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

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  • #21
    range as I have seen it is from day 1 to never, our daughters were naturals as though they were born on a horse... one son... well he just did not take to it at all

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    • #22
      Impossible to answer. Some people NEVER acquire ANY discernable skill or balance, no matter how hard they try and how many lessons they take. Others progress quickly in terms of skill, just need time to gain experience. That's the difference between a "natural athlete" as a rider, and someone who has no talent in this respect. Those with no talent may still love and appreciate horses, and may be able to become "recreational" riders, with the right horse (a kind horse who looks after them, and has adequate training).
      www.cordovafarm.weebly.com

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      • #23
        As everyone has said, of course it depends greatly on the person! And what we define as "competent".
        But I just did a little back of the envelope math myself, and here's what I came up with.

        I started from scratch in my early twenties, and took hour-long weekly lessons for about a year before starting a quarter lease, then I was doing two or three rides a week. I think by the end of my 2nd winter riding I was probably "competent".
        At that point I could walk/trot/canter confidently on my own (though perhaps not prettily) was starting small jumps, and (importantly!) sit a spook and ride past "scary" things without another horse in the arena to lead us or a coach to tell me what to do.
        That was ~75-100 hours of riding according to my very rough estimates!

        I started with a new trainer the next fall, and now consider myself to be a decent rider, this September will be 4 years of riding for me.
        I lease a horse, and my total number of hours in the tack is heading towards 350.
        I am starting to ask for more correct work from my lease horse, and am improving my ability to keep her balanced, forward, and light in the bridle. We jump up to 2'6" at home and I can handle a long or short spot without getting unbalanced, and stay on after a spook-and-spin (at least some of the time).

        But I'm also now at the point where I can see I have about 18 million miles to go before I am truly a good rider. There are always more things to work on, and as I get better, the things I am working on keep getting more subtle and more difficult!

        Now that I think of it, it makes the question of "when is a rider competent" even more subjective, because riding does seem to be a sport where the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. In many ways I feel more aware of my shortcomings now than I was two years ago! On the one hand, that makes me a better rider, but it also makes it harder for me to describe myself as a good rider, because I am vividly aware of all my current weaknesses; and I know there are a lot of other issues under those that I'll be trying to fix next!
        It's one of the best things about this sport, in my opinion!
        Last edited by MissCoco; May. 15, 2019, 09:30 AM.

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        • #24
          Lots of good points made - I’d also differentiate between “competent with close guidance” (such as successfully executing skills during a private lesson with ongoing verbal instruction) and “competent somewhat independently” (such as effectively warming up without much feedback during a group lesson).

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          • #25
            In my experience, my perception of the time it takes to become "competent" is different than a lot of people's because my first instructor was a classical dressage rider and I spent a lot of time on the lunge line when I was starting out. Not in the sense that my trainer only ever did lunge lessons and I was never set loose (I've heard horror stories from people who were on the lunge for years), but I probably had a month or so of regular walk lessons and two months of trot lunge lessons before I was allowed to go around the ring on my own at the trot (I was also eight at the time, so bear that in mind).

            I had private lessons for the first ~year that I rode, so I had no concept of a "normal" timeline for learning things (and also, having been so young at the time, it's all sort of blurred together since and I honestly don't remember when a lot of things happened anymore). I wasn't allowed off the lunge line at the trot until I could post correctly with no reins, no stirrups, and my eyes shut. I went through a similar process when I was learning to canter (~a year or so into taking weekly lessons, we focused on the whole "how to have proper contact" thing before the canter thing, hence the delay) and didn't actually end up really cantering off the lunge line until my first instructor left and my next instructor (an eventer) started coaching me.

            I was taught to two-point before I was taught to canter (my first instructor always said she did it that way so that I would be comfortable two-pointing and trotting courses of poles and it would be muscle memory when it came time to do it at the canter). Is this the "normal" way to do things? Probably not, I've never heard of anyone else going through a program like this when they were first learning, but I'm definitely thankful for it (especially now that I'm an adult who's exclusively riding babies and needs a good seat to stay on when they do silly baby things). I'm only in my twenties, so I can't really speak to how long it would take to reach the milestones that I did had I a) been older when I started riding or b) was coming back to it as someone much older than I am, but to me, I don't find it unusual for it to take a year or two of weekly lessons to even be cantering poles, let alone jumping anything.

