Struggling with riding lessons, maybe?

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Hello everyone,

I've been back riding since September after a 20 plus year break. I love it. I love being around the horses and riding. I'm going twice a week and I like my instructor, I feel she sees my where my problems are and challenges me, but never in a negative way.

I usually have the same horse, maybe 60% of the time, and the rest I'm on different horses. My problem is when I am on a less forward going horse, or a bit lazy. I hate having to kick. Hate it. I would rather not ride at all, than be on a horse who seems reluctant. I feel rotten kicking them. My instructor tells me I am capable and can ride the horse, and I know it's important for my learning. But I just feel like, well if she/he wants to just walk and pootle around the school that's fine with me and I can work on my seat or something! Obviously my instructor doesn't feel the same, and quite often tells me off, in a good way, that I'm not hurting her and I need to be firm and take charge. And obviously the horse is well aware that I'm thinking, well lets just stop and have a cuddle!

I don't even know what I'm saying here, or what advice I'm asking for. I'm very new to riding, I love schooling and really enjoy learning and coming home and watching YouTube stuff, but Im struggling a bit with my own attitude here. There 2 or 3 quite forward going horses who are very much " yeah, whoop whoop lets do this' attitude, and I feel like we're both quite connected and enjoying ourselves together. But with the lazier ones I'd be just as happy to groom and fuss for an hour instead, and I know they'd enjoy that more too!

If anyone can make sense of this rambling nonsense I'd be very grateful for your thoughts.
 

LaurenBay

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I'd perhaps speak with your instructor to ask if you can have one of the more forward Horses.

Do you ride with a schooling whip on the lazier Horses?

If you do have to have the lazier Horses then ask to do exercises which are more fun for you and the Horse. I find direct transitions really help to get their brain in gear, lengthening strides on the long and shorten strides on the short sides. Leg yield etc. I find if you just go round and round, the Horses do switch off (I am not just assuming that is all you do by the way)
 
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It's always an interesting lesson, lots of pole work and flat work usually, and I find it challenging, and enjoy it.

I enjoy riding the slower horses too, and thinking about my seat and leg aids and yields. I just hate pushing the horse to do something it's reluctant to do.

My most usual horse is really quite forward going, and I get the feeling that now I'm confident on him I'm being switched to other horses. My instructor told me she'd like me back on one I struggled with as it showed up where I needed work! And she's right, I need to push myself to learn, I just can't shift this attitude I have that I'm being mean to the horse!
 

Kat

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I would consider talking to your instructor but also consider trying a different instructor and horse (probably at a different riding school).

You shouldn't need to kick repeatedly if you are a reasonably competent rider on a reasonably healthy schooled horse.

I appreciate that sometimes using the word kick can be a way of getting a child or beginner to give a firmer leg aid when they aren't strong or capable enough to give a more refined firm aid but if you are beyond that stage they should be teaching you to give an effective leg aid and to sharpen the horse's response to that leg aid. That might include a kick occasionally but not constantly.

It is a tricky balance because horses suitably unflappable for beginners but a good instructor should be able to recognise when you are ready for a slightly more responsive horse and teach you how to give a more effective aid and then progress to understand how to school the unresponsive horse to be more on your aids.

I've been someone stuck with riding school horses before i got my own and it can be very frustrating but normally is is possible to get them on side and lots of them enjoy themselves once you have convinced them to put a bit more effort in. They tend to default to offering the minimum effort and it is up to you to persuade them to give you a bit more.
 
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I 100% get this, I'm exactly the same. I have one very lazy cob who I rarely ride any more because I couldn't stand feeling like I was bullying him. He's basically retired now and very happy. I'm afraid my solution was to buy horses that are more my style, I currently have a whizzy, sharp OTTB. Probably not much use to you but wanted to let you know that you're not alone!
 

Starzaan

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As an ex riding instructor, ask your instructor to get on the horse and show you.
I used to teach with one horse in particular who could tell a rider from a novice. If I had got on him kicked he would have sent me into orbit! He was sharp, off the leg, beautifully light in the hand and well schooled. For a novice rider or one who clearly wasn’t in ‘charge’ he was a half dead dobbin who needed serious leg to get moving.
Whilst these horses are frustrating, they’re SO good for your riding. Stick with it 😊
 

Skib

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As an older rider, I am always given the slowest horse in a RS when I do a WTC test.
There are techniques to get the slow horse moving.
I ask the RI to give me some time on my own. A dutiful adult student cant really concentrate on both teacher and horse at the same time. And the horse needs 100% attention if it is to return paying full attention to you.
First thing to remember is that a slow horse is not being naughty or mean. It is genetically geared to save energy.
But (as Michael Peace) said, it also needs to earn its keep. So you the rider are going to oblige it to move, that is to work.
That is not mean of you.
I find this best done by riding transitions. Going large. Halt to walk 4 or six strides and back to halt. repeat until the horse moves off with a very soft touch of the leg and then start walk trot transitions. After 4 walk, ask for trot. alternate 5 or 6 walk with 5 or 6 trot and the transition to trot will become easier and easier.
When it comes to canter I usually ask the RI how they normally ask this horse for canter, and on which lead? I then do as they say., beware the door or gate. To get past those you will need an extra kick.
 
