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Spin off topic: How long does it take a beginner to be a competent rider?

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  • Spin off topic: How long does it take a beginner to be a competent rider?

    This is a spin off from the Adult Safety Stirrups thread in Hunter/Jumper.

    The OP there describes themselves as a 55 year old adult total beginner, who in three months of lessons twice a week is now jumping cross poles (not sure from a trot or a canter). That's about 25 hours in the saddle.

    I returned to riding about 12 years ago, and have since seen many many adult beginners and returning riders in their 40s and 50s, and have never seen anyone progress this quickly. So I was curious about other people's experience with this.

    When I was a teen and we were feral kids trail riding, my experience was it took about a month of daily riding several hours a day for young teens to "get their balance" and let go of the mane or saddle horn, what I'd now call an independent seat. Of course we had no idea of aids or anything at that point, just good balance! We certainly weren't ready to also ride circles in an arena. Now maybe if we had longe lessons and instruction on our seat and position, it would have gone faster.

    Anyhow, curious what older adults have found the general timeline to be. Whem I returned, it took me two years of twice weekly lessons to feel solid enough to start looking for lease horses to ride unsupervised and on trails.

    However, I had also made a swtich to h/j lessons after growing up mostly riding Western, and having Western yahoo reflexes I had to unlearn.

  • #2
    It depends on how fit the person is to start, how much natural balance they have etc. It also depends on how comfortable they are on the horse they are riding and confidence level.

    I do not doubt that poster as I have seen the flip side. The adult re-rider who owns their own horse has been riding multiple times a week for several years, takes lessons, and still should not be allowed to ride by themselves.

    ETA: The cross rails could be no bigger then a cavaletti at max height.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hell I know people who have been riding for 5 years who I wouldn't describe as competent and some as little as a year who I would trust with my horse. There are so many variables... and one of the most important is how they are taught and how they absorb information. If you start with a mediocre instructor who doesn't teach horsemanship or fundamentals (why we do what we do... not just monkey hear monkey do) and just rush rush rushes into things how can you ever be "competent"?

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      • Original Poster

        #4
        I've probably seen much more of the flip side!

        I'm curious how common it is for a total beginner to have competency after three months of twice weekly lessons. I just have never seen it, that's all.

        Comment


        • #5
          Start by defining competent.

          The caveat of "it depends" is really going to come into play, regardless. Levels of fitness, prior exposure to sports that may have developed an ability to train for muscle memory, access to good lesson horses/instruction...

          In general I think it's fair to say that somewhere between 12-24 months a person doing once a week lessons generally can w/t/c a fairly straightforward horse without complication or requiring close supervision. The equitation may not be perfect but they should have the ability to apply aids in the right timing and not interfere with their horse too wildly (they should be able to establish contact, have a full seat in all gaits and follow efficiently, balance in a half seat and a two point, and not pinch through the leg). The fundamental outline of correctness should be there. These students may also be jumping and I would expect them to be doing simple courses at a combination of t/c** doing simple changes with horses that don't have an automatic change, and be able to moderate the horse's stride.

          I've certainly seen this take less than two years but generally the students that even ride more than once a week do take at least six months to get a majority of my above criteria met. Contact and body control to influence gaits/aids are often the sticking point (even for more experienced riders).
          Last edited by Edre; May. 13, 2019, 03:27 PM. Reason: Wrong gaits initially listed. Whoops.

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          • #6
            Jock Paget, eventer, never ridden to international competition in less than 3 years.
            "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Willesdon View Post
              Jock Paget, eventer, never ridden to international competition in less than 3 years.
              I knew of a trainer in his 30s who fastracked that way. He started riding lessons in his late teens on a whim, was good at it, and was competing in the big leagues by his early 20s. I think that the fearless needed for the 5 foot jumps weeds is not a common trait! But this fellow also was a multi athletic 17 year old boy at the age extreme sports are attractive. BTW I didn't find his form over fences that great but he got the job done. I would consider these young men outliers, however.

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              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by Edre View Post
                Start by defining competent.

                The caveat of "it depends" is really going to come into play, regardless. Levels of fitness, prior exposure to sports that may have developed an ability to train for muscle memory, access to good lesson horses/instruction...

