morris always says he never had a lot of talent, and whether you believe that or not, what he most certainly has is work ethic (teachability) and feel.

            What I mean by "feel" is really that intangible thing that can best be summed up as being "with" the horse and is something that you see where you have a rider that all the horses seem to like. This rider may not be the prettiest, most skilled at certain things (for example, may have problems like a bad eye for jumping distances), or the most physically talented, but they don't get into fights with horses, and the horses like them despite whatever shortcomings they have as riders. A few people have it from the get go, but most of the time it comes from being on a horse a lot and taking time with the basics, to learn what's correct before moving onto the next step. That plus work ethic can get you far, although if you are not naturally physically talented for riding, you may go slower than the ones that have it all (talent, feel, and drive). That's ok! If we were all super talented at riding, it wouldn't be much of a challenging sport, would it?

            It sounds as though despite your struggles, you've kept these horses between you and the ground. It's also good you are now able to work on riding 3x a week and do some body awareness exercises outside of riding. Taking up a sport like this is not easy, especially as an adult. Keep it up. You can do it. It may go super slowly, but that's ok. It may be more fun to jump around, but you are staying safe, which will build a good foundation and confidence, which will only help you when you really are ready to jump.


              Original Poster

              Thank you everyone !! I do feel much better already after reading your replies.
              I agree very much that as an adult, it is much harder to learn to feel. Instead, we analyze everything down to the details. Maybe sometimes I overthink too much. Also for most of the things in my life, I feel like if I tried hard I will make progress. However, riding is completely not like that...or the progress is very slow.
              What frustrate me more is that I felt like I have wasted the last year using the wrong muscle to ride. Guess I would have to start all over again, and take it slowly and be patient !!


                I teach, I teach mostly adults. I have observed over the years that some riders have a beautiful position, and that's it, they can't seem to move within that position. I've also observed some riders with truly awful positions, but the capability of moving with the horse, and influencing the horse. It has been easier to work with this second type of rider, slowly slowly the position is correcting, the shoulders come up and back, the legs stay put under the hips and shoulders. It takes time and patience for both rider and instructor.

                So give yourself time, and realize that the better position makes it easier to use the aids correctly. You just need to convince your brain that your body parts belong in this alignment-not that one. Being able to go with the flow is a gift.
                Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                  I started riding as a child, only once a week, and did not learn how to canter for TWO years. I realize now that this is sort of unconventional, and people are being pushed faster and faster to canter and jump. I don't regret that I was "held back" in this way, because it gave me such solid basics that when I started cantering it was never a big deal or a scary thing because I was ready mentally and physically.

                  I honestly can't imagine being pushed to progress faster. It really just takes time, and repetition, and muscle development to learn how to ride correctly. For some people this comes quickly but I believe for most it takes years and years.


                    Originally posted by Minnie G View Post
                    What frustrate me more is that I felt like I have wasted the last year using the wrong muscle to ride. Guess I would have to start all over again, and take it slowly and be patient !!
                    That is frustrating, it's so much easier to learn muscle memory than to correct it when it's already wrong. I'm sorry you're going through that. However, from your description, you certainly know how to ride.

                    It sounds like you are very "teachable", because you're not sitting there arguing with the trainer who is trying to correct something that is very hard to correct.

                    I had an adult student that I'd teach on occasion when her regular instructor was out that had a hard time learning. A lot of this was due to her body shape-she was very top heavy with very short, inflexible legs. I had her spend a lot of time working on posting at the walk while concentrating on proper leg position to lengthen and stretch her legs, as well as good old pony club stretching games. Those did wonders, especially stretching for her toes and the horse's ears while the horse was being hand walked.

                    Honestly, I'd much, much rather have a rider with sympathetic hands than one who is instantly balancing, but who has hard hands.

                    Don't worry, it sounds like you are progressing! Don't forget that having fun is by far the most important part.


                      I've been thinking about this the last few days--a friend of mine is on vacation and I've been teaching her lessons. I had one lesson of teens showing around the 3ft level, the rest were adult beginners through intermediate. It's a lot easier to learn to ride as a are bendy and often fearless. Adults can absolutely learn to ride, but it takes a long time regardless of age.

                      Adults tend to be more self-conscious. I find myself explaining really frequently to adult students that everyone has struggles in their riding and the point of a lesson is to have eyes on the ground to help fix stuff. You actually sound like you'd be pretty receptive and easy to teach, so you've got that going for you.

