Teaching an adult to ride a horse - Lee French in the saddle!

"Having worked in various equestrian centres, universities and livery yards, the majority of learner riders are children and teenagers. However, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching quite a few adults to take that first step of putting their foot into the stirrup and learning to ride.

There’s quite a few differences, not quite what you would expect.

1 Not all children are brave, and adults more nervous. Children can have just as many worries, although they don’t tend to have the responsibilities of an adult. They can care about pleasing their parents, be nice to pony and with more social media, what their peers may think of them. An adult often uses a new hobby, such as riding to have 45 minutes to forget all their life problems.

2 Not all children learn quicker than adults. While it certainly helps to be ‘born in the saddle’ a child’s riding develops as they grow. I wouldn’t expect a 5 year old child to make downward transitions using only their seat and core, but I would expect the adult learner to make a halt transition without pulling on the reins within the first few lessons. A child has the advantage of time, whether it’s for the weekly lesson at a riding school, or if they’re lucky enough to have their own pony, to be able to sit on it several times a week. For this reason, I recommend that the adult learner attends those riding school lessons as many times a week as their budget and free time allows

3 Private lessons are not always the best. While useful to work on a problem that you can’t seem to get over, a group lesson or clinic gives you time to work things out on your own as an adult, creating confidence. For a child, developing friendships, playing games, watching others starts to make it easier to have a go at something they’ve not tried before.

4 For all learner riders: get the basics right, and the big things become easier. The child rider or parent of child sees something that they want to do. They may get over that 90cm fence, but was the position secure? Do they have an understanding of balance, rhythm and tempo of approach? The adult learner rider reads, watches videos, leans over the gate a watches every lesson possible and suffers frustration when it doesn’t work out when they apply the aids for shoulder in. The magic answer? Listen to your coach, even if she is young enough to be your daughter, work on that position and seat, it will give you immense security and control, that will bring you hours of future fun and pleasure. Don’t search the internet for the answers, or go various coaches, experts and mediums. And thank your horse after every lesson, for he is the most tolerant, understanding and clever instructor of us all.

The photo above is Lee French who came to me to learn to ride after buying his own horse. ( Not a method I would generally recommend; go to a licensed riding school) Within 18 months he progressed from learning to rise to the trot to the photo above. I put hours into his position, he’s lucky enough have put hours into his riding with the support of his already horse owning wife and daughter. Experienced riders will note how good his lower leg is…….."

Rachel Ashworth BHS stage 3 coach

Gamston Wood Livery Ltd