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            • #26
              Well, there’s crossrails and there’s Cross Rails. Most H/J barns working with beginners will send them over poles and cross rails at the walk or trot pretty early on...like they are laying on the ground 4”, the diameter of the poles. It’s a way to keep them interested and, at 25 hrs in the saddle on a good, safe schoolie, it’s not asking too much.IMO

              Its hard to draw any conclusions from what any rider posts on the internet with no pictures or videos.

              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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              • #27
                Originally posted by OverandOnward View Post
                ?
                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".
                This can be a significant factor. Those same students will be told they have 'jumped' or 'are jumping' and will go to another barn and tell anyone who asks (or listens) that they have jumped/are jumping. A lot of riding schools 'jolly along' their customers by telling them they are progressing faster than what may be the reality. And the customers are happy to accept that as fact. This does not mean that they are at all 'competent' in a short time. I always take such information, when offered, with a large helping of "show me."

                No matter where you go, there you are

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                • #28
                  I agree with 16hands - some people have natural athletic abilities. You can spot it when they're toddlers. It stands out. Refining those innate skills takes a lot of practice. We see it in every sport and just about everything else as well.

                  It's easier for them. But, it still takes a lot of work to achieve excellence. It sounds like the subject of OP's post has those skills and a trainer and horse that is helping her move forward. From her own post - she's loving it and is enthusiastic.
                  That latter part is more important than how fast someone accelerates their skill.

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                  • #29
                    Agree with "it depends".

                    I started when I was 40. Lessons 1-2 x week. It was 2 years before I felt somewhat competent, and 23 years later I'm still learning.

                    I am in no way naturally gifted athletically. My coordination sucks, and I have to think about every move to do anything. Fortunately, riding is something I love so much that I have been more than willing to keep at it.

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                    • #30
                      I started riding at 16, I had experience being around and handling horses but had never felt inclined to get on before and was otherwise quite athletic, competing in 2 different sports at national level. I was jumping x-poles and ~2’ uprights in my second lesson, hacking out over varied terrain after about a month and ‘clear round’ jumping at local events and attempting a few mini xc fences soon after. Within a year of once weekly lessons I was breaking and bringing on the yard’s youngsters and bought a very cheap but very talented warmblood.

                      Clearly a case of some natural balance/athleticism, a large amount of being a fearless teenager, and being at a yard which allowed/encouraged such things to happen. Obviously not best practise and I’m sure it put plenty of riders off for life!

                      I was shown up by my mum though, who at 50+ also began lessons after getting bored taking me and having to watch. She was a phenomenal athlete though, and had no fear. She was jumping x-poles in her first lesson!

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                      • #31
                        I think 2 years is a reasonable estimate to be lesson-barn-competent. I define that as being reasonably confident executing everything asked in a w/t/c/cross-rails lesson with solid form/body control and an understanding of what you're doing without excessive instruction on a range of safe lesson-type horses.

                        I was brought up the slow way, with lots of lunge-line hours and no cantering in the first year. I'm grateful for it to this day.

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                        • #32
                          I saw a teenager who'd never been on a horse before progress to cantering in her first lesson - on a horse I've ridden and know has super smooth gaits -. But still impressive. And I realize my example is a young person - but just saying I'm in the camp that has seen a lot of variability and don't doubt there's a wide range from the superstar in the OP to others who might not even trot much for several lessons.
                          If thou hast a sorrow, tell it not to the arrow, tell it to thy saddlebow, and ride on, singing. -- King Alfred the Great

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                          • #33
                            Yup, depends. Confidence, athletic, ability, proprioception, and ability to manage new situations and make good decisions all play into this imo. The last one really comes with time. One can be completely comfortable and confident on one horse or one type of horse, but until a rider gets on a different horse and is challenged, we don't know what we don't know.

                            I think the biggest factor for me is admitting we what we don't know and being willing to hop on anything and take a lesson-this especially means the "boring" horses because those are the ones we can learn so much from, especially if one can really ride. Blaming the horse for being lazy, stiff to one side, etc. means we aren't riding correctly and therefore aren't as competent or educated as we would like to think. Yes, horses have their issues (so do we as riders). It's up to us to figure out how to help them and ride them correctly. Then we become competent. And being competent means we know when to ask for help as well.

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                            • #34
                              I've noticed the new riders with a background in dance or gymnastics seem to be well prepared to move along in the gaits. Probably because they have good core strength and can already balance their own bodies.

                              IMO the physical part of riding isn't that hard for anyone who is reasonably fit and has some core strength. If all there was to it was to sit and balance through the gaits and low jumps, I think most people could get the balance pretty easily.