                      Instructors all teach differently, some pick at position, some go for the get it done approach. Each has its merits, though a combination of both is sometimes better. Your current instructor might be trying to get your position better/get you out of bad habits, once you have that stuff down a little more solidly, you'll be able to go back to cantering and jumping courses and it'll be soooo much easier.


                        One thing to remember is that to be able to have a secure jump position you need an independent seat and hands. That takes time to build. Jumping before you have the right skills on the flat means you are likely to learn bad habits over fences, as well as there being a safety factor to think about. People will vary on how long they take to learn the skills on the flat. When I learned to ride ( a long time ago) the rule of thumb was 2 years of flat work before jumping. Today that seems to be different, and people are jumping within weeks of riding. Jumping in and of itself is no marker of skill or progression-- although it often seems to get painted that way. Rather, being able to jump safely and correctly is a marker of skill and progression.
                        A canter is a cure for every evil. ~Benjamin Disraeli


                          It's far more likely that you are receiving terrible instruction than that you are unteachable.

                          Has any other student at this barn jumped around a 3' hunter or equitation course at a horseshow?
                          Or scored a 60 or higher at second level?
                          Or evented at training level?

                          If everyone else is going to rated shows and doing the 1.40s, you may have a problem.
                          If everyone else is bumbling around on worn out lesson horses with a rotating string of young instructors who know no other phrases than shoulders back and heels down, the problem is the program.
                          The Noodle
                          Boy Wonder
                          The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!


                            Another substitute trainer here. Picked up my friend's weeknight lesson of adults, all once-a-weekers, none show. Kept with the same lesson plan I had going for the kids. Went fine, nothing terrible happened, but the lesson plan was geared to competitive kids moving up and demanded precision.

                            When friend returned the next week she reminded me those adults show up first & foremost to have fun. Week after week they escape their crazy lives, tack up our saintly horses, and go bomb around our jumps. All have safe positions but are far from perfect and, sure, some of their bad habits keep their rides from being as good as they could be, but they are secure & occasionally find a string of non-deadly distances. They are challenged just enough to leave the lesson feeling confident and accomplished, and occasionally they even learn a new thing or two.

                            So along the lines of "you're being too hard on yourself" remember why you're doing this - I imagine at the heart of it all is a desire to have fun. Make sure your trainer is aware that while progression is important, it is not to be in lieu of enjoying your time in the saddle. I admire & applaud your desire to do every.single.movement correctly, but no non-showing amateur taking lessons on schoolies should need a pep talk before their lessons. You aren't aiming for medal finals, you're not trying to get your schoolie over & through the back, so trust me, your toes can stick out a bit. I promise you no horse will be the worse for it

                            EHJ | FB | #140 | watch | #insta


                              I fully believe that some people simply cannot ride. I can tell you right now though, you are NOT one of those people.

                              Some people give riding little thought or effort and will never progress because they never try. By posting about your struggles here, you clearly care and are thinking about how you can improve, and are overall trying!

                              Starting to ride as an adult is a lot more challenging than starting as a kid. Kids bounce around more easily, are more flexible, and lack a certain sense of fear that often hinders adults. You will be fine, just set realistic goals and milestones and keep working hard. Overall, ENJOY it! You picked up riding because, I'm assuming, you love horses and wanted to get involved. Take your time. It's your own journey with your own timeline. Invest in a good trainer who will take things slowly with you, and don't hold yourself to a standard. Just work on getting better piece by piece and love your time in the saddle.

                              Edited to add: Not everyone can be a grand prix rider, just like not everyone can play major league baseball. Don't hold yourself to anyone else's standards or think that by not reaching certain levels you "can't ride".


                                Original Poster

                                Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                                It's far more likely that you are receiving terrible instruction than that you are unteachable.

                                Has any other student at this barn jumped around a 3' hunter or equitation course at a horseshow?
                                Or scored a 60 or higher at second level?
                                Or evented at training level?
                                Most of the kids who rode there do 3' and under. And most of the adult who rode there were not showing. Now I think about it, they even put a beginner who started riding at 30 to jump crossrail after only 8 lessons. Thats probably too soon...


