I spent the majority of my youth - 11 years to be exact - at the barn and around horses. When it came time to go to college, we sold the horses and I "left the nest" and went off to get a degree and establish a career. Fast forward ten years, and I got back in the saddle. Here are five things I learned getting back in the saddle as an adult amateur...
1. You'll use muscles you forgot you had.
You'll be sore. And I mean S-O-R-E! So sore you swear your trainer made you do the whole lesson without stirrups. (beware: that can come later!)
As a child you're much more flexible and things don't creak and pop when you get up after a restful night's sleep. We all know what that's like.
Embrace the soreness and know that soon, muscle memory will kick in to high gear and it'll all come back; it's like riding a bicycle, a 1,200-poung living, breathing bicycle, but you get my point. If you didn't ride in your younger days, no worries, after a little while you too will be much less sore after lessons. And to me, that's a great feeling. You've beat the soreness and can walk regularly, not like the cowboys in those old-school western flicks!
2. You'll be a little fearful.
And it's not a bad thing.
Children have this innate feeling that nothing bad can happen to them; they are so gung-ho about life and riding and everything, that the fear, most of the time, isn't there. That's why you see the little ones galloping around the rings on their pony jumping anything their trainer tells them to. All with a smile on their face.
Getting back in the saddle as an adult amateur, you've lived life and seen things. It's natural to be a little fearful of things you may have not batted an eye at earlier in life - like jumping, be it a crossrail or a 3'6 oxer, or cantering.
Don't beat yourself up about it. The more you ride, the more comfortable you'll be in the saddle and with that comfort comes bravery.
3. You'll want to shop till you drop!
If I'm being honest, other than the first lesson back and actually swinging my leg over the saddle onto the best lesson horse ever, shopping was probably my favorite part of getting back in the saddle as an adult amateur!
I absolutely LOVED looking through the pages of Dover and SmartPak and heading to the local tack store for all the items I now needed: breeches (at least a few pairs, right?!); a helmet (geez the styles sure did change from the velvet helmet with clear chin straps!); gloves; boots; and I even bought a saddle so I didn't have to use the school saddles. Because we ALL know the stirrup leathers on those things are either made for small children or someone who is over 6ft tall with ridiculously long legs. And here I am somewhere in the middle having to wrap my stirrup leathers around the stirrup a few times. Ain't nobody got time for that!
No, I didn't buy this all at once, but it was nice to be able to take the time to research each equestrian product, read reviews, ask around at the barn, and buy what I wanted (and could afford, obviously) because I'm now the adult making the decisions.
4. You'll become a sponge.
Well, at least I did. I wanted to immerse myself back into the equestrian world as much as possible. I was at the barn late on weekdays, early and all day on the weekends, to learn and absorb as much as I could.
When you're away from a subject matter for ten years like I was away from horses and riding, you tend to not necessarily forget, but have to recall that information that's been pushed to the back of your brain. Being around the barn, horses and other lessons as frequently as possible enabled me to learn - and remember - by doing and listening. I highly suggest you audit a clinic or sit and watch other lessons, you'll gain so much.
5. You'll fall in LOVE!
You'll fall in love with the sport. This is why we ride as adult amateur equestrians.
After my first lesson back I remember a conversation I had with my parents, who supported my horsey habit as a child no questions asked, and I told them,
"I don't know how I ever went so long without riding or being around horses. I forgot how much I love it."
Since then I've made it a priority to continue riding, continue to get better and do more.
Some equestrians become so enamored with ribbons and championships, but adult amateurs ride because we work for it, we schedule and reschedule to make time for it, and because we love it.
Are you an adult amateur that took a break from riding after your junior years? What are some of the things you learned after getting back in the saddle as an adult amateur?