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I 100% get this, I'm exactly the same. I have one very lazy cob who I rarely ride any more because I couldn't stand feeling like I was bullying him. He's basically retired now and very happy. I'm afraid my solution was to buy horses that are more my style, I currently have a whizzy, sharp OTTB. Probably not much use to you but wanted to let you know that you're not alone!
Yes! This is it, I felt like such a bully, and the horse is a sweetheart. My first lesson here was on an OTTB and it was love at first sight! He is such a cuddly sweet boy.

Thank you everyone for all the advice. It's helped me to reframe things in my head. There are a good range of horses, everything from 17hh plus ID to 15hh ex polo ponies, and they mix us up a bit on our usual horses, you are all absolutely right, it's great for teaching me and improving my riding. Its been a steep learning curve for sure. And I'm having a flare up of my ulcerative colitis which leaves me a bit emotional feeling and knackered, which no doubt is adding to knocking my confidence a bit.

Thank you all again!
 

Kat

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As an ex riding instructor, ask your instructor to get on the horse and show you.
I used to teach with one horse in particular who could tell a rider from a novice. If I had got on him kicked he would have sent me into orbit! He was sharp, off the leg, beautifully light in the hand and well schooled. For a novice rider or one who clearly wasn’t in ‘charge’ he was a half dead dobbin who needed serious leg to get moving.
Whilst these horses are frustrating, they’re SO good for your riding. Stick with it 😊
Absolutely, these horses are worth their weight in gold.

I remember the owner of the riding school I used to use saying that a particular little cob was better at assessing a new rider than any instructor. She used him a huge amount for people who said they could ride already and especially for people coming for exam prep.

He had so many "personalities" from absolutely vacant expression barely moving for a beginner, or plodding about steadily for people just off the lead rein to a pretty lively schoolmaster capable of flying changes and lateral work if you knew how to ask.
 
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I've been riding regularly for several months now and I went through a stage similar to you now. Looking back I'm glad I stuck with it. As others have said, being on these difficult horses despite being frustrating, really does help your riding. After a while I can have a good lesson with the most unresponsive horse on the yard (who would also walk backwards and try to buck you off when having a tantrum).

Some thoughts:
  • Schooling whip: Highly recommend. Just holding it can motivate your horse.
  • Leg position: After practicing proper position with no stirrups riding, I feel like I don't have to 'kick' so hard.
  • Command, don't ask: horses need a leader, and can tell when you're not confident.
  • Talk: if you're not doing dressage. I'm pretty sure some of the horses I've been on respond the instructor saying things.
 

Lois Lame

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This is interesting.

I would have thought it better for the OP to ask only for forward moving horses. It would be nice to discuss this further. I wonder if this thread could be copied/moved to The Tack Room for a wider audience?
 
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Hello everyone, thank you all for the input. I'm off riding until mid January anyway (in hospital now with chronic health thing) so I might ask the stables if I can pop over and fuss and groom. I've no idea if this would be allowed, or if it's a bit odd?
 

pistolpete

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I’ve been having lessons again after a long break from riding schools. There is always a very safe horse for the assessment lessons but after that I’ve always been given a more forward horse. Only at one school (Teapot) were all the horses forward going and sensitive but still safe. Ask for a more forward one. You’re paying! I usually refuse to carry a whip, personal choice. Upsets some instructors! So I don’t go to them anymore.
 

Starzaan

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This is interesting.

I would have thought it better for the OP to ask only for forward moving horses. It would be nice to discuss this further. I wonder if this thread could be copied/moved to The Tack Room for a wider audience?
Happy to discuss from an instructors point of view. Do you have any particular questions? 😊
 

Lois Lame

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Thank you, Starzaan.

Questions. Um, that would involve thinking. A bit of background first perhaps.

I'm a chicken on a horse. I need to feel that I am the one calling the shots, so a forward moving fellow has me feeling worried.

OTOH, who likes to have to encourage a lazy horse to move? It's a perplexing problem. So, in theory I'd like a forward mover but in practice...

I admire the OPs natural bravery in liking forward moving horses.

I'm not making any sense. I might wake up later.
 