                                  Original Poster

                                  Originally posted by dags View Post

                                  So along the lines of "you're being too hard on yourself" remember why you're doing this - I imagine at the heart of it all is a desire to have fun. Make sure your trainer is aware that while progression is important, it is not to be in lieu of enjoying your time in the saddle. I admire & applaud your desire to do every.single.movement correctly, but no non-showing amateur taking lessons on schoolies should need a pep talk before their lessons. You aren't aiming for medal finals, you're not trying to get your schoolie over & through the back, so trust me, your toes can stick out a bit. I promise you no horse will be the worse for it
                                  Thank you for reminding me that. I did forget about the reason I started riding was to have fun. I enjoy being around the horses. But as I ride more and get more serious about it, I started to focus on doing it right and became so stressed about it. (it completely defeat the purpose of riding :P)


                                    I am going to deviate from the rest of the responders with some different advice. Go to a horse show. Go to the closest one you can find, and also go to the highest rated show you can reasonably get to. Spend a lot of time at the warm up rings. For example, if your goal is to do the 2.6 adult hunters, get to the warm up ring well before that class and watch the trainers and the riders warm up for the class. I guarantee you will learn something that is helpful. Maybe you are not as "bad" as you think you are. Maybe some of these adult riders have the same problems you do and are being told the same things by their trainers as you are. If none of this seems to be true, listen to the trainers, see what they tell the riders, and see if you can recognize the difference between what you are getting as instruction, and the results you are seeing as a rider. Try to spot a trainer and follow him/her around different rings, coaching different people. Try to observe their set up back at the barns or trailers. If you find someone you like, call and make an appoitment to meet with him or her at their barn. Share your goals and see if this trainer can get you there. Better yet, keep in mind that most adult amateurs are very happy to talk about their horse and their riding AFTER their division has ended. Maybe start with a "congratulations", or" I like your horse", and go from there. Try to learn as much as you can about how these competitors got to where you want to be. You also need to realize that a person can only come so far doing nothing but lessons, even 3 times per week. The time may have come for you to half lease or lease a horse of your own. Spending time alone riding "your" horse is, in my opinion, the only way to develop "feel" and learn to relax. Its hard to relax on a horse when you are perpetually in a lesson situation (under pressure). You need time to try to apply your lessons on your own in "real life" situations. You may also need to move to a different barn/trainer. It is very hard to find a place to ride on school horses that can take you past the basic WTC lesson environment. If you have a local tack store, that is s good place to ask about different barns and trainers for what you are looking to do. Expect to spend more time and more money to advance, that's just the way it is with riding as an adult. If that is not possible for you, try to relax and enjoy the time you spend on the horse in lessons, and don't worry about what you are or are not doing. The next step for you will be a big one and you need to be 100% committed to improving your riding to get there, but if you love horses, you will make it happen. Good luck.


                                      I agree you need more time in the saddle and time doing things more naturally - the bareback suggestion, outside trail time - relaxing and letting your body go more naturally with the flow of the horse's movement. During lesson time you are picking at yourself and being picked at. Go do a 1/2 lease and see if someone will buddy up with you to ride more outside, go up and down some bumps if that's all you have. Varied terrain really helps put a seat on someone. Play around with it more!


                                        I think you are progressing but possibly just don't realize it! If you are riding 3x a week I think this will help you progress faster. I started when I was 30!! I understand where you are coming from. I sometimes feel like I can't ride but hen I go back and look at video of me riding when I first started. I also just noticed that my trainer doesn't tell me to relax my arms at the canter after 8 years! Yes I think it has taken me 8 years of hearing my trainer say relax thru the elbows at the canter for my muscle memory to finally kick in! However I think there are some things that will never change. For instance my left leg just doesn't turn out and I can't get my heal turned out to be able to use spur. It doesn't hurt me but it just doesn't turn that way! I'm not sure that will ever change but I still try! As far as feel I think I must have terrible feel! I can't tell you which hind leg is going forward at the canter to be able to ask at the right time. I'm not sure that will ever change either but again I continue to try!

                                        As far as sitting the trot I had a very hard time understanding how to do this. I though in my head hips down into the motion. UNTIL my trainer put me on a lunge line on a saintly pony with a trot I could really feel the motion on. She had me put my legs over the saddle and sit the trot. I realized that the trot motion wasn't down as much as side to side with my hips. Sometimes it take a trainer saying it a different way as well! Good Luck and don't give up!!
                                        The Love for a Horse is just as Complicated as the Love for another Human being, If you have never Loved a Horse you will Never Understand!!!