I feel old.. (riding lessons)

Please move if this doesn’t belong here. It’s not related to any specific discipline so I wasn’t sure which forum to post in.

So, quick run through based off my first topic posted on COTH in October: experienced adult rider out of the saddle for a handful of years because became ill/horse died/had a double organ transplant/in recovery from said major surgery.

I’m at the point where I’d like to get back into the saddle by spring as I got approval from my surgeon, but also got the go ahead in regard to handling stuff like spores and dust in barns and arenas.

Where I live now, there aren’t very many options for riding lessons so it isn’t like I can try out one place and move to another easily. I’m focused on a hunter/jumper farm (not exactly H/J specific, more generalist these days, but that is their main area) with which I’m familiar.

Not owning my own horse at the moment, that means riding a schoolie, which I don’t mind. A moon or so ago I schooled rambunctious schoolies-in-training when my crackadoodle mare was on stall rest.

Just looking around the social media of the barn these days, I feel like ancient space junk. Most people that ride (and own) could be my children if I was a young teen mom. They don’t seem to have their adult program anymore. I completely understand that youth is where the market is here, but the fire in my belly to ride again sorta died.

There does not seem to be the same value in a private lesson either. I would gladly pay the higher fees for a private lesson, but for 1/2 hour, it often feels like nothing gets done. Warm up, some exercises, cool down, done. So, it seems like I will just have to bit the bullet for a group lesson. Kinda feel like a dinosaur at the thought.

The lesson coordinator offers to interview prospective students about past experience to place them with a suitable instructor and school horse. That’s great. I hope it doesn’t seem too pushy to specifically ask to ride different sorts of horses to “get the feel” again as I will be in the market for a new horse once comfortable back in the saddle again?!

Does anyone have any advice on how they would manage such a situation? (Being an adult riding with eye rolling teenagers.) Sorry this feels so whiny but I truly do feel like a fish out of water. Please be kind!

1 Like

Have you tried to talk to the instructor that will give you lessons about this?

They are well aware of such, or should and maybe you could start with a few longe lessons, that would put you in individual time to start.
You would get used to that barn with less stress and your confidence would be boosted.

As an instructor, I always would start new students by themselves, then maybe with two others, before putting them in bigger classes.
This way as an instructor you get to see where the student belongs.


I’m an adult rider (approaching 40) and ride in lessons at a barn with a wide range of ages. While my normal lesson group is all adults, scheduling changes sometimes put teens in our group or I end up in one of theirs as long as the abilities are similar. Honestly, it’s not as bad as you think. Maybe my barn just has super nice kids, but everybody is respectful even if you are having a bad lesson and nobody is eye rolly.

As private lessons go, I actually find them to be just as worthwhile. I don’t sign up for them on purpose but sometimes end up with one if the rest of my group has schedule conflicts (in which case my hour group turns into a half hour private, same cost). I get all of the attention on me and we are doing exercises pretty much the entire time once warmed up (our cool down time is after the lesson). In the hour group attention is split while flatting and we take turns doing the jumping exercises or courses so some time is spent just standing there.

As far as asking to ride different horses, that doesn’t hurt and I would think most barns would try to accommodate you as long as their schoolie string and scheduling allow. If people are in the same lesson slots consistently it’s sometimes easiest for barns to just assign the same horse every week, but they may make an effort for you if it’s part of your goals. And many barns do swap horses around on purpose as part of making a well-rounded rider.

1 Like

When you are just starting back you might find the 1/2 hour private just right. I say try that for a bit before you decide it is not enough time.

1/2 hour private lessons are what I always took (way back when). I would warm my horse up ahead of time and then the whole lesson time was learning. Not sure if that is an option with a lesson horse but it is still worth starting with the shorter private lesson until you are back in shape and familiar with the trainer.

I think you find that many of the teenagers will not care that you are an adult. Once you find an barn where the trainer fits your learning style, I doubt the other students will think of you as anything but part of the program.


