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5 Tips for Returning to Riding as an Adult

Lots of grown-ups are finding the joy in learning how to ride or returning to horses after an absence. You can too!

By Julia Arnold | October 14, 2015

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Western Riding Lesson
Riding lessons aren't just for kids! There are countless benefits to getting involved in horses as an adult, whether you're a former horse-crazy kid or brand new to the equestrian world.

One year ago, I was finally willing to risk embarrassing myself by getting on a horse almost 20 years after I had taken lessons as a young girl.

Just how foolish will I look next to a bunch of 8 year olds? Do adult lessons even exist? What is the time commitment? I wondered.

Sound familiar? Maybe you took lessons when you were 10 years old, or your best childhood friend was an equestrian, and you always envied her a bit. Perhaps you went on a trail ride during vacation, and now you want more.

The dilemma as a grown-up can be how exactly to 'get back in the saddle,' whether you have experience with horses, or you have harbored little more than a longstanding dream of riding.

It can be done.

It's been an interesting, challenging, and incredibly fun ride to rediscover and develop my riding skills as an adult, and I'm sharing five tips to encourage other aspiring equestrians to follow suit, so Giddy Up!

1. Do your research.

I scoured the Internet. I asked my friends. I posted questions on Facebook. I slowly compiled a list of potential riding centers and inquired about beginner lessons for adults. You can tell a lot about a stable simply by speaking with the manager over the phone. The more welcoming they sound to newcomers, the better.

Get more advice on finding the right riding lesson program for you >>

2. Don't commit immediately.

Try one stable and see if you're comfortable there. Do they offer the discipline you're interested in? Do you like the instructors? Will other adults be in your group? If you aren't in love with the barn, instruction, the type of lesson horses used, or anything else, it is perfectly reasonable to try others until you find that perfect fit.

I first started at a center that only focused on western training. While it was a nice re-introduction for me, I decided to keep looking until I found a place whose instructors specialize in a variety of riding disciplines. It may take some time and exploration, but finding your ideal riding center is worth the effort in the long run.

3. Make time.

One of the toughest hurdles as an adult looking to cultivate a hobby is making time to do so. Adults have a constant stream of commitments, whether it's a career, family, community obligations, or all of the above.

Mark your riding time on the calendar; if you treat it like an appointment you can't miss, you're more likely to stick with it.

For me, a weekly Saturday afternoon lesson is perfect; my husband can spend time with our children, and I can be away from the house for a bit. For others, it may be one evening after work or an early Sunday morning. Committing to a routine and making it a habit will improve your riding skills and your familiarity with the barn, horses, and fellow riders.

Western Riding Lesson
The author at one of her early lessons as an adult re-rider.

4. Cultivate horsey friendships.

Horse people get it. They are the people who understand the simple joy of grooming a horse or improving your posting trot. They know the fun of splurging on a new pair of boots or attending a horse show.

Find a few friends where you end up riding, or try volunteering at a horse non-profit to meet likeminded people. I met several good friends who share my passion for all things horse-related when I volunteered at an equine therapy program. Your horse pals will be the ones who will keep you motivated on your new equestrian journey.

5 reasons why horse friends are the best friends >>

5. When in doubt, trail ride.

If you're still unsure where to begin, sign up for a guided trail ride with a riding facility in your area. It'll spark your interest, reintroduce you to the joy of riding, and give you the confidence you need to get back on that saddle for good!


Julia Arnold is a writer living in Minnesota with her husband and two young children. She has always loved horses and is thrilled to have officially rejoined the horse world as an adult. She rides whenever she can at Hardwood Creek Farm in Hugo, Minnesota. You can follow her adventures in riding and parenting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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5 Tips for Returning to Riding as an Adult

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Reader Comments

Jen    International

10/1/2016 6:49:24 AM

As a retired teacher, mid-50s, I took up riding 6 weeks ago after almost 40 years out of the saddle. I'm still in pretty good shape but I expected to be treated like a newbie and, despite one or two misgivings, I am feeling quite confident that I can pick it up again. I own that I am not up to date on riding techniques and a number of things have changed about how one maintains a strong seat from when I learned, it's true. However, what I didn't count on is the kind of insecurity of the adult coaches (and I've tried two so far) about an adult being around horses. They are reluctant to let you lead the horse, tack up the horse, turn the horse out in the field, even groom. These are all things I remember well and could hardly screw up even if I were wrong with a little supervision first time around.. Their caution is understandable when it's not my horse but it doesn't help with self-confidence to be constantly corrected, patronized with long lectures, and never --- I mean NEVER-- encouraged, both on the ground as well as on the horse! As a teacher, and an art teacher at that, not all my kids were skillful artists but I always tried to find something to encourage them. It wasn't that hard. These days, I am feeling my age with this activity only because I am constantly on guard to remain humble and ignorant and never overstep. The fact that I seem to do nothing right, after sitting waiting for my lesson and listening to younger riders get at least a little positive feedback, is very discouraging! Adults are a different breed from kids.They come with a lifetime of experience and professionalism. It's unfortunate that some instructors can't respect this and offer a little encouragement once in a while! Just sayin'!

Karen    Batesburg, SC

1/22/2016 7:32:37 AM

I had mini horses/donkey's for a few years. Large horses as a child but I never learned to ride. I mentioned to my husband that one day I wanted to learn to ride a big horse and own one. He took it upon himself to get me a horse riding lesson. I kept saying one day. He told the instructor I was old as dirt, because I kept saying that to him about learning to ride. I'm 50! Needless to say the instructor said she was old as dirt too! She was 50 and very informative. This has been a fun conversation for us. I found out as soon as I put my feet in the stir ups that the love I had for horses was also a love I had in riding them. I now own a "big" horse too! My instructor helped my husband find me a big horse one that fit my level for my Christmas present and even arranged for me to ride her before I was presented with her as a gift. Needless to say you are never too old to finally do something that you long to do! I do not regret it one bit!

Diane    Manchester, NJ

1/6/2016 4:36:03 PM

I've attended Kenny Harlow's Learning for Older Ladies riding"LOL" Learning for Older Ladies:
LINK
Open to Woman 45 years and Older
Price: $850.00
Deposit Required:$250.00
April 28th-May 1st
September 15th-18th clinic at his Cedar Run Ranch in Cumberland, VA - it gets you back in the game :)

Barb    Daphne, AL

1/6/2016 7:02:54 AM

I haven't ridden for the last ten years after I sold my horses and the farm. (Kept my favorite saddle and bridle.) I look enviously at the riding stables every time I pass them by. Your article encourages me to get back in the saddle. Even though the place I live has a stable, I can't afford to own a horse, but I could afford an hour ride once a month when I receive my Social Security check. Thank you for your encouragement!

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