It’s hard being a novice — particularly if you’ve got horsey friends who just seem effortlessly good at it. But nothing in equestrian life is effortless — and if you asked your friends, they’d give you the following advice…
1. Hours in the saddle are what really counts. If you can afford expensive riding lessons with a great trainer, then wonderful — but the truth is that if you want to be able to ride, and ride well, you need to ride a lot.
2. Everything is easier when you are confident. Easier said than done, perhaps, but don’t rush learning to ride, don’t over-face yourself (or your horse) and your confidence will soon start to soar.
3. Be clear about what you’re asking your horse to do. That doesn’t mean getting angry and aggressive — of course it’s never a good idea to get into an argument with a beast that’s at least five times heavier than you are — but they need to know exactly what you want from them. Don’t let him off the hook just because he might not want to do it. You may think you’re being ‘nice’ but your horse just feels uncertain about what he’s supposed to do, and that’s not fair on him.
4. You don’t need loads of expensive kit. So long as you have the basics in place, you’re good to go.
5. All riding instructors teach slightly differently. Equally, some riders thrive on being bossed around, whereas others prefer gentle encouragement. If you’re unhappy with the way you’re being taught, or aren’t enjoying your lessons, then try a different instructor. It’s no reflection on either of you if it doesn’t work out.
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6. Learning to ride is a bit like learning to drive. You think you know what you’re doing until you have to do it on your own for the first time. That first hack is like your first drive without an instructor, and just as intimidating…
7. You will never stop learning. Initially, everything feels incredibly weird — unsurprisingly, as you’re forcing your body to do something that perhaps doesn’t come naturally. Learning to sit to the canter, to ride with a contact, to keep your hands and legs still and in the right position ALL AT THE SAME TIME seems like an impossible dream when you start riding. And when you achieve it, you don’t reach that place where you’re just cantering effortlessly up a beach with the wind in your hair, executing half-passes for the fun of it. No, that’s the stuff of fairy tales. In real life, there is always something to work on. You’ll never feel like Charlotte Dujardin. Even Charlotte Dujardin doesn’t feel like Charlotte Dujardin (probably)?!