When I started riding again as an adult, I started with a few private lessons, and then joined a group class that was mostly teenagers. It was fine.

When I started half leasing and then bought my horse I switched back to private lessons, but still do an occasional group lesson or clinic.

In my opinion, it’s more about the instructor than the other students in the class. They should be able to make a group lesson valuable for everyone and should nip annoying teenage (or adult) behavior in the bud so it doesn’t impact the group.

I’m 32 and I regularly ride with a 14 year old and her mom as well as a 22 year old. Occasionally a 60 something woman trailers in.

At a different barn where I visit occasionally, the entire population is IEA (middle and high school) kids.

It doesn’t matter to me; I get to be jumping a horse. The rest is just noise.


You might be pleasantly surprised. I usually take my lesson with “ladies of a certain age” (like me) but as my crazy schedule dictates I sometimes ride with a couple of 14-18 year olds. I enjoy that too (and may push myself a bit more). Horses can really be a greater leveler of many things (including age).


I have always taken private one hour lessons, both as a returning rider in an H/J barn, and then when I switched to dressage. IME dressage lessons are always private and adult lessons are always private. The only exception was a handful of jump lessons later on when my coach had two or three of us in the ring to give breathing room between jumps.

When you are a returning rider honestly sometimes you just have to gather your courage and go with whatever lessons and opportunities are available. Once you get back in the scene you will discover places and choices you never knew existed.

I also wouldn’t assume too much from social media. The barn does social media in order to create team feeling among its child and teen clients. It’s strategic. They may have a number of adult clients, but that’s not who necessarily gets on Instagram, or who even wants to be.

Have you visited, talked to trainer, done a lesson? If your work is flexible and you can do a lesson while the kidlets are in school, the trainer will be delighted to give you a private lesson in the slow time slot!

Geez, all you old people. Almost 40, 32, unstated. I was 53 when I bought my horse. Adult beginner because I couldn’t count what I did for my Girl Scout badge in 1959. That was 20 years ago. Dad said we could have a pony but when ever we asked about it he asked us if we had saved enough money yet. I’m not sure I can answer “yes.” This is our Century Ride year.

I got started on a school horse about a year earlier. I was at “a barn,” no particular discipline. Regular and therapeutic lessons programs, boarding and leasing. Check out who is there riding. If you see older types, including some with gray hair, you probably will find what you are looking for. The trick is to find an instructor who works well with adults, particularly older beginners. I was on and off with lessons over the years. I tended toward 30 minutes, especially now since my 26 y.o. gelding needs a long slow warmup. I also will do a semi-private for 60 minutes. They are useful because you can digest and practice what you are working on while the instructor works with the other rider. Teenage barn rats don’t care about how old you are. You are there to ride and take care of your horse if you board. If they have enough time to check out you, your riding and your horse, they need a longer list of chores.


I am part of the “oldest” group of riders at my barn (50+).

My instructors are always willing to do 1/2 hour (in which case I warm up the horse on my own) or 1 hour lessons. And it’s a good thing, because when I have to take time off from riding, it takes me a while to get fit again!
I also like to take semi-private lessons with one or 2 other horses. My mare doesn’t do well in group lessons, she becomes unglued :wink: but on a quieter horse it would not bother me to be in a lesson with younger riders / kids, as long as they are at least intermediate riders so the lesson can be productive for me.

If I were you I would ask the instructor about private lessons, just to get back into the game and get a feel of the barn.

I’ve started riding again last year at 32, after a 25 years break.

1/2 hours private might not be that bad, especially in the beginning: muscles need to get back in shape. I had a hard time walking after my first couple of 50 minutes group lessons for over a week after said lessons… It was brutal.

My current trainer uses her own horses to give lessons, which mean there is only one horse that I can ride (her opinionated competition mare), as the other two are quite small and I’m really tall. I have a semi-private and a private 1-hour long lesson each week since September. The lesson barn I was at before would give you different horses to find a good match/challenge you every couple of weeks/months, depending on how it was going.