Starzaan

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Thank you, Starzaan.

Questions. Um, that would involve thinking. A bit of background first perhaps.

I'm a chicken on a horse. I need to feel that I am the one calling the shots, so a forward moving fellow has me feeling worried.

OTOH, who likes to have to encourage a lazy horse to move? It's a perplexing problem. So, in theory I'd like a forward mover but in practice...

I admire the OPs natural bravery in liking forward moving horses.

I'm not making any sense. I might wake up later.
So, from an instructors perspective, we need to get people confident and able to get a tune out of the lazy horses. A strong and able rider will be able to make these ‘lazy’ riding school horses look effortless to ride. As I mentioned previously, a lot of the horses I teach with are half dead dobbins with a novice, but if I or one of my colleagues gets on, they wake up instantly and are a pleasure for the more experienced rider.

Your aim is to have your horse off the leg, light in your hand, and responsive. You want to be able to give aids so subtly that they aren’t visible to those watching. A more forward going horse makes this easier to achieve for a novice rider, but when you can do this on those lazy riding school dobbins, you know you’re really getting somewhere. 😊
 

Lois Lame

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What I'm wondering now is, is the lazy (or apparently lazy) horse better than the non-lazy? By better, I suppose I mean in the competition area. I'm wondering why a person who naturally clicks with the forward movers are better off mastering the not so forward. Is it a question of what looks and feels better (more powerful) in competition?

(Am I making sense?)

Is it a question of giving a rider a more rounded education: he or she learns how to ride all sorts?

Is the lazy horse, when ridden well, the more interesting/fun/spectacular than a flighty fellow?

I think I've sorted out my question:

Whilst these horses are frustrating, they’re SO good for your riding. Stick with it 😊

This would indicate that it is better for the rider's education. Is that right?

Sorry, I'm not very good at communication :oops:
 

Lois Lame

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Hello everyone, thank you all for the input. I'm off riding until mid January anyway (in hospital now with chronic health thing) so I might ask the stables if I can pop over and fuss and groom. I've no idea if this would be allowed, or if it's a bit odd?
It might be a bit odd, I don't know; depends on the individual that you ask. I think it sounds rather sweet. Go for it, I say.
 

Rumtytum

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Hello everyone, thank you all for the input. I'm off riding until mid January anyway (in hospital now with chronic health thing) so I might ask the stables if I can pop over and fuss and groom. I've no idea if this would be allowed, or if it's a bit odd?
All riding schools are different, I always give ‘my’ horse a groom and massage after our lesson. So I say definitely ask, they can only say no (but hopefully it will be a yes 😊).
 

Starzaan

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What I'm wondering now is, is the lazy (or apparently lazy) horse better than the non-lazy? By better, I suppose I mean in the competition area. I'm wondering why a person who naturally clicks with the forward movers are better off mastering the not so forward. Is it a question of what looks and feels better (more powerful) in competition?

(Am I making sense?)

Is it a question of giving a rider a more rounded education: he or she learns how to ride all sorts?

Is the lazy horse, when ridden well, the more interesting/fun/spectacular than a flighty fellow?

I think I've sorted out my question:

Whilst these horses are frustrating, they’re SO good for your riding. Stick with it 😊

This would indicate that it is better for the rider's education. Is that right?

Sorry, I'm not very good at communication :oops:
yep, you’ve got it spot on! These horses may be frustrating until you learn to ride them, but they’re SO good for your riding. The ultimate goal is to be able to get on ANY horse, and improve it in some way whilst riding. You want to get off knowing you’ve taught the horse something or improved a weak point. Riding lazy horses is the first step towards doing this. Once you can ride the lazy ones we, then you can move onto the more forward, and finally the truly sharp.
A lot of people who only ride the more forward, biddable horses in a riding school find themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle when they then move on to ‘non’ riding school horses.
 

GreyMane

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Agree with all the points raised but would add if you're learning, the instruction has to be there to tell you HOW to get a tune out of the switched-off horse. If they just leave you to flounder, it's so demoralising.
I used to go to a riding school where there were 2 teachers at totally opposite ends of the spectrum. Instructor 1 was great, made lessons really interesting no matter what mix of standards there were in a ride. Had us learning to see a stride to a jump, showed me how to get *the* most "lazy" pony in the school to do a nice walk/canter transition which made everybody's jaw drop! But when she was away and instructor 2 was there, oh dear. Had 2 awful lessons with her. First one, straight away she had us all without stirrups, trotting on and then cantering to the rear of the ride. For half an hour. Then changed the rein and did the same the other way, for another half hour, with virtually no instruction. It was an endurance test but nothing else; it's giving me stitch just remembering it! All of us were exhausted after what must have been several miles of non stop trot/canter/trot.
Second lesson with her, for reasons unknown she put me (smallest rider) on the largest horse in the place. I'd never ridden it before, it was usually ridden by the tallest heaviest man. It switched off completely with me, and with no instruction given again, I spent a frustrating hour getting no results at all. Looking back, I can't think why I did not speak up, because instructor 2 was putting zero effort into teaching anybody anything. If it happened to me now, I'd say something.
 
