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Returning to Horse Riding as an Adult
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Returning to Horse Riding as an Adult

Horse riding is an expensive and time consuming hobby, maybe it was out of our reach as a child, and for others being a teenager and young adult got in the way. But here we are older, wiser and facing the prospect of getting back in the saddle. Sometimes you have to wonder is riding a sport for 12 year old girls only, but remember Hiroshi Hoketsu was 67 when he last competed in the Olympics.

If you’re considering returning to riding there are probably three questions you’re asking yourself right now, number 1, should I just grow up and act my age? Stuff like this is for kid’s right? Wrong, they may have the energy and enthusiasm, but we have the patience and maturity. Life is for living, if you have the time and funds there is no reason why not. Number 2, do I have the confidence to do something this crazy? Well why not, you can take things at your own pace and we’re not talking about riding the Grand National, most schools have gentle and willing horses and experienced instructors that will guide you through step by step. Finally question number 3. I don’t bounce like I used to, what if I fall off? Well depending on your age and state of healthy that might be true, but it’s equally true for driving a car, walking up and down stairs and crossing the road. Make sure you purchase good quality safety equipment and take things at a pace you feel confident at.

So what’s first, well making sure we’re fit and healthy enough to ride, there are muscles that only time in the saddle can build, but there is plenty of things we can do to make a return to equestrian sports as enjoyable as possible. It’s worth checking with your doctor before taking up any physical activity.

We don’t have to lose flexibility as we age, stretching can increase your range of motion, there are some great books out there, to show you how to stretch properly. Or if you feel that you’re really inflexible it might be well worth seeing a professional, often FE colleges offer reduced rates so as students can train under a supervisor’s watchful eye.

General cardiovascular fitness will help as well. Running cycling and swimming will bring your fitness on in leaps and bounds if you train right. If you feel you’re totally unfit then there are some great 5k training plans that start from a walk and build up your fitness in 6 weeks. Most riding stables have a weight limit for the welfare of the horses, with most being 12 stone, but some as high as 15 or 16 stone, you may need to run off some weight before starting riding as well.

Your core strength is important pilates and yoga are both great for improving your overall fitness and especially those important core muscles.

So you’ve increased you’re flexibility and your fitness, but what about kit you might need, there are a few things that will make your return to riding safer, and more comfortable. There are 3 main things for everybody, and one more for women. An approved riding helmet, safe boots and comfortable trousers that don’t restrict your movement are the 3 main ones, and a good sports bra for women. Tracksuit bottoms are great, and boots can be purchased relatively cheaply, remember trainers are not suitable for riding, but it’s well worth investing in a good riding helmet. You may be able to borrow or hire helmets and boots from the riding stable, but they may not have a lot in adult sizes. It’s worth asking your instructor before you go.

A body protector is a good investment especially if you plan to keep on riding and progress beyond walking on a lead rein.

Now comes the actual day, but there is still one problem, who wants to go and ride with a bunch of kids, especially for your first few lessons. Luckily most riding schools offer private lessons, and there is often a discount if you can ride during the school day. It’s a much better introduction to riding if you can be one on one with your instructor, or if you have a friend in a similar position two to one, this allows you to get over any fears, worries and problems without an audience of preteens to make you feel even worse. Don’t feel ashamed to go back on the lead rein for your first session, we all had to start somewhere, and learning is still a difficult process no matter your age.

There a few great things that age brings, and chiefly is knowing what you want and hopefully not being afraid to ask, or even demand it. Your instructor should challenge you, but not scar you or overwhelm you, any sport at any age should be fun. You also need to feel comfortable with your instructor. One problem with being an adult learner is that often your teacher is used to teaching children, and having to impose a certain amount of discipline, they may also be your age or younger and nervous themselves of being judged by an adult. If you feel uncomfortable or don’t seem to click with your instructor after a few lesson don’t be afraid to ask for a different instructor, or look around for another riding school. There are a lot of online forums, where you can ask for adult friendly recommendations. However if you’re returning to riding don’t assume that everything is the same, riding like everything has moved on.

Whilst in the saddle you may feel tense, and that will may you stiff and everything more difficult, try to relax as difficult as it might seem, and keep forefront in your mind that every time you sit in the saddle you will get a little better until it’s all fun, challenging but fun.

You’re probably going to be stiff and sore after riding. Painkillers can help, and a gentle walk and a warm bath will ease those aching joints and muscles.

There are numerous sports and disciplines within horse riding, and you may want to train for one of these. Or you may just want to enjoy hacking along trails and tracks, feeling at one will your horse. Whatever you want now is the time to go and enjoy it.

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