I would mention wanting to ride different kind of horses to the coordinator so they know/take your aspirations into account, but I would wait and do a couple of lessons to see how it goes before demanding it: they will be able to evaluate your abilities and that of their horses better.

When I had group lessons with kids/teenagers, I had no eye rolling but they did not care enough about the horses (wouldn’t brush them after the lessons for example) and too much with selfies for my tastes. My biggest issue was that I wanted to know the “why”, the theory behind what I was told to do and I couldn’t really ask in group lessons of 5-8 peoples.

I strongly prefer a mix of private, semi-private (2 at my current barn), and group (3+) lessons. It’s been a long time since I rode anywhere big enough to have a group of 5+, but those were great too as long as they were well-run (which is a critical instructor skill). Each has benefits and drawbacks, but a good lesson is a good lesson, and I like the variety. I agree with many who have already posted that I’ve ridden with fellow students of many different ages and it is almost never a problem. Any problems in a lesson are more related to an individual than an age group!

You shouldn’t get too worried about 30-min vs 60 min, etc, until you’ve had a chance to speak to the instructor(s) about their routines. You may be expected/allowed to be warmed up in advance of a 30-min lesson, for example, or you might be very sorry that your 60-min lesson didn’t include warmup and cool down when you can’t walk the next day!

Funny, I felt the same as you a few short months ago. I take 45 minute private lessons, which in the beginning was all my old muscles could handle. Now it flies by.

There are benefits if being an older re rider. I just go to barn, tack up my schoolie du jour and traipse around the arena warming up, ( loosening my stiff joints takes a minute) Sometimes I stroll around on the buckle for a half hour waiting for my lesson start. By the time she gets around to me I am warmed up and my 45 minutes is all work. Then I am left to cool out on my own.

Once your instructor finds out you can handle you own business, your 30 minutes may be ALL work.

As for the Juniors, at first they looked at me like " look at the old fogey". Then when I started making comments like “cute mare is she a 4 year old?” Conversations started and I find them a delight. Most are passionate and dedicated. I get along great with most and actually I have one who sees me and asks about my tack (I have been on a tack buying bender) and wants to see what I have this week, she was thrilled when I let her take a spin in my MDC stirrups and TSF ultra wide leathers. She them told me she had needed knee surgery and was having trouble with knee pain. Guess what she used her Xmas money for…

Some are self involved, some are just shy. Mostly they are just kids, like we were, anxious to belong. The secret is that once they see we can actually ride, we oldies become a little more “interesting”

Go take your lesson and slowly make your way into the barn. Social Media shows only the younger set. I would bet you have some older riders there, there are at most barns. Since you are planning on another horse soon, this phase will be short lived and before long you will be back in the swing and I pray, Loving it as much as I am. I am having a BLAST!


Hey everyone, thank you for all your positive thoughts and honest advice. Guess I don’t feel so panicky like I did this morning!

I’m mid-30s and been out of the saddle for almost 6 years, who while not the end of the world, it feels like eons.

Times have obviously changed but I think back to my teen years and then mid-20s where the “girls” (teenagers) were drama with a capital D. It was always a case of “my horse is better than your horse” or just negative comments about people’s riding. I particularly remember two girls, who showed A circuit, who would give snarky attitude, could comment rudely about people’s riding, and just made it uncomfortable. Because they showed A circuit, and admittedly were the better products of the school, they got away with it. (To be honest, anyone that showed the big shows had attitude. I didn’t show with them, but I rode in lessons/got coaching with their coach/level.)

My family (non-horsey people) are actively poo-pooing on my hope to buy another horse because they think horse people are rude and weird. As part of a lesson program, you guys are absolutely right, you can ignore that noise.

So, these memories obviously come back. It is obviously unfair to base encounters of the past on interactions of the future.

ANYWAY… back to the lesson program issue.

