Weekly lessons are often the most practical option for the majority of people. However, sometimes it seems like a week between rides is a long time to remember everything from your prior lesson. For those who take lessons even less frequently, it is even harder to retain what you learn in your lessons during the time between. Here are a few pointers for getting the most out of your lessons:

  • Take notes! While it may sound silly, actually writing down or typing out a list of the things you worked on in a lesson can help jog your memory. This is something that has helped me, especially while reflecting on what I learned after a particularly demanding lesson
  • Ask questions! If you don't understand something, speak up! Sometimes as instructors, we take your knowledge of something for granted. Learning how to ride well is a process that develops from the ground up and without understanding something fundamental, you will have a hard time building upon that concept.
  • Keep it simple! Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by over thinking whatever you are working on with your instructor. Often, we can apply the same basic principles over and over when we ride. Repetition is key to learning. For example, once you have learned a leg yield at the walk, it is very similar process to learn the maneuver at the trot.
  • Be consistent! Everyone has weeks where life can get in the way of your riding lessons, but the only way to get better is to practice. Riding lessons can be very similar to learning in a classroom in this respect. If you take an algebra lesson, then don"t do any math for a month, you are probably going to have to do some reviewing to get back up to speed.
  • Be patient! Riding horses is as much about understanding the "how" and "why" as it is about learning the timing and feel of your horse. Even though you understand a concept, you are still going to have to learn how to execute it well. Develop a trusting relationship with the horse you ride and the instructor you ride with. Having a healthy and positive environment when you ride will set you up for success!

“We spend the first eighteen months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next eighteen years telling them to sit down and shut up.”
-Phyllis Diller

In today's fast-paced, hectic world we sometimes get so busy that we become disconnected from the things that truly make us happy. We use the internet, video gaming, and other impersonal gadgets to both juggle all the myriad things we are responsible for, and to sometimes “tune out” from our hectic lives. In doing so, we often miss out on opportunities to have more meaningful personal relationships.

Horses provide the perfect medium to develop this type of one-on-one relationship. They inspire a sense of confidence and capability in children; teach them responsibility; help them get in touch with their own sense of individuality; help them develop communicative skills; and help people of any age redefine the importance of these qualities in their lives. Horses allow us a chance to relate to another living being in a way that we might never have thought possible. This, in turn, brings out the best and most unique qualities in us. The physical, mental, and emotional challenges of riding horses allow us to develop into more compassionate, patient, and generally happy human beings. These qualities can in turn improve every other aspect of our lives, and the way we relate to other people too.

Once beginner riders become confident in the fundamentals of horseback riding, they begin to ask themselves, “Now what? Where do I go from here?” Many riders will choose a specific horseback riding discipline they are interested in and build on their basic foundation work to develop new skills in that particular type of riding. For example: someone interested in roping would begin adding rope-work to their lessons, on top of learning how to be an effective rider.

There are several things to keep in mind as you begin to think about what area of riding to specialize in. First, you should think about how much time and effort you want to put into your riding. Think about whether or not your goals will necessitate you buying your own horse and equipment, and whether or not you want to regularly compete in shows off-premises. Both of these things require a large time and financial commitment compared to continuing your lessons with a lesson horse. Another thing to consider is your own unique personality and the type of ride you prefer to have. For example, if you are someone who prefers riding to be relaxing and slow-paced, you would probably do better with trail riding or western pleasure than with a high-speed/high-impact event such as cross country or show jumping.

There are many different resources available to you as you begin to learn about the different breed associations and types of riding. One is to simply speak with your instructor or trainer. Usually, they will have some insight to offer you about what type of riding might suit you, based on your goals as a rider, your personality, and your current riding level. Another resource is the internet. Many horse breeds have a breed association website, and most riding disciplines will also have an official website with photographs, videos, and all kinds of information for new and existing members.

Riding is a highly specialized sport and some unique clothing items have been developed expressly to help the rider maximize their performance. Some basic items that each riding student should acquire include:

Western Lessons: Lace up or roper style (rounded toe) pull on boots are preferred. Good brands include Ariat, Justin or Double H. Boots may be purchased locally from Nigro’s Western Wear in Shawnee, KS or online at places like www.zappos.com or www.ebay.com. Please do not wear hiking boots, or any boot with a thick sole, a lug sole or a high heel.

English Lessons: Most riders choose jodhpur or “jod” boots. These boots are available in leather or composite materials, cover the ankle and lace up. Jod boots are also versatile enough to be used for Western lessons. Tall field boots or dress boots are also acceptable but are more expensive, sometimes not as comfortable and are really only necessary as a rider prepares to show. Some local tack stores carry jod boots including CM Tack in Shawnee, KS and Horse Hardware in Stanley, KS. Both stores carry some used items, which is a great alternative for growing children.

Western Lessons: Jeans are preferred for all western lessons. Wrangler Jeans are specifically designed for riding but most other brands are an acceptable substitute. Please do not wear bell bottoms. Also, please do not wear knit pants or tights which can be slick to ride in. Wrangler jeans may also be purchased at Nigro’s or on-line.

English Lessons: Each student should purchase breeches from the stores recommended above. Breeches are designed without seams on the inside of the rider’s leg, so they will not rub the inside of the rider’s leg as jeans can do. Breeches also have a suede patch on the inside of the knee and lower leg which helps the rider maintain lower leg contact while riding.