My non-horsey friends are often amazed to find out that I still take riding lessons. After all, I’ve been riding for 20 years, so surely I’m an expert by now!
I understand their surprise – and I’ve certainly invested more than enough time and money in the pursuit – but it’s safe to say that there’s always room to improve.
I’ve recently been struggling with my horse striking off on the wrong leg into canter on the right rein, a problem that’s never occurred before.
Paranoid (as always), I got my horse a full MOT, checking his teeth, back and saddle. With a clean bill of health confirmed, and the bank of excuses emptied, I opted to take what was my first dressage lesson since buying my new horse.
I was praying a solution would be found!
That dressage lesson proved to be a light bulb moment. Irrespective of your riding experience, the importance of someone on the ground helping you can’t be overstated.
Here are my reasons why.
On the ground people see more than you will on your horse
It seems obvious to point out, but as a rider, you can only see a small section of your horse – and even less if you’re looking down all the time to check your hands.
Instead, you’re reliant on your feel, knowledge and past experience. But this means you need to know what feeling you’re trying to achieve, and importantly, what buttons to push in order to get there!
Someone experienced on the ground, who can see everything that’s going on, makes the perfect guide for just that.
Perhaps your hands are too high, your inside leg is too far back, you’re going too slow, you’re going too fast, or you lack control and need to half halt, half halt, stop!
Riding lessons are the perfect place to receive the feedback you need, under the watchful eye of someone who is qualified to give it.
Instructors can teach all types of horses and riders
Experience counts for a lot in most parts of life, and riding is no different. Instructors always have an impressive number of hours under their belt, teaching people of different abilities and disciplines, and tweaking solutions to solve common problems in a way that suits each individual.
Utilise websites of trustworthy organisations like The British Horse Society, to help find an experienced riding instructor who will suit you and your horse’s needs.
No doubt your new instructor will have spent thousands of hours teaching people how to improve their horse’s collected canter, straightness in trot, or downward transitions.
Don’t spend hours banging your head against the wall, simply repeating advice found on a H&H forum or in the Pony Club Manual, inwardly weeping when it still doesn’t work.
Instead, find a riding instructor who has knowledge about your issue, and benefit from their years of expertise. It might save you a lot of sleepless nights, not to mention frantic Googling for new ideas.
Riders develop bad habits
Like driving a car, whether you’ve been riding horses for two months or 20 years, you still can fall into bad habits.
We all subconsciously gravitate towards the easiest solution to any problem, even more so when life is busy and we’ve got other worries on our minds.
Without a riding instructor to nip them in the bud, these bad habits can cause more harm than good in the long run.
I’ve experienced this myself and focused too much on my horse’s front end, forgetting that the most important parts are those underneath and behind me!
My instructor and I are now unpicking my bad habits together, improving both my riding, and my partnership with my horse.
You don’t always know you’re sending your horse the wrong signals
These bad habits we all develop happen for a reason: sometimes they work, at least in the short-term!
Without an instructor on the ground, it can be difficult to identify that you’re doing something wrong.
This was my problem.
When I faced my issue in canter on the wrong leg, it was something my horse had never done before. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t for a second think it was my riding – after all, I’ve been in the saddle for over 20 years!
In actual fact, it was all me! I was sending the wrong signals to my horse without any idea about it, until my instructor identified the problem.
All that said, if you can afford the cost of riding lessons, they’re definitely worth the investment.
A good riding instructor will push you and your horse to be even better than before. Your inner Charlotte might be itching to piaffe down the centre line, all you need is a push in the right direction!
I take weekly lessons, and I love the progress I make with my horse – it’s even more fun than competing. When we hit three or four strides where everything clicks, it feels amazing.
My only wish is that I could ride like that all the time. I never have a better session than with my now beloved instructor!