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Riding Lesson
I decided while I am saddleless I will start taking riding lessons. I met someone over the phone who is CHA certified and sounded just like what I was looking for. I went out met her, watched her give a beginner teen a lesson and thought I would give her a try.

I want to work on my balance and confidence.

I had my first lesson yesterday and I am going to take another one next week, but I don't know if she is advanced enough to deal with me.
I am trying to keep an open mind, but I felt like a little kid beginner, not an adult intermediate.

She said that she just wanted to see what I know, and she closely supervised me; open the pasture gate, put on the halter (corrected my method) [Tongue] how I led the horse and tied her to hitching post, spent quite a bit of time on the quick release knot and then stood back and let me groom the mare without corrections.

When I put the saddle pad on she stopped me and said I put it on right, but did I know WHY I put it on right? Well gee cuz thats where it goes? She placed her hand in between the pad's end and the horses hip and said that is how you correctly fit a pad. I pointed out that I was more worried about where I placed it on her withers...but hey right is right...right? I had not heard that bit of wisdom before.

The horse I am getting ready to ride is the same horse I saw being used in the lesson when I first came out to meet her. During THAT lesson I noticed this horse squinting and stumbling. More about that later.

I saddled her uneventfully and put the reins onto her halter, and led her to the outdoor arena. After walking her then tightening the girth I got on this 24 year old mare and we walked, went through the cones in the center of the arena and walked the perimeter of the arena against the rail. She stumbled badly in the same spot I saw her stumble with the young teenage girl. The instructor said the same thing to me that she did to the girl "It's okay horses stumble just like us" (I though not while I am riding them, unh hunh"!) So we avoided the low spot where she stumbled from then out and she was okay. I felt a bit apprehensive about her stability but stayed on.

I have always been taught/told that there is a line from the bit to the elbow and it should be straight without tension. I was told I had to much rein (we were riding western but direct reining) and to let it out. That was hard for me.

She said I also pull back too hard when stopping. I felt that because I had such a loose rein I had to really scramble my hands around in order to get the slack out enough to pull back.

We eventually were asked to trot twice around the arena, which is about 40 feet wide and 80 feet long. Then the lesson ended and I took the saddle off and put that away.

When I brought the mare into the barn I asked her about the squinty eye and was told she had an infection previously and it was bothering her again so she was on 2 different eye meds. I asked if one of them was Atropine and she said yes. I told her I felt terrible that I had ridden the mare in the full sun with a dilated pupil! I kinda laid a guilt trip on her about how painful it is when we get our pupils dilated for an eye exam etc.. and she said she would use a fly mask on her in lessons from then on.

This mare was retired as a lesson horse from a riding school because of lameness. I am kinda thinking she should stay 'retired'.

Next week I am going to try a 24 year old gelding who is retired from the police force and I am hoping that from that lesson I can decide if this instructor can challenge me. I don't know if she has an accurate idea of my ability from just walking and trotting.

She did say she would come out and give me a lesson on Joe for 25 dollars an hour. I thought that was darn reasonable.
She charges 30 dollars an hour private and 15 if I bring my horse there.

Does it sound like I am being too critical or acting like I know more than this woman? I was there for over 2 hours, we chatted quite a bit after the lesson about each horse and horse people we have in common.

I do believe that I, myself, would try a new client out that has had previous riding experience. I, too, would want to see how my student would handle the horse from the ground before getting on his back. This would give me an opportunity to see what kind of experience my student has had and if it needs to be corrected or to give me a starting point to begin her lessons.

I also want to make sure that my students know the "why" as well as the "how". This helps them understand why certain things are done a specific way and why it is important to do it that way.

I would never put a student on a horse that cannot see very well. It sounds to me like this mare was so blinded that she could see the spot where she would stumble every time.

A western rein should have some slack in it, but you are right about the elbow to bit theory.

All my horses are trained to stop on the verbal command of "whoa". This is a safety factor in case a student gets into trouble. I can say "whoa" and Dove will stop and wait for me to come to him. This has saved many a student from getting into serious trouble when the cues are confused and begin to frustrate the lesson horse. Your instructor should have told you that the stop comes from the seat and legs first before you use your hands. I used to laugh at one of my beginners because she thought that dropping her hands on Dove's withers and saying "whoa" stopped him. He did stop, but I had to explain that he stopped because of the verbal cue and not because of her seat, legs, and balance.

I go through everything at the walk before I let anyone go into a trot regardless of their experience level. Once my student has convinced me that they know what they are doing at a walk, will we proceed to the faster gaits.

The thing to remember is that many riders think they know how to ride and sit a horse and then take lessons and find out that they don't know near what they thought they did. I've learned this, myself, when I took instruction from someone much more experienced than me. In comparison, I didn't even know how to ride when I thought I did, and now, I pass that experience on to my students.

