We’ve all heard the old adage that after a fall the best thing to do is get back on the horse but sometimes this just isn’t going to be possible and a fall may not even be the reason you stopped riding in the first place. The good news is that whatever that reason we’ve got some great advice to help you not only get back in the saddle but regain your confidence too. After all, even if it wasn’t an injury or fall that stopped you riding it’s easy to lose confidence over time.
Understand what went wrong
If your break from riding was due to a fall then it can be helpful to understand why you fell in the first place and if you could have done something about it. You may have fallen through no fault of your own but understanding what happened in the first place is half of the battle when it comes to regaining your confidence.
As the saying goes you can’t improve until you know where you’re going wrong and this can also apply to getting back in the saddle after a fall.
Before you start riding again
You might think that because you’ve made the decision to get back in the saddle its now just a case of finding a riding school or instructor but that comes later. Before you can even consider getting back on a horse you need to make sure you’re physically ready to do so. This is especially important if you’ve had an injury or not been riding due to illness. If you have had an injury though you shouldn’t even consider returning to riding until your physician says you’re ready to do so.
Horse riding can be physically tiring, especially if you’re out of practice. You’ll be using muscles that you’ve not used for a long time and will also need a certain amount of inner core strength to help you keep your balance. You don’t need to be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger but just be strong enough so that you don’t get too tired during your lesson and can also hold your position.
Spend time at the stables
Once you’ve made the decision to get back into the saddle again it can be a great idea to visit your local riding or boarding stables to see if you can help out there and spend time around the horses. This might sound like a strange thing to suggest but it can really help you to get back some of the confidence you may have lost. Even if you don’t feel that you’ve lost confidence just being around horses and spending time with them will help.
Helping out at your local stables will also give you the chance to make new friends which can help you to get back in the saddle. Other horsey people will understand better your enthusiasm to start riding again and will be supportive and encouraging of you. You never know you may even make some great new horsey friends too!
Invest in proper safety equipment
A body protector and riding helmet won’t help you to be a better rider, nor will it help you to stay on the horse, but believe it or not it will help to boost your confidence. They both offer a great deal of protection in the event of a fall which, surprisingly enough, will subconsciously give you confidence.
You may already have both of them in the closet but if you haven’t been riding for a few years then the chances are that they no longer meet the latest safety requirements. You can read about the importance of riding helmets, along with the latest safety standards here. If you’ve had your riding helmet for over five years you should replace it anyway, this is due to the fact that after a number of years the protective material starts to degrade, reducing its ability to absorb and impact.
Finding an instructor
Every riding instructor has their own style and way of teaching but you don’t have to commit to anybody immediately. Book a few lessons with one that you like the sound of and see how you go before deciding to stick with them. Ideally, you want to be able to get on with your instructor and to be able to talk through any issues or problems you have. You also want them to be sympathetic to your needs but to still push you to get the best out of you.
The same goes for the horse, don’t stick with the first horse you ride if you’re not happy. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a particular horse tell the instructor straight away, it could adversely affect your confidence if you don’t. After all, if you’re nervous to start with and are constantly worrying the horse is going to bolt then you’re not going to relax so will have a bad lesson which will, therefore, knock your confidence even further.
Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself
It’s important to remember that nobody is forcing you to get back in the saddle, it’s your choice and you can do it when YOU are ready to do it, not when somebody else says you’re ready. If you’re all set for your first lesson back in the saddle but don’t feel you can when you arrive don’t worry. This is perfectly normal, speak to your instructor and if you really feel you can’t get on the horse then ask them if you can spend the lesson grooming them instead. Grooming can alleviate stress and be relaxing for both you and the horse, it’ll also help the two of you to bond which will help to improve your confidence and trust in the horse.
The only exception to this rule is your riding instructor, a good one will know when you’re really not able to get back in the saddle and when you’re just lacking confidence.
Remember you will be a little rusty to start with
Whatever we’re doing we all get better with time and practice and riding is no different so don’t forget that because you’ve had time out of the saddle you won’t be at the same level as you were before. That doesn’t mean you won’t get back to that level, or even surpass it, it just means that it’ll take you time to do so, and besides, horse riding is just like riding a bike, once you’ve learned you won’t forget.
I know it’s difficult but try and stay positive and focus on the good things that you’re doing instead of what you’re getting wrong. It’ll help you to not only continue to enjoy riding but will also help you to stay focused on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Don’t keep putting it off
We’re all guilty of putting off to tomorrow what we can do today and if you’re nervous about doing something this is even more common but don’t keep putting it off. If you keep telling yourself you’ll do it tomorrow then chances are you’ll just keep putting it off and never get round to it. There’s no time like the present though so why not start making plans now (after you’ve finished reading this article of course ?).
That doesn’t mean you should fill the rest of the year up with riding lessons just start to make plans to get back in the saddle. Why not take a trip to your local riding stables and start by making some new friends there.
Why not book a clinic?
I know I’ve advocated taking your time and spending time at the stables first but at the same time I know this won’t work for everybody and some people would prefer to just jump straight back into the saddle. If this applies to you and you’re able to why not book at riding clinic instead? These usually last for a week but can vary from a weekend to a fortnight and everything else in between. Rather like an intensive driving course, you’ll spend your time riding so will be back up to speed in no time at all.
If a week sounds too long, or you don’t have the or money to do a week-long course why not consider a trail ride instead? A lot of stables, regardless of whether you live in a rural or urban area, offer trail rides. These can be great because the horse generally knows where they’re going so all you need to do is enjoy the ride.
It doesn’t matter why you stopped riding in the first place there’s no reason why you can’t start again, at any time in life. Just be patient with yourself and your abilities, you’ll be a little rusty at first but will quickly improve the more you ride. The most important thing though is to have fun and don’t forget why you wanted to return to riding in the first place.
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- What’s the difference between Western and English riding?
I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.
- Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
- Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
- TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
- Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
- Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
- Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.
I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