Riding a horse looks so simple that you shouldn’t need formal lessons, right? Actually, while it may be easy to fall off a horse, staying on is a bit trickier. Staying on and looking good is even harder. Few people can manage all of the intricacies of horseback riding without lessons.
One of the worst things you can do if you want to show horses is to try to teach yourself to ride. Without even realizing it, you may be sitting on your horse the wrong way, holding the reins wrong or using poor posture. By the time you decide to take formal lessons, these behaviors may be so ingrained that you won’t be able to learn the correct way to ride a horse without taking many hours of remedial training. Even worse, you may have an experience that puts you off horseback riding forever, such as being knocked off a runaway horse by a low hanging tree branch or having a horse buck you off, just because you don’t know what to do when different situations occur.
If you can’t afford formal lessons, you may be considering taking lessons from a friend or neighbor. If you do take lessons from someone who doesn’t have a lot of teaching experience, you may learn how to control your horse and you will learn a bit more than you would if you tried to teach yourself. However, if you are serious about competing, taking lessons from someone who doesn’t have teaching experience is almost as bad as not taking lessons at all. This is because these people may be able to teach you how to ride for fun, but they may not be able to spot the little things that you are doing wrong that count in the show ring.
When you take formal lessons, your instructor may spend what seems like forever on the most boring exercises, like learning to use the reins to turn your horse or posting without using stirrups, when all you want to learn is how to ride like the wind. However, all of these seemingly endless drills are the stepping stones that enable you to become a skilled and graceful rider.
Even if you don’t take lessons to learn basic horseback riding, you should not try more advanced skills, like jumping, without taking formal lessons. Jumping is dangerous even for skilled riders and people with plenty of experience can have fluke accidents when they are jumping. Make sure you listen closely to what your instructor has to say and be sure that you don’t try jumping outside of class until you are truly ready to do so.
If you enjoy learning to perfect the way you ride your horse and you like competing in events, you may want to take even more lessons. Dressage is a complicated and intricate form of horseback riding that requires a great deal of professional training for both the horse and rider. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with learning to ride so you can spend a long summer day riding through the woods, either.