So, I'd say your instructor was giving you more or less an evaluation during this first lesson to see just how much you really know. Once she knows how much of an equine education you have, then she can take it from there.

She should also know what you intend to get out of these lessons. If she cannot offer that, then I would seek out another instructor. If you have question about why she is working with you in this manner, by all means ask her. You have paid her to teach you. You have the right to know why she does anything a certain way and possibly where the lesson she is teaching you now will lead. All this should be explained to you.

I would definitely ask to be mounted on a sound horse, next time. I would also give her a chance of maybe 3 or 4 lessons before making a thorough evaluation of the instructor. If she doesn't come up to your expectation by then or can't or won't answer your questions, I'd go seek out someone else.


"God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses"
--Robert Browning

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
-- Author Unknown
ILJ - Redhawk has given you some really good solid advice.

Sorry, but I'm laughing here!!! There is absolutely nothing more humbling than riding lessons!!! [Big Grin] Yah, even for those of us that "know" how to ride and have been doing it a long time.

Just be thankful she didn't make you drop your reins and work your horse with just your body, be thankful she didn't tuck her hands under her arms and flap them up and down and cluck - then ask you why on earth you look like a chicken when you ride, be thankful she didn't put you in an English saddle and take your stirrups away and make you spend the whole lesson at a posting trot - all the time yelling more forward, keep your heels down, bring your toe in etc etc etc. Be thankful that when you quit, completely exhausted and out of breath you get told you are in terrible physical condition and you need to work on it!!! [Sad][Sad]

Your instructor sounds like and nice easy to get along with person. Don't be surprised the next lesson she picks on your seat, body position and feet.

Regarding rein length for western, go to this post . If you notice Cheryl has Hookie on contact. A couple reasons, he is a big horse and she isn't use to riding him, but the main one - she is an English rider and has problems giving any horse rein. She will walk them on a loose rein, but when she asks for a trot she immediately takes up the slack. She also doesn't just sit and slow the jog, she is constantly pushing with her legs and driving them into the bit.

If you look at the pictures of Profit, that is a normal western rein length. It could be a bit shorter, but I find that is a comfortable length for both of us. Regarding position - well Red Hawk could probably find a dozen or more things that she could pick apart, and definitely would in a lesson - but please don't Red Hawk!!

I need to go back and do some lessons!! It has been awhile and I am so not looking forward to it!!!![Tongue]
Saddle seat equitation rider checking in... and umm guilty of ALL the things Hook listed above ( which is why I am also taking stock seat lessons on an on-going basis).

It's been years since I taught riding but having taught everything else in-between I can tell you that most people don't have a clue where their bodies really are in space.

You may think you are sitting deep, centered and tall. In reality you are leaning left and backward and pulling your legs in.

Having a pair of eyes on the ground to correct these things until you retrain your internal eye/feel is very helpful.

I think the lesson sounded like a good one for the first time.
Thanks RH, Mrs H and AO.
I understand she was rating my abilities and yes it was certainly humbling. [B)] We discussed what I want to get from lessons and she said she would refer me on to someone else if she can't match my abilities.

I did have to drop my stirrups but only at the walk. [8)] As I was riding I compared this little mare to Joe and there were several times I really had to apply leg pressure to get her to walk out.

I was trying to keep my reins just like Cheryl was on Hookie. Did I mention there was not bit in this horses mouth?

I have always considered myself to be very safe around horses, her reasoning for doing things her way however made perfect sense to me. I realized that I do things in a marginally safe way because that is how I was taught and it is not necessarily the best way.

There were 2 times I wanted to bolt for home before ever getting on Lil' Miss Fumblefoot. The first came when she asked if I turned my horses out with their halters on...I said normally NO, but today I left them on. What type of halters are on them...Rocky had the rope halter and Joe his nylon web. Well the scenario she described of a horse scratching his head and getting his hoof caught in the looser rope halter had me envisioning dopey Rocky getting his back foot in the thing and rolling down the hill into the swampy pond and drowning himself! Leather Breakaways here we come!

The 2nd time came while she had me watching a video on helmet safety!!! MY GAWD If that doesn't deter first time riders nothing else will. I had my helmet with me and I am pretty preachy about riders wearing a helmet, but that video made me think "Why am I getting on this womans strange horse and risking my life"?

She actually told me as she pulled the video out that she had a parent who would not let her children take lessons after that video when she asked if they rode bikes and was told yes, she asked if they wore bike helmets and the parent said we will get them on the way HOME! She has had adult boarders leave because of her strict helmet wearing policy.

She was very thorough as to why and how things were done. She also told me if I know of a better safer way she would love to hear it. I kept thinking of the hunter jumper barn I was at and how totally unsafe it really is. For students and horses.