                              It's controlling the horse while doing all of that that is the show-stopper. It's maintaining balance while steering and giving the aids, while overcoming a reluctant or attitudinous horse, or worrying that this horse is getting too strong and fast, that makes it so complicated to learn.

                              It is much, much easier to learn on a horse that is reliable in their work and leaves the rider free to focus on themselves. That kind of horse isn't always available to a new rider.

                              It's not so much being on a horse, it's the horse itself as an independent animal brain. So much for the non-riding idiots who say "the horse does all the work'. If only they did!

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                              • #35
                                When I was a kid I had years and years of ballet lessons, was on toe shoes in 3rd grade (something they call child abuse now - ha!) I feel that balancing on one leg while moving the other one around, arms around etc. helps one get better balance and an independent seat when riding, as well as using alternate limbs in different ways.

                                I don't remember, for the life of me how long it took to get an independent seat when I started truly riding in my early 20s. I just progressed and it always felt easy. Training my horse was just a matter of repetition and I never seemed to have issues there either. I don't think I'm a natural, but I believe it helped having that ballet training as a kid and having longer than average legs and short torso probably helped my balance too.

                                I rode regularly (mostly daily) for about 26-27 years, then my last horse died and I was out of riding for 14 years. Came back to it in my early 60s and for some reason didn't miss a beat. I'm stiffer, but my balance was fine. Muscles had to be worked over and get in better shape, but it didn't seem to take more than a couple of weeks to feel secure. Of course I only work my horse on the flat and trail ride. I haven't jumped in years. I think if I tried to jump horses now I'd have to work to find my balance and release timing. Training my horse on the flat is harder for me now, but maybe it's because I have a horse who requires more push and my aging muscles aren't as capable as they once were... I don't know.

                                That was my experience with coming back to riding. It's nice to be back though!

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                                • #36
                                  10,000 hours of practice
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                                  • #37
                                    55 is the new 35! Lol. Joking aside, i see more and more people in their late 40's and beyond who are at a level of fitness not associated with that age even 20 years ago. Laird Hamilton is 55. I'm pretty confident he could get on a horse and be jumping around a 2' course within a lesson or two.

                                    I don't know if anyone touched on the impact of the choice of mount in the equation. My trainer has a horse we call the big baby in on training board. He's massive; 18hh and just turned 5. He is the most in your pocket horse I've ever met. The trainer jokes that he would love nothing more than for you to come hang out in his stall, take a nap together, grill up some hamburgers and crack open a few beers.

                                    His new owner is probably a few years older than me and (IMO) a stronger rider. She's still been having the trainer and the trainer's trainer do a lot of the rides on him thus far. Trainer says she puts her stirrups up a couple holes to ride him. His trot pushes you out of the tack. He once famously got his long legs tangled up going over ground poles and fell in a heap. He occasionally crow hops when excited.

                                    I walked past him tacked up this evening. The seat of a dressage saddle is 18" over my head on this horse. By contrast, I noted as I dismounted that my saddle seat is eye level to my 5'2" on my leased sport bred TB gelding. 5'2" seems high off the ground when he has one of his dressage king moments.I love big horses. But I wouldn't want to ride the big baby until I have the strength of another year of 3-4 x weekly rides under my belt. (Although, i would happily take him home to sit on the couch and drink cocoa and watch HGTV with me.)

                                    Pure dressage barns in my area seem to be full of nervous, very novice adult women riders with monster WB's like this guy. I suppose because they have the money and the famous GP horses tend to be giant WB's. And so they think that's what they need, or trainers are telling them that's what they need. And they've been told WB's are supposed to be quieter. No one thinks to mention to them that riding a super-sized horse requires tremendous strength and balance.

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                                    • #38
                                      So much of it depends on how you define "competent" as well.

                                      I think my husband is a really good example of this. He decided he wanted to take up riding shortly after I started foxhunting and he was able to observe the shenanigans from a truck for a few hunts and decided it looked like even more fun on a horse. I told him before we purchased him a horse (he's a pretty big guy and I ride ponies...so just sharing one of the two hunt ponies we already had was not an option as they were purchased w/ my weight in mind, not his) that he needed to take riding lessons until he could walk/trot/canter and pop over a little jump safely. He did that four and a half years ago and I think has ridden in an arena 3x since then.

                                      He is very safe and reliable on the trail and hunt field on his good mare and was able to ride a few friends' horses well this fall when his mare had to have a brief layup period. He can ride at all gaits, including as fast as his good mare will run and jumps coops up to 2'9'' or so. He has good natural balance and an innate ability to just sit still and quietly even when all h*** is breaking loose around him. Between his natural balance and good mare's schooling, he can ride her on the bit but has no idea he is doing so other than to look over at me across the corn field with a grin on his face and say "Is this a fancy trot?"