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I'll pop down and ask. It's a busy place and the yard manager is often chivvying along the younger staff.
It's on a military garrison ( but public too, private livery, pony club etc) and involved with military welfare stuff. I can only ask!
 

linka

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I'd agree with GreyManger's points and also voice one of my recurring worries (on resuming riding after a gap) that I worry some (not all) of the 'lazy' horses are working through pain.
 

Lois Lame

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yep, you’ve got it spot on! These horses may be frustrating until you learn to ride them, but they’re SO good for your riding. The ultimate goal is to be able to get on ANY horse, and improve it in some way whilst riding. You want to get off knowing you’ve taught the horse something or improved a weak point. Riding lazy horses is the first step towards doing this. Once you can ride the lazy ones we, then you can move onto the more forward, and finally the truly sharp.
A lot of people who only ride the more forward, biddable horses in a riding school find themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle when they then move on to ‘non’ riding school horses.
Thank you again, Starzaan.

I used to teach with one horse in particular who could tell a rider from a novice. If I had got on him kicked he would have sent me into orbit! He was sharp, off the leg, beautifully light in the hand and well schooled. For a novice rider or one who clearly wasn’t in ‘charge’ he was a half dead dobbin who needed serious leg to get moving.
Whilst these horses are frustrating, they’re SO good for your riding. Stick with it 😊
This is the sort of horse I need. Would be wonderful.

As an ex riding instructor, ask your instructor to get on the horse and show you.
Is this something that can be described?
 

Starzaan

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[QUOTE="Lois Lame, post: 14801994, member: 135046"Is this something that can be described?[/QUOTE]
If ever you’re struggling in a lesson, I would ALWAYS recommend asking your instructor to get on the horse and demonstrate what they’re asking you to do. A good instructor will always do this and show you clearly the difference between what you’re doing, and what is needed.
The number one rule when I was being trained as an instructor was ‘never teach an exercise you can’t ride yourself’.
 

Rumtytum

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[QUOTE="Lois Lame, post: 14801994, member: 135046"Is this something that can be described?
If ever you’re struggling in a lesson, I would ALWAYS recommend asking your instructor to get on the horse and demonstrate what they’re asking you to do. A good instructor will always do this and show you clearly the difference between what you’re doing, and what is needed.
The number one rule when I was being trained as an instructor was ‘never teach an exercise you can’t ride yourself’.[/QUOTE]
I’ve asked my instructor several times to get on and show me, I find it helpful to video her then she videos me so I can compare later at home.
 

Lois Lame

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It's a strange thing, but I would never have thought I could ask an instructor to show me something by having him or her mount the horse I was riding and demonstrate. I suspect the instructor I had many years ago would have blown a major blood vessel if I'd asked him. (He wasn't quite the right instructor for me.)

It's interesting to know it's okay to do this.

:D:)
 

Roxylola

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Being shown doesn't always work - as said above school horses especially often go very differently for a stronger rider. It can work but in some cases it can be a bit demoralising. If I were asked I would always demo something but it's not something I often offer.
As for getting the most out of lazy horses, intent is everything with horses. They just know when you mean what you say as opposed to suggesting things to them. It's not about being able to use your legs strongly enough really, it's them and you knowing that when you say go they must go etc. Nothing teaches you that like a "lazy" (crafty) riding school veteran
 

Lois Lame

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Yes, but I still think there is probably more to it :)

In any case, perhaps I have found a good person to get back into riding with. (Starzaan, pity you are a long way from me.)

ETA:
Nothing teaches you that like a "lazy" (crafty) riding school veteran
But if it's just the horse teaching the person how to make him move, this doesn't quite make sense to me.
 
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Bob notacob

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When I first started to learn to ride(still an ongoing project after half a century) We were lead on a lead rein around the park and roads. A poor substitute for a schooling arena. Far from it! Most beginners need at least a mechanical horse to get the feel of it now . Loose in a school or even a one to one on a longe rein does not have the degree of control of a horse to horse lead rein. Accidents happen. Those kids that gave me my early lessons had it ingrained in them that the last thing you ever let go of was the lead rein . Equitation far more "man from snowy river than Charlotte dujardan) WE may not have learned much fancy stuff , probably didnt even know which leg we were on but we learned to stay on !
 
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