So many times people ask me how long it will take for them to learn to ride.
I am always at a loss as to how to answer that and saying, “it depends” seems evasive.
Asking “what are your goals?” isn’t very helpful for someone new to the sport either and it is almost always new riders who ask the question in the first place.
There can be an assumption that the learning curve is somehow standardized and so a general idea of a timeline should be possible.
I suppose at some level they are right. Some time lines can be pretty predictable. I mean if all you want to do is get on a horse, hold on to the saddle and have a walk on a trail ride, then that skill can be acquired pretty quickly. In fact, as long as you can hoist yourself up on the horse, no lessons are really required. At this point the horse needs to be the trained professional who is tasked with taking you on a walk and getting you back to your car safely.
However, if you want to learn to move at a faster pace than walk, and you want to do it without interfering with the horse’s balance too much, the learning curve just got steeper. Now you’ll have to figure out how to stay in a rhythm with the horse’s movements and that takes a little practice. Depending on the horse and depending on the rider, actually being able to stay on the horse at the trot and canter in a balanced, non interfering way can take a number of years. (if you eliminate the non interfering part, it can be quicker but as horse lovers, we don’t go there, right?)
Perhaps your goal as a rider includes jumping. Again, that can take a bit of time to develop an ability to guide the horse to just the right spot where he should leave the ground and stay in balance with his centre of gravity as he jumps over the fence.
Maybe your goal is to be able to take a young horse and assume the role of its teacher. That, in my opinion, is a much bigger task that is often understood and requires a vast amount of experience to do on your own.
So I guess I’m no closer to an answer. I mean, how long does it take?
I think everyone who loves horses and begins riding, at some point has a moment were this wonderful, kind animal understands what we ask of him and does it willingly.
This moment can be experienced near the very beginning of our riding career and once we have experienced it, we start to seek that communication in tasks that get more complicated. The horse never disappoints us in his capacity to learn and this in itself fuels the thinking rider’s passion.
Suddenly one day you realize you have been riding for most of your life and you are still seeking those moments.
This is an addiction, and it is what makes the horse lover come back, again and again…always seeking that elusive connection; those quiet, profound, moments when, having learned the horse’s language well enough, we ask, and even when the task is difficult, this 1000 pound animal does everything in his power to oblige.
How long does it take?
I would say it takes a life time but you could find worse things to do with your time…:-)