                                      In an arena, he tells me he feels utterly incompetent. He's totally mystified by lateral work and has no desire to learn it. However, he regularly rides through situations in the hunt field and on the trail that other riding friends of mine who have been riding for decades longer than he has would just flatly refuse to ever put themselves in.

                                      As far as how long it took for him to be competent at a basic level, I would say within a year he was competent to pretty much be a passenger all over hill and dale while his horse followed my pony with usually 2 days per week of riding, with his horse getting additional schooling/work with either me or a horseless college student friend of mine. About two years in, he started really figuring out he could influence his horse, not just hang on, and has really progressed well since through a combination of trial and error on his own and asking me for help when he gets really stuck. He's generally got good instincts and I now often ask his opinion on green horses, but he still hates riding in the arena and is the first to admit he's not "competent" in that regard!

                                      Comment


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by Wanderosa View Post
                                        .........
                                        Pure dressage barns in my area seem to be full of nervous, very novice adult women riders with monster WB's like this guy. I suppose because they have the money and the famous GP horses tend to be giant WB's. And so they think that's what they need, or trainers are telling them that's what they need. And they've been told WB's are supposed to be quieter. No one thinks to mention to them that riding a super-sized horse requires tremendous strength and balance.
                                        Some trainers select a horse for themselves rather than the right horse for the client who is buying the horse.

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                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by RiderInTheRain View Post
                                          So much of it depends on how you define "competent" as well.

                                          I think my husband is a really good example of this. He decided he wanted to take up riding shortly after I started foxhunting and he was able to observe the shenanigans from a truck for a few hunts and decided it looked like even more fun on a horse. I told him before we purchased him a horse (he's a pretty big guy and I ride ponies...so just sharing one of the two hunt ponies we already had was not an option as they were purchased w/ my weight in mind, not his) that he needed to take riding lessons until he could walk/trot/canter and pop over a little jump safely. He did that four and a half years ago and I think has ridden in an arena 3x since then.

                                          He is very safe and reliable on the trail and hunt field on his good mare and was able to ride a few friends' horses well this fall when his mare had to have a brief layup period. He can ride at all gaits, including as fast as his good mare will run and jumps coops up to 2'9'' or so. He has good natural balance and an innate ability to just sit still and quietly even when all h*** is breaking loose around him. Between his natural balance and good mare's schooling, he can ride her on the bit but has no idea he is doing so other than to look over at me across the corn field with a grin on his face and say "Is this a fancy trot?"

                                          In an arena, he tells me he feels utterly incompetent. He's totally mystified by lateral work and has no desire to learn it. However, he regularly rides through situations in the hunt field and on the trail that other riding friends of mine who have been riding for decades longer than he has would just flatly refuse to ever put themselves in.

                                          As far as how long it took for him to be competent at a basic level, I would say within a year he was competent to pretty much be a passenger all over hill and dale while his horse followed my pony with usually 2 days per week of riding, with his horse getting additional schooling/work with either me or a horseless college student friend of mine. About two years in, he started really figuring out he could influence his horse, not just hang on, and has really progressed well since through a combination of trial and error on his own and asking me for help when he gets really stuck. He's generally got good instincts and I now often ask his opinion on green horses, but he still hates riding in the arena and is the first to admit he's not "competent" in that regard!
                                          I had a thought at least somewhat along those lines, about how ranch kids learned to ride back in the day. At some point (possibly early elementary age) someone would put them up on a "gentle" ranch horse in a pen, with or without a saddle, and the kid was supposed to start riding. A few tips would be shouted at them such as "kick him! make him go!" . If the horse got a bit nervous and started powering around the pen while the kid clung in terror to the horn or the mane or whatever they could reach, a supervising grownup would be bellowing "Sit Up and Ride That Horse!" Somehow those kids quickly learned to be tough and effective riders. They figured out what riding techniques worked the best, which is another way of saying that their survival instinct kicked in. And most learned pretty quickly and were out with the ranch hands before too long - even if they were still having some hairy moments.

                                          That was another era, though, when kids had strong bodies and good balance just from doing whatever they did outside all day (or when they weren't in school). They were also around horses every day, which helps mastery come much sooner than just one or a few times a week.

                                          There's something to be said for those who learn to ride because they want to be out there having adventures in the woods and fields, on a horse, and who figure it out as they go.

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