                In general I think it's fair to say that somewhere between 12-24 months a person doing once a week lessons generally can w/t/c a fairly straightforward horse without complication or requiring close supervision. The equitation may not be perfect but they should have the ability to apply aids in the right timing and not interfere with their horse too wildly (they should be able to establish contact, have a full seat in all gaits and follow efficiently, balance in a half seat and a two point, and not pinch through the leg). The fundamental outline of correctness should be there. These students may also be jumping and I would expect them to be doing simple courses at a combination of w/t, doing simple changes with horses that don't have an automatic change, and be able to moderate the horse's stride.

                I've certainly seen this take less than two years but generally the students that even ride more than once a week do take at least six months to get a majority of my above criteria met. Contact and body control to influence gaits/aids are often the sticking point (even for more experienced riders).
                This time line is on par for my observations of riders who have no serious issues with fitness, fear, or proprioception.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hi everyone, I am the beginner in question here. I definitely do not claim to be totally competent in the saddle, but I am taking 1 hour lessons twice a week with a great trainer and very intelligent lesson horses. As for fitness, I have always been in shape, have good natural balance, and am usually suspected to be a bit younger than my actual age (just a number, right?). I really love riding and just want to keep learning as much as possible in a safe manner. Not planning to be an Olympian in this lifetime 😊

                  It is helpful hearing your descriptions of training progression and timeline. Helps me set realistic goals.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by BucketListJumper View Post
                    Hi everyone, I am the beginner in question here. I definitely do not claim to be totally competent in the saddle, but I am taking 1 hour lessons twice a week with a great trainer and very intelligent lesson horses. As for fitness, I have always been in shape, have good natural balance, and am usually suspected to be a bit younger than my actual age (just a number, right?). I really love riding and just want to keep learning as much as possible in a safe manner. Not planning to be an Olympian in this lifetime 😊

                    It is helpful hearing your descriptions of training progression and timeline. Helps me set realistic goals.
                    It's great you've found a coach who is making every minute in the saddle count, and good natural balance and fitness is a *huge* plus in your favor. Starting out in a good program is important because it really helps build confidence from the start.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      This is an impossible question to answer. Some people take to riding like a fish to water and seem to just naturally progress at a fast rate. Some make up for that lack of natural talent with hard work and progress fairly quickly and some try everything they can and are never very good despite the desire. Then there are people who fit between all these.

                      Riding as much as possible makes a difference.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My husband was hitting the polo ball at a canter after like 30 times total in the saddle in his life. To be honest, it’s very annoying he picked it up so easily haha. I think his fitness is the biggest factor. He’s been a rock climber and snowboarder his whole life. His equitation and timing are still terrible, but he “gets it”.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A little story to relate. I was taking lessons with one trainer some years ago - twice weekly if I recall correctly and the instructor had a young working student, I believe she was about 13 or so. She was small and a little on the dumpy side, very shy and unliked by the other barn rats. But my god that girl could ride! After I was there about 6 months, she went from riding the steady school horses to riding the most difficult of the bunch and was able to figure out in minutes what kind of ride each horse needed and was able to get the best out of them. We had one OTTB that was a handful and was in jump training and this girl took him over and rode him better than pros.

                          I believe this girl had what it took to go pro herself but life got in the way and she went a different direction. I wish she had stuck with it long term.

                          I don't know why I'm relating this but I don't think there's a timeline for becoming a decent rider. Heck hopping over cross poles isn't rocket science and maybe, like the girl in my story, she just has the talent.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I think the timelines vary greatly depending on the person.

                            I was a returning rider in my 40s. I rode a lot as a child, then not at all for 25 years. Got the opportunity to buy a horse (a green but sensible 3 year old, no less!) and grabbed it with both hands.

                            I started taking lessons and riding as many days a week as I could and I was jumping cross rails after two weeks. By the end of the first month, I was doing small (2 foot) courses. For me, the muscle memory clicked back in like I'd never stopped riding.

                            So I think it's hard to generalize what people what people might be ready to do when.
                            www.laurienberenson.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              That's a difficult question to answer, I think, because there are so many different factors at play. Everything from the definition of "competent rider" being used, quality of instruction, hours in the saddle, determination of the rider, athletic ability of the rider, the horses the rider is able to ride, rider's financial status, age of the rider, and a whole bunch of other factors that probably aren't super obvious but can make a difference such as access to appropriate tack.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                The husband of the lady that owns the horse I lease is like this. He doesn't take lessons on the regular but he's athletic and has extremely good balance naturally so he looks pretty good and is effective. It's actually kind of annoying!! Lol.

