FAQ Riding

Do you ever forget how to ride a horse?

horse riding
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Written by Channing M.

Returning to horse riding after many years? Welcome back!When you’re contemplating taking riding lessons as an adult — or dipping a boot in the water, so to speak, with a single trail ride — you probably have a lot of questions. My friend Maggie sure did. She was a veteran of exactly two summers of sleep-away horse camp as a kid. Now, as an adult watching her own daughter happily hopping cross rails at her stable, she had the Pony Itch again. 

“Getting back on a horse is kind of like riding a bike, right? People always say you never really forget.” 

In the ways that matter most, she’s absolutely right. If you’ve ridden horses before, you’re always going to have a head start on a rider who has never put a foot into a stirrup before. Once you’re back on a horse, your muscle memory will start to return, and that can speed up the re-learning process.

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It all depends, of course, on how much quality riding experience you acquired in your former riding days. If you rode as a child with poor posture and a lack of body awareness, you’ll need to overwrite those bad habits with good ones.

Thanks to Emily Harris for our feature photo!

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

It’ll be more “whoa” than “go” initially.

In order to have a successful return to riding, remember that your body may remember quite a bit about what it should do. It may not be able to put it all together right away.

trick riding horse

Photo provided by Angie Misaghi (@angisaghi)

If we’re going to use that bicycle example again: you may have been able to pop wheelies and ride your bike fearlessly at top speed… as a kid. With practice, you built up muscles and trained yourself to handle your bike without too much thought.

A lot of things happened on autopilot back in the day. 

Now, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to replicate all (or any of) your former endurance and tricks on your first day back. Grabbing a bike and hitting the road without a care in the world probably wouldn’t end well.

It completely normal to have a period where you need to rebuild your strength, coordination, body position, and mindset.

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If more than a couple years have passed, it wouldn’t hurt to do some research about what’s changed in the world of cycling technology while you were gone. Are helmets better now? Would innovative fabric make for a comfier ride?

Think about returning to horseback riding the same way.

It takes a surprising amount of muscle coordination and strength to ride a horse well. Your mind and body have a head start, sure, but they’re out of practice.

Start slowly and give yourself time to remember, build the right muscles back up, and increase your confidence.

You should also revisit horseback riding safety equipment and apparel, which has likely improved since your last ride. Staying safe and comfortable will go a long way in helping you enjoy your return to the saddle. Not sure what you need? Check out blog about What Gear Do You Need to Ride Horses as an Adult for a step-by-step guide.inspirational horse quote about age

online horse courses

Returning riders still need to prep.

While you’re going to be a step ahead of those with no previous riding experience, your body will remind you that it’s been awhile…

Regular exercise and stretching are your best friends when returning to the saddle.

If you haven’t been exercising much lately, don’t let your first day at the barn catch you by surprise.

trotting horse

Photo Credit: Brittney Chambers

Begin incorporating walking and light weight lifting a few weeks ahead of time to strengthen your legs and core muscles. You can also start practicing these 5 yoga poses for equestrians.

Stretches only take a few minutes, and they’ll help keep you from hobbling back to the car after your ride.

If you have a more sedentary day job, you can do plenty of exercises at your desk to loosen up the same muscles you’ll be using on horseback. If anyone at your office raises an eyebrow, proudly tell them “I’m in training!”  Here’s a fun video to guide you: While it may seem a little strange to start a training program in advance of your return to riding, it’s worth it. You’ll be a much happier and more confident equestrian if you aren’t worried about sore legs and can relax your body without bouncing every trot step. Being properly prepared will help you smile all the way through your first ride — and long after that! 

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About the author

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Channing M.

When I'm not using my equine anatomy, physiology, veterinary care background to educate other equestrians, you'll find me volunteering with retired racehorses or vacationing in the Gulf of Mexico with my hubby and beach-loving lab.