Remember when you had your first ever riding lesson as a kid? Or for you maybe it was dance class or sports. You were probably super nervous, but also really excited. Your head swam with thoughts like, “what if I fall off?” or “what if I can’t catch the ball?” It was only a little scary but before you knew it you were having a blast and your fears were forgotten.
Fast forward to today. Have you started riding again? Been thinking about it? It’s scarier! Somehow our inhibitions got a lot more powerful as we got older. Now, the thought of falling off or getting hit with the ball looms over you longer and terrifies you more. And you’re probably a lot more self conscious too. I know I am. I didn’t have much of a break from riding, but I had a fifteen year break from competing. I also moved away and came back to the same area many years later.
During my teens and early twenties I was completely immersed in everything horses. I attended all the local schooling shows and a lot of the recognized shows in the area. As a member of our local dressage and eventing organization, most of the people in the area knew who I was. Then I was out of the picture for several years, and when I resurfaced with my daughter in lessons and Pony Club, people explained things to me the same way they did the moms who knew nothing about horses and it was frustrating!
So here’s how I dealt with it:
First, I just reminded myself that it didn’t matter and that I probably would have made the same assumption. Just because I knew that I rode before some of these people were out of diapers didn’t mean they needed to know that!
Second, I sought out the people that I knew from before. These are the people who have been riding since I was in diapers and they know a thing or two. It feels good to reconnect with old contacts and old friends, and many of them introduced me to the people who I considered newbies even though I felt that I was now the newbie!
Finally, I just had to realize that I was the only one who cared about it. People go to the barn to ride their horses or to transport their children to their lessons. They’re not interested in who used to do what and they’re not judging me to see how much I know. Most people are just trying to be polite and accepting of everyone else. We are our own worst critics.
How you can get back into horses
- If you haven’t made the plunge and started taking lessons again, make that phone call. See if you can find an instructor that you worked with before. Look for someone that knew your previous skill level and that you felt comfortable with.
- Try to schedule your lessons for a time when there won’t be too many people around so that you won’t be too tempted to compare yourself to others.
- Focus on enjoying the fact that you’re on a horse again, not on who is watching and what they think. No one is there to criticize, so just concentrate on finding that feel again.
- Take an interest in other riders. Introduce yourself. Compliment their horse or their position. Ask questions. They’d love to tell you where they got that cute saddle pad.
Go For It!
Yes, you’re older now than when you last rode. Your body may not cooperate and you may have more aches and pains. Don’t let it stop you. You’re doing that thing again that you love so much, and it’s good for you. So keep taking your lessons. Lease a horse so you can have more ride time. Follow the latest rider fitness blog and learn some stretches and some strengthening exercises. Go ahead and enter that show. You won’t regret it!