                                I trained with an eventer that started riding at 16 after years of sitting around watching his sister take lessons. Not only was he a great rider, he was a gifted instructor. Again, athletic in other areas before picking up riding.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I water skied. First time i tried downhill skiing, i took 2 days of lessons at Snowmass then skied on my own in the area, even at Aspen mtn, for a week.

                                  (in my 20s ) even did an entire day of mogul runs in a blinding snow storm because I could feel with my feet and had the balance.

                                  I believe your rider has some natural ability and past physical experiences.
                                  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

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    The most naturally gifted rider I have ever seen in action just got on an started riding, almost. Everything she taught seemed natural to her, she had the balance and the body position. She was about 14 years old with excellent athleticism and a ideally proportioned body for riding. Somehow she seemed to skip adolescent awkwardness. In what she said was her first ride, she not only walked and trotted easily, but inadvertently cantered over an X jump when her horse followed the horse in front of it who was schooling separately. She didn't realize she should steer her horse away and was totally untroubled by the move. Within weeks she was jumping competently, and after just a few months she took home a low jumping championship. It took her weeks to be able to do what others took months or years to learn. With the caveat that she was on easy-to-guide horses, as I don't think she really knew that much about horsemanship, it was more of a case of a naturally athletic individual.

                                    Then she decided it just wasn't interesting to her and quit. She did not continue riding, even though her parents were supportive. Different strokes and all that.

                                    In my experience, the rate of progress depends on several factors, including the rider's athleticism and interest in the sport, the horses they have available, the instructor, the facilities, the time, the resources ... etc. Those who have better resources in key areas, and especially those that ride more often, will progress faster, I think.

                                    And another consideration is that some professional instructors will have students trotting low speed-bump jumps long before most of us would consider the students ready, because they think that is what the students want. The riders are on steady, unexciting horses, and it is just to give the student the feeling that they have "jumped".

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      My husband did a rising trot from the first stride. I am guessing because he had seen it for so long.

                                      On my own horse I went from total beginner to winning everything in 3 years.

                                      It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Riding is a sport (hey, don't we all get angry at people who insist it's not) and like all sports (indeed, all physical activities), it's not surprising some people have more innate talent at it than others and progress more quickly.

                                        Everyone notes that a sense of balance is important, but I'll also add a sense of rhythm and core strength. I rode a bit as a kid, but never particularly well, and didn't start seriously riding until I was an adult. I have zero athletic talent but I was running quite a bit at the time and it didn't help me much with riding because like many runners who don't cross-train, my core was very weak. I think we've all seen gym-fit middle-aged adults be humbled by a school horse very quickly during a w/t beginner lesson. Yoga and core work for me has been just as important to progressing in riding as cardio work.

                                        A lack of fear (and as a naturally anxious person, I envy the fearless) is also critical. A very good dressage instructor (who hated me ) once shouted at me during a lesson that if you're tense, you can't feel. And she was right. Of course, releasing tension is far easier said than done. So people who are naturally very brave and very trusting of horses will progress faster. Again, I think being brave around horses must be underlined, because I've seen otherwise fearless, fit guys who are terrified of horses be very humbled over the course of a lesson their girlfriend made them take.

                                        Having the right horses, trainer, and lesson program is also very important. I hate to say it, but sometimes it breaks my heart a bit to see kids with no fear and great feel not progress as much as they should because the program they're in has horses so sluggish from years in the ring, the kids lose the ability to use their aids quietly, or conversely get scared because the horses have bad habits.

                                        I know I wouldn't have flourished in a boot camp-like atmosphere, but from what I can glean of how riding instruction used to be (say, for the cavalry), quick progress was necessary. Of course, this was for very fit, younger men and despite all of our exercise science innovations today, I sometimes think that people many, many years ago may have had a better basic level of fitness and animal savvy than the average suburbanite (like me), just because of the demands of daily life.
                                        Check out my latest novel, Pride, Prejudice, and Personal Statements!

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