Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Teenaged Teacher

Happy New Year! I hope everyone's is off to a good start. I think I may have broken my previous record for the amount of food and alcohol consumed over the last 10 days. I am looking forward to being back at work so that my body can detox!

Until last night, I hadn't had a lesson since the beginning of December and weather impacted riding regularly through the month of December. However, I did manage to get in a couple of short rides and one grooming session over the holidays.

My rides have been OK. It has been busy in the arena and I sometimes found it difficult to get a rhythm; there were a lot of start stops because of reduced space in which to work. I managed to get up to a lope a couple of times on Sunday - the first time in a month! - but was unable to keep it up for a complete circle of the arena. It amazes me that my body so quickly forgets what it's like to ride. I was actually nervous loping. A month ago, my goal of loping around the arena twice, controlled and balanced, was in reach. Now, it seems, not so much. I have to admit that I have missed my lessons! I missed the discipline and having someone push me. I think Gem missed them, too. Our last few rides have been sort of.....aimless.

Gem has a new neighbour one stall down from him. Rusty is a lovely quarter horse who became A.'s companion about a year ago. A. and I were grooming together last week and I had the opportunity to get to know her better. She's been riding since she was 7 years old, and started to compete in jumping at 9. She decided that she had had enough with competing. It was time consuming, she found it stressful, it was no longer fun for her. She felt burnt 15 years of age! Her parents supported her decision and Rusty was purchased for A. as an all purpose companion. He is well trained and he jumps. A. enjoys him.

I told A. that Gem and I had been together for just over 18 months and that I had been taking weekly lessons for just over 2 years. She looked at me and said "Shouldn't you know how to ride after taking lessons for that long?" Out of the mouths of babes.....sigh.

Now, I have to admit that the response that came to my mind first was not all that kind. :-) With A. being a jumper person, the second thought that came to mind was my one and only jump on Gem. Based on that experience, I said that learning to ride when you are older than her mother (yikes!!) can be hard on the body and a bit scary. When you are older, your body doesn't always cooperate. I told her that she had the advantage of starting young, with the size of her horses matching her physically as she grew. Her body automatically knows how to bend and wrap around a horse; mine takes a bit more effort and it's still not completely natural to me yet. I was pleased with her response; "It's great that you are trying it."

During the drive home, I thought about her comment. Taking weekly lessons for 2 years DOES seem like a long time! Will I ever get this??? After lesson last night, we went for our usual beer and burgers and I told my riding buddies what A. said to me. Jean and CA said, almost at the same time, "What are you talking about? You do know how to ride! You are improving your skills and confidence through lessons." RB added, "every rider I know takes at least occasional lessons or clinics....including LA!" I felt better. :-)

So, I guess I am going to be a student for a while yet. :-) Come to think of it, My Husband takes lessons and boot camps for golf regularly....and he's been golfing for 30 years. When I partnered up with Gem, it never occurred to me NOT to take lessons. A.'s comment has made me really think. Yes, lessons are a good thing for me, but based on my aimless rides with Gem over the past month, am I too dependent on lessons to feel like I accomplished anything? Do I need to learn to be more independent? Perhaps a long-term goal for me should be working towards achieving the status of "occasional lesson taker". I am going to approach my rides outside of lessons with a bit more discipline and with a plan in mind. A.'s comment will stay with me, but in a positive way. Can a 15-year old influence change in my middle-aged life.....I guess so!

What was I thinking.....?


  1. Taking lessons isn't a bad thing, it's a good thing. All of us, no matter how long we've been riding, need a good set of eyes to watch us, and some good advice, from time to time, or more frequently if we've been riding for a shorter time. Take as many lessons as you can, for as long as you can, is my advice - it isn't at all a sign that you don't know how to ride. I'm taking two horses to a 3-day Mark Rashid clinic in May, and there's certainly a good bit I need help with.

  2. With riding, you never stop learning. I read once about learning to speak English: it's an easy language to learn to speak poorly. I think the same is true of riding. We never stop learning. If I could take 2 lessons a week I would do it in a heart beat. I have to make do with twice a month and I ache for more. Even Olympic competitors take lessons with trainers regularly. We all need eyes on the ground. We all need help (in my case, the more I learn, the more I realize how much I still need to learn). Keep it up!

  3. Geez, tough crowd. I would have never said something like that! How old is she, 16?! What does she!

    I love taking lessons on my horse. If I had the money I'd ride with my instructor every day! I feel like I accomplish so much in just that little bit of time I'm riding...It's good to have someone tell you what you're doing right and what to work on...There's nothing wrong with taking lessons! Just because you take them, doesn't mean you can't ride...Ignore A's comment, it's smartie pants comments from teenagers like her that make people not take me seriously...Plus, us teenagers just can't help ourselves sometimes...

