by Rachel Fitzmorris, BHSAI

I’ll divide  this article into three sections, riding lessons for younger  kids, lessons for beginners, and lessons for intermediate and up. One thing is true for all to be aware of the weather  conditions and dress accordingly! Also be sure to arrive in  plenty of time.

Lessons  for Kids

Firstly you do not need to purchase tons of  new riding gear! We can supply a helmet for the first couple of lessons. After that we ask that you purchase an SEI/ASTM  certified helmet. Jeans or sweat pants are fine. Gloves are recommended for all seasons. A pair of boots with a small heel  are a must. Avoid flappy long coats! Sneakers are dangerous  because the foot can slide right through the stirrup. If your child wants to ride English we recommend that you invest in a pair of half-chaps to protect the legs from chafing.

It’s a good  idea to tie log hair in a LOW ponytail. Otherwise the helmet won’t fit! Girls should leave dangly jewellery at home,  especially ear-rings which can get caught in the helmet.

It’s fine  for you to stay and watch the lesson; most kids have no problem listening to the instructor, rather than showing off to mom!  If the child is very young we’d prefer that you  stay. We encourage the kids to learn grooming and saddling, so  part of each lesson will be spent on developing these  important skills.

Lessons  for Adult Beginners

Rachel and Nola are both experienced in teaching nervous/and or older riders. We are  unfailingly sympathetic and gentle! This being said, our  clients make rapid progress. Again, a helmet, gloves and boots are essential. It helps to wear closer fitting clothing so we can actually see your upper body position! We encourage  clients who ultimately want to trail ride to take lessons out  on the trail once they have the basics down. Early lessons  focus on body position and application of the aids for riding.  It usually takes around eight sessions to build up to cantering, but this depends on the individual. Some folks are  happy just going slow and steady!

Here are a few tips  on how to kick start your lessons. The biggest tip is get real  about fear. Practice positive thinking on the way to the lesson and develop a routine to keep yourself calm. Many people carry their day to day stresses onto the horses’ back.  They tell us they can’t ride well today because such and such  happened at home! We also meet a lot of folks who tend to give up and let the horse constantly stop or come into the middle  when the going gets tough. This one is simple to me. You’ve paid the money to ride the horse so make him earn his oats.  It’s all about FOCUS! Your legs will get tired the first  couple of lessons, but this gets easier as your muscle memory  improves. Don’t forget, riding is not about strength, it’s about balance and technique.

My biggest practical tips are keep your eyes and upper body up  and focus on where you are going. Keep your joints soft and  your feet down, down down!

More Advanced Riders

As you advance it helps to give  yourself a goal. It could be “I want to ride in the  Olympics” or it could be “I want to be able to jump in  better style and balance.” Goal setting then gets broken down into steps. For instance read as many articles and books on riding and jumping as you can. Go watch a horse show or clinic and copy the riders you like. Take some lessons without  stirrups or on the lunge to strengthen your seat. Ride different horses and try something new. Shorten your stirrups, jump without reins, close your eyes!

It’s important to share with your instructor just what it is that you want to do. If your goal is showing then you need to make  sure you have some self discipline so that you are ready.

A  good tip for advanced lessons is to try and improve you and your horse every ride. The best riders never coast around the  ring showing off or feeling smug. They’re always working on  something, softening the horse, getting better flying changes, or lateral work for strengthening.

For  more information on this and other articlesl, email Nola Keill  at: nola@ro-noranch.com