Thursday, July 17, 2008

Got Equitation Lessons?

My history of horseback riding lessons goes something like this:

1. Rode on bareback pads at summer day camp with minimal instruction as a child.
2. Rode in western saddle at summer day camp and played games on horseback as a child.
3. Rode for an hour or two at public stables once every few years as a teenager and adult.
4. Got my first horse when I was 34 years old and he was a yearling. Started riding him as a green horse with minimal training (barely started) at the age of 38.
5. Got my second horse when I was 36 years old and the horse was 13. She was a grumpy broodmare and bucked a lot.
6. Been riding on my property in a round pen for 8 years, never having the time, confidence, nor company to break out onto the trails or show.
7. Took riding lessons at a trainer's facility for about three months when I worked part-time and could trailer my horses out there without cutting into office hours. Also rode school horses there.

That's it. Most of what I've learned about riding has come from my horses. If I started bouncing around in the saddle, Lostine would buck and Bombay would throw his head around. Cantering on Bombay has never been fun. I know it can be, so I figured I needed equitation lessons to make riding more correct and comfortable for both me and the horses.

The problem was that I work 40 to 60 hours a week and only have time to trailer a horse to a training facility on the weekends, but most trainers reserve the weekends for kids who are in school. The adults have to find a way to schedule lessons on the weekdays. That was out of the question for me.

Then the Heavens smiled down on me. My neighbor mentioned that she has an equitation instructor who drives down from Reno and gives lessons at her home to her grandchildren. She invited me to come over and meet him. I did just that and told him I was interested in taking lessons from him. He interviewed me to get a feel of where I am at and what my goals are, and then agreed to take me on as his student.

Today I had my first lesson during my lunch hour. This instructor was fantastic. I learned so much. It was as if he blew my mind way open. He seemed very impressed with my gelding Bombay. He said he's a good horse for me to learn on. Bombay was very well behaved and allowed me to concentrate on what I needed to do to correct myself.

My homework is to practice the correct leg position:
1. Toes in.
2. Heels down.
3. Knees bent.
4. Lower leg back.
5. Squeeze with knees.

When I look down, I should not see my toes sticking out in front of my knees. It really is a difficult position for me, because I naturally point my toes out and keep my lower leg too far forward. I've been good about keeping my heels down at the walk, but need to work on holding that position at the jog, trot, and canter. I'm going to do some exercises to stretch my calves. After the lesson, I was walking around pigeon-toed and my knees hurt, so I knew I was on the right track.

There is so much more that I learned, but I'll save it for future posts. I have plenty of books that tell me these things that my instructor is teaching me, but a book can't watch me and tell me when I'm losing my form. It really makes a huge difference having an expert there giving you feedback.


Flying Lily said...

Hooray! Riding lessons are terrific. It is so great to have 'eyes on the ground' of someone telling you what's going on with your posture etc. And a person who does not necessarily know your horse, and therefore is not into your horse's mind games, is so valuable.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm so happy you found someone to work with you, it is the only way to learn and improve. You just can't get it from a book or videos, you are right about the fact that you need someone on the ground to monitor what you are doing. Hope you keep doing this, I'm sure you will greatly improve and feel more confident the more lessons you have.

Micha said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog. I love reading horse blogs so will add you to my list. I can not wait to get myself shifted, find a place for my horses, and get back into having lessons. Its amazing what you can learn from people who are on the ground and know what they are talking about. Im off to read more of your blog now.

onthebit said...

Thats awesome! It is great you finally found a trainer! Professional help (when they know what they are talking about) is the best way to make lots of progress! Keep us updated on how the lessons go!

Misty's Mom said...

I remember when I was first told how to ride. I was 12 and on the 5 year old horse who I had thus far trained by myself.
All I know, is that my ballet legs, which are used to turning out and rotating outwards at the hip were like, WTF!!
I am glad to hear that you have begun these lessons: I think it is very responsible of you. Good luck!

Twinville said...

Good for you! Sounds like these lessons are going to be the turning point to positive future riding experiences!

I miss my 3x weekly lessons. Due to finances I've had to take a break from my weekly lessons temporarily. We just don't have $150 a week in our budget to spend right now. And even though I felt like the lessons were helping me, I also felt like I wasn't learning enough new and useful stuff and that some of the info was a little beyond my skills for now. Baby steps, right?

Can I ask you how much this instructor is charging? I'm really curious how much riding lessons cost across the country, because I'm wondering if $50 an hour is just a little bit steep?

This same instructor charges $600 a month to board horses....and not even in stalls, just outside covered pens.
Most places in NM seem to only be charging between $150-$350 a month.
What do you typical horse boarding facilities charge in your area?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Twinville - This equitation instructor is actually quite pricey, because he has a reputation of helping his students win regional and national horse shows. He charges $60 an hour, but bumped it down to $50 an hour for me as long as I schedule when it is convenient for him. He only comes into town on Thursdays, and he wants to group all of his students in my town at a discount on his terms. He won't make the trip for one person. I'm fortunate to be able to take my lesson on my lunch break from work.

Horse trainers who board and feed your horse on their property charge around $700 a month or more. Sometimes they throw in a few riding lessons with that. Board and feed alone without training is usually between $150 and $350 a month, depending on whether you rent a stall or just have the horse out to pasture.

I am wary of trainers who keep your horse on their property. It's too easy for them to ignore your horse. When I did that, I stopped by every other day and pressured the trainer for an update on my horse's training progress. I found out that she hadn't even ridden him for the first two weeks of that month's worth of training I paid her for. She said she wanted to let him settle in. I wish I had the guts to ask her for a refund of the training portion of that $700.