  4. Well, I'm sure she's a nice girl, but a statement like that just kind of shows her ignorance:) Olympic riders still take lessons, for cripes sake! I would jump at the chance to take lessons even a couple times a month right now.
    Horses will make you humble in a hurry-if she doesn't know that yet she will:)

  5. I'm around A.'s age, and I still take lessons. I've been riding since I was 5, took horse camps for three years, private lessons for another three years, and the past year and a half I've been on my own. I still get an occasional lesson and they're like a drink of water after being parched. I enjoy lessons because they're an easy, relaxed setting in which someone else can tell me what I'm doing wrong and help me correct it. I love lessons, and wish I could take them more often. Don't feel like you shouldn't be taking lessons,.. everyone needs them sometimes. Don't give up!

  6. Ummm Ive been taking lessons on and off for 21 years, and I still think I dont know enough! There is always a new way to aproach somthing, or a new horse to find new buttons on.

    Im impressed that A knows everything at such a young age, however didnt we all back then?

  7. That's the problem with being 15, you think you know everything when you decidedly don't.

    I wouldn't worry about your rides outside of lessons feeling aimless, but if it really bothers you could ask for homework during your next lesson.

    Frankly you don't know enough to make your rides outside of lessons feel "useful," and I only feel comfortable saying that because I don't know enough to do that and I've been riding for 25+ years (so please don't take that harshly because I don't mean it that way). That's why I now take lessons from two different trainers, one to learn how to jump and the other to learn how to train my horses correctly.

    Someday that 15 year old will figure out the same thing. Rest assured that when she does she'll feel awful for saying that to you.

  8. Good afternoon!!

    Kate - I really do think I am the kind of person that needs the structure of lessons. I know they are good for me and Gem, but her comment just took a little nick out of my confidence.

    Annette - Love that quote..."English: it's an easy language to learn to speak poorly." RB pointed out the same thing...that even our instructor needs lessons. :-)

    Mare - I appreciate your support. I think lessons are good for Gem, too. It helps us connect.

    Sarah - I was taken aback with her bluntness. But, I am thinking that she's still feeling a bit negative about the whole riding thing because of being burnt out from competing.

    Gabriella - I, too, appreciate having an experienced eye on me. I actually look forward to my lessons.

    JPS - Nice to see that you are still enjoying and benefiting from lessons after 21 years. I don't know about you, but I knew EVERYTHING when I was 15. :-)

    Shannon - Homework is an excellent suggestion. I never thought to actually ask. No offense taken re "useful" comment. I think that asking for homework and having that to focus on will definitely help put a bit of structure in my rides.

  9. Wolfie:

    I took weekly lessons from the time i was 5 until i was 17. I'm now 31, don't ride every day, and have not had a lesson since then.

    HOWEVER, that doesn't mean that when i get my next horse i WONT take lessons. On the contrary! I NEED lessons to be able to progress further than I am now!

    I am a dressage rider, and as a young rider/young adult rode at the PSG level. Now, i'm quite unfit and couldn't get a canter pirouette if my life depended on it.

    Lessons help your body learn what "correct" feels like, and once you have the muscle memory, it will always be there. It's MUCH harder for adults to get the muscle memory that kids have naturally, because they're growing when they learn it. They just incorporate it into their growth.

    So don't take offense, she doesn't get that it's more difficult for you to retain muscle memory as an adult.

    Keep up your lessons and enjoy them!

    And A will need lessons again, especially when her horse gets bad habits bc she hasn't had them.


  10. Hi Jamie! Thanks for stopping by. I totally understand what you mean by muscle memory. It's only been in the last year that it feels comfortable to sit on my guy. I still have balance issues, but it's getting better. :-)

  11. I always think that perhaps I should board my horse during the winter months & take lessons from an in-house trainer. I am such a wuss about cold weather... not sure I would follow thru. Have to think about it.

    I love taking lessons when I have. Wish it were more convenient for me.

  12. Hi Tammy! Now that you mention it, we do have "winter" boarders where I am. They take advantage of the arena and participate in the clinics.

  13. I think a comment like that is rather revealing. And not to her advantage, but I guess it has something to do with her age (having a daughter of 16 myself)

    All of the world's best riders have a trainer.

    I have been riding for over 40 years, and I ride for my trainers once or twice a week. I want to improve myself, and the best way to do that is to have someone to help you.

    It is not about how to learn to ride, it is about how to ride BETTER!

  14. Hello HoC! That is exactly what my riding mates were reminding me of. Lessons help me with my confidence and technique. When I went into riding, my budget was based on always taking lessons. :-)