It would be really cool to be able to book a couple private lessons, or one private and one group, or some sort of mix to get time in the saddle, but their program is one weekly lesson with a schoolie. That’s all. As some of you noted, that may be a good move in the beginning to go 1/2 hour private(I remember those spans of time off and walking bowlegged for a day or two after, hahaha!), but I want more than 1/2 hour per week. I will have to find other ways to be able to get more time in the saddle.

I’ll most definitely have to book that interview and see what happens. This is a necessary hurdle so that I can move forward to horse buying in the future. So, eye on the prize, right?

I’m 59 and started reriding last year after a long time off. It’s funny - I finally bought my farm and brought my horse home, and promptly started thinking about taking a Christopher Reeve fall in the field by myself. I pretty much stopped riding. I first started lessons at a barn with a friend, then they closed down due to Covid and now I’m riding at a barn with mixed age groups Right now I take a one hour group lesson - usually 3-4 riders, various ages. I’m happy to be riding. I’m thinking about adding a second lesson to my week.

The mean girl 'tude doesn’t bother me, if it’s there. I don’t hang out with these people, we just share a lesson. Besides, I’ve long stopped caring what my peers think, let alone some tween who has never had a mortgage payment, a vet bill and a plumber all to pay at one time. They don’t know shit about life - why should I care what they have to say?



As a re-rider years back, I thought I’d prefer being with riders at my skill level (at that moment) than with people my age. (I was coming back after 5 years in which I lost a horse, got married and started a family and was about 36 or 37.) One program seemed more interested in matching age groups but it created a strange mix of abilities that made lessons awkward and unproductive. I’m sure she figured that us middle agers would prefer being grouped together, and I remain friends with some of those ladies, but I progressed more when matched with similarly skilled riders, even if they were teens or college agers. When I started leasing, I became good friends with the young woman (about 24 at the time) whose horse was next to “mine.” She was 15+ years younger than I was but we hit it off and she remains a friend. Now. she’s the age that I was then and we have funny conversations about riding at a certain age.
When I got back to jumping, doing about 2’3 to 2’6, I realized that the kid who was just getting to that level for the first time, wasn’t rolling her eyes at me when I biffed as I anticipated. She was too busy tying to master the intricacies of counting strides and sharp corners in the indoor to worry about me.
If you have concerns, discuss them with the instructor or person running the program. Generally middle aged adults will be more sympathetic to the emotional needs of a returning student with “baggage.” Maybe try a couple of private lessons to get your sea legs back and develop some rapport with the trainer. Ask to me put in a group at your level. If the other students are also on school horses, there is far less of the cattiness that you see with kids on their own horses.

1 Like

Exactly. The first step is the hardest. I had thought about getting back into riding for a while, but didn’t know the area or the barns or have any horsey friends. Finally, I just took the plunge and called a barn and set up a lesson. That barn wasn’t perfect, and I ended up only riding there for 6 months, but it worked for that first step back into the horse world.

Once you are an adult, it’s amazing how little teen drama involves or concerns you :slight_smile: unless of course you’re the mom who has to deal with the fallout and tears. It’s generally all focused within the peer group.


I’m in my 40’s and my barn is 95% kids and teens. And you know what? They’re just lovely. There are a few adults, but they are mostly too busy and too serious for my taste. So my favorite folks to run into at the barn are certainly young enough to be my children! We like to go on trail rides together and chat about their riding goals. I love that. Horses are the great equalizer. Age has a way of disappearing when you have the same passion.


I second the 1/2 hour rides to start. I am also a re-rider, coming back after having had a child. I come from a fit, active background, and let me tell you, having had a C-section, recovering my core has been hard!

I had all the muscle memory, but they just would. not. activate. I was sore in brand new ways, because my innards had been cut. I would imagine if you had major surgery, you also may be surprised at that.

Other than that, the youngins at the barn have been great, no worries there. HOrses do actually bring us together. The antics of your youth are probably there, but they only have the power you give them…