We have a stable here that has that same video and every student of hers must watch it. She also has a policy that anyone on her property, that is on a horse must wear their helmet - no negotiation - you must wear the helmet!!!

She also works for a lawyer, so she definitely knows the legal implications of students not wearing a helmet.

An interesting note: The girl that is starting the babies for me arrived with her helmet in her hand and she wears it through the longing, ground driving and while riding. I think people on a whole are becoming much more safety aware.
I think that the strict helmet policy is a very good one. When my great niece wanted to take western lessons I advised her to wear the helmet even when she is on the ground.

I should practice what I preach, I have gotten on Joe bareback 2 times without a helmet and I never do groundwork with it on, but I should.

Apparently you can get a better rate on your insurance as a boarding facility if you have all age riders wear a helmet.

Mrs. H; I would only get on your case if you were my student[:I][Wink]. And, actually, I work mainly with beginners or people who think they know how to ride and don't. I love it when someone tells me they know how to ride and then watch them at a show or on the trail yanking, kicking, and yelling at their horse for not cooperating while they are flopping around all over the horse's back. To them; knowing how to ride is kicking the horse to go, yanking on the reins to stop, and pulling the horse's head either right or left to turn. But they know how to ride perfectly well, thank you very much[xx(].

ILJ; Please understand that I am not putting you in this catagory, but when an instructor gets a student that says, "I know how to ride and have been for years.", it isn't always necessarily true. I had a potential student's father call me up to teach his daughter the fundamentals of barrel racing. I asked him, "Does she know how to ride?" to which he responded, "Oh, yes. She knows how to kick the horse to go and to pull back on the reins to stop." I knew right then and there that I had my work cut out for me.

As for helmets; I read in a book that is the official book for certifying instructors that anyone involved with horses should wear a helmet any time they are working with a horse whether it's from the ground or in the saddle. If you think about it, that does make a lot of sense (even though I only wear mine when I ride[:I].). I've known a couple of people who have been kicked in the head when being around a horse on the ground that lived to talk about it. They were extremely lucky.

So, enjoy your lessons, ILJ. I'm sure it'll open your eyes and teach you some things that probably never crossed your mind on your own about horses. We can always learn something new, and horses are a never-ending learning experience. Have fun[Smile][Smile][Smile].
"God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses"
--Robert Browning

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
-- Author Unknown
I go for my first lesson with a CHA instructor on monday,,,,,I will post here how it goes.

She said she would like to start on the ground first, and my reply was that I would like her to start at the beginning, as if I know absolutly nothing, and go from there.

I have been riding for over 30 yrs, all of it on mountains and in the bush. Read a few books, but no more than 2 or 3 lessons, from different people in that time. I am expecting to find LOTS of bad habits. Should be interesting.

Interesting though, I have had 2 young horses started by a trainer, and both came back to me with what I call a "butt stop".
In the instruction on these horses before bringing them home, when riding them for the first time, walk or trot, I was told to "tilt my hips", or "drop my pockets", so to speak, and they would stop. No pulling back on the riens. It was wonderful.
Both horses had no previous lunging or driving here, and 2 months training there each.
Ride safe, return safe.

This instructor is not the first person I have had lessons with. But the one instructor I really liked drove over an hour to get to us and she charged accordingly 60 dollars a lesson. A friend and I trailered down to her and it was only 40 an hour, and she taught Centered Riding which she had learned from Wendy Murdoch, who is an author of a book I have called Simplify Your Riding. That instructor focused on sitting deep in your seat and I really felt very comfortable with her. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

She taught me to use my butt bones to turn the horse and stop etc...and I practice that with Joe. Joe doesn't whoa very well. When I first got him, his stop was excellent. Since then he walks about 3 steps after pushing deep in my seat and I have started pulling back hard to stop him. SO this woman was right. It just occurred to me that since I have been riding in a saddle with a broken tree, putting pressure on Joe with my seat to stop probably is what kept him walking! I just had an epiphany! Another Poor Joe moment!

After the barn changed hands she didn't want to come up because the new owners wanted to charge her too much for using the arena. SO I used an instructor that was also a boarder there and she knew my issues with my balance and confidence at a canter and tried to rush me. I kept telling her that I felt like I was falling over the school horses shoulder (in english tack) and that when I asked the horse to canter I pulled back and slowed her out of fear. She tried to chase the horse into a canter with a lunge whip while I was telling her "I am the one pulling back!" SO that was my third and last lesson with her.

RH, I know just what you mean about people saying "Sure I can ride" and they don't know how to really. My friend has a bed and breakfast that has horseback riding and I was riding out there with her alot before I got Joe and I heard these people saying about their daughter "she rides every week at a lesson and has gotten ribbons in the shows" and when I watched her ride my friend and I exchanged some rather pointed looks about the little girls ability.


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