Learning to ride requires developing muscle memory and strength, as well as learning new skills. When children learn to ride a bicycle they usually start out learning on a tricycle. They peddle around on their trike or hot wheels banging into things and staying on a relatively safe base. Normally they have daily access to their trike, riding it until their heart’s content.
When it’s time to move up to a two wheeler, parents make sure it’s the right size for the child, not too big. They deck the child out with a helmet and the right shoes, and the two wheeler is equipped with training wheels. Some children adapt quickly to the new freedom found on 2 wheels and progress quickly toward the day that the trainers can be removed. Other children take longer to learn to balance and control the direction of their new bike. One day the parent removes one of the training wheels. This gives the child opportunities to balance without totally being on two wheels.Then comes they day that Mom or Dad takes that last wheel off and steadies the bike as their child balances riding down the side walk. At the appropriate time the parent lets go of the bike and watches the child sail away on their own for the very first time. Some children sail on as if they’d just sprouted wings, while others crash and burn and have to take a few steps backwards in their progress. Over the next several years the child moves from a smaller bike to a larger one, always learning; graduating from foot brakes to hand brakes and 10 or 12 different gears. They move from the sidewalk to the street to the dirt- until one day it seems like they’ve always known how to ride a bike, no matter how many difficulties they had at the start.
If a horse was like a bike, I would still tell you that everyone is different and we each learn at our own rate of speed. The process is not so different. The rider should start on a size appropriate animal that is suitable for a beginner and work their way up to larger horses suited for more advanced riders. But this is where the similarities cease.
The horse adds a complexity to the process because he is a living being, while the bike is not. Horses are emotional creatures with an abundance of varying personalities. They have likes and dislikes, good days and bad days just like people. And few horses speak the human language. When learning to ride the rider has to develop the ability to communicate with the horse who may not always have the same goal, doesn’t speak the same language, and one who doesn’t start and stop by pushing pedals. The rider must develop a relationship with the horse in order to succeed at riding. Riding horses involves lots of relationships; with the horse, with the instructor, with other kids and their horses, with your surroundings… These are the same kinds of relationships that need to be developed in order to be a successful member of the community.
No one ever learns everything about riding. Part of the excitement with riding is that you can keep growing for your entire life. When you’ve learned enough to participate in the things you want to do. . . depends on what you want to do!
The length of time it takes to learn to ride boils down to who you are, your goals, and how much time you’re willing to invest. An adult can learn to ride a quiet horse on trails in 6 months, opening the door for a lifetime of enjoyable rides. Learning to ride a green horse on trails? Learning to jump, rein, dressage, event, train, compete or anything else that goes beyond the basics? Learning to care for a horse of your own? All of that depends on how “good” you want to become at your skills. If you’re like many of us, it’ll take a lifetime (plus some) from the first time you put your foot in the stirrup until you reach your goal. But it’s a good ride; one that is worth all the effort.
While the question has no specific answer, if you’re visiting the FSH web site and would like to start your journey in riding, you’ve come to the right place. We are well trained and equipped to help you or your child define and achieve your goals. Give me a call or send an email and we’ll arrange time for a visit.
Fox School of Horsemanship