I feel old.. (riding lessons)

Im a woman of a certain age and a beginner rider with a pony. I used to ride with my kid but she’s a teen and when the other teens are around I have to make myself scarce! I then go ride with the 8 and 9 yr olds. There are a few other adults but none that ride regularly like I do. I enjoy being with the kids and teens. They bring so much energy to the barn.


I was 34 and taking lessons with a small group. During the cool down, younger kid turns to me and asks" what do you want to do when you grow up?"

of course, none of us know the answer to this question, but she asked it very seriously.


I am 31 and taking my first lesson in over ten years tomorrow. Privately, for the moment, but I will share the arena.
Actually, this will be my first time properly in a saddle, in a non-plodding-on-trail-string capacity, for the same amount of time. I don’t have anything else to add that hasn’t been brought up, but this: simply own the experience and rock it :metal:
And who cares what is going through anyone else’s mind. When I was younger and rode more, I LOVED seeing the beginner adults at the barn. As long as people were kind and chill, they were all part of the same horsey family.

If a teenager or whomever tears you down, even to themselves, well…it’s a product of their own immaturity and something they will need to address themselves, somewhere along their own life path. You do you!!


I’m soon to be “over the hill,” a formerly fairly experienced rider whose riding—due to “life”—has lost a lot of ground the past couple of years, and I totally enjoy having lessons with some of the kids sometimes. When we go XC schooling (they school, I pop over a few things here and there), we have the best time encouraging each other. I think they enjoy having an oldster in their group as much as I enjoy them.


Agree with you @seabreeze . For whatever reason, they seem to enjoy having an old fart in their midst! Maybe it feels cool to be on equal footing with an adult?


You need to do you --set your goals and plan how to achieve them.

I’ve found young people (and everyone is young compared to me) treat you how you treat them. A sincere compliment to the “mean girl” maybe made on a daily basis, will make her your friend, maybe, or not your enemy at least. Then just focus on you. These are lessons, not a social outing. Does it really matter that Nasty Nancy is rolling her eyes?? How does that make your riding different?

And now the long story to illustrate the above point . … (skip if you want to)

About 5 years ago when the last grandkid left the show circuit and I was out of a summer job as groom/show granny; I completely changed disciplines and took up Mounted Archery. With three well-trained horses parked unused in my barn, I wanted something to do with them in the summer (fox hunt in the winter), that I could practice at home alone (no one jumps when alone at the farm, a rule we’ve had forever).

Signed my old (almost 70) self up for a mounted archery clinic and haven’t looked back. Most mounted archers are young; early teens to 30s. About half a men. And if they were the sort to do, I’m sure some had a laugh at the old lady missing EVERY SINGLE SHOT at her first mounted archery contest --but I made my goal --I finished the match and I didn’t fall off. I scored 0. (cue music–Eye of the Tiger is good here).

The next year I came back, knowing more and having built my own course on my farm. My goal was to score in the top half (and not fall off). I was 9 th out of the 25 archers at the match. (switch music to Chariots of Fire theme)

The next year I as back in force --and I won the match across the board. But I did fall off. I was talking (too much and probably bragging), when William Tell gave one of those “horse shakes” and since I was holding a bow in one hand and my arrows in the other --I fell off --but he’s not very big, so I didn’t fall far. Got back on and made my best shots of the day

Moral of the story —if I concentrated on “what others thought” about an old lady shooting a bow off her horse --I wouldn’t be travelling around the US (after COVID) having fun, shooting my bow. and meeting nice folks.


That is a great story, good for you! :clap:

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It does make you feel old from time to time, I’ll admit! Especially when you assume someone you’re riding with is early/mid-20s and then find out they’re like 15 :woozy_face:

You also have to wrap your head around a different dynamic than the adult riders who are lifelong, expert types. Their status relative to the teens/tweens of the barn is more traditional. When you’re still getting the hang of things, and asking questions like “did I put this horse’s boot on upside down?” …you might find yourself asking a twelve year old to double-check your work.

But honestly, it’s not that weird. I find it keeps you young. Especially if you have your sh*t together in your real, non-barn life, it can be healthy and humbling to put yourself in situations where you have to be the beginner again. It’s easy to avoid those experiences the older you get. But then eventually you become stodgy and inflexible, and turn into one of those “old” old people telling everyone to get off their lawn.

And as for the petty drama, rivalries, and belittling remarks teenage girls are notorious for, yes, you’ll be exposed to some of that, maybe even the target of some unflattering commentary or condescending advice. But it’s honestly just amusing as an adult. I swear, it’s nothing like when you were a teenager yourself. And you’re in a position to set a good example for them, and maybe temper some of the intense self-criticism and status anxiety that triggers kids to act like that in the first place. Even if they don’t look up to you for your riding, at the end of the day you’re still an adult, and you end up feeling a degree of responsibility to show them “how to be,” so to speak.

One last thing to consider is that many advanced adult riders are working with green horses. That can really level the playing field. If you’re on a school master, you can easily find yourself in the same lessons and clinics, doing the same exercises, as people your own age. So if you’re concerned about being relegated to tween-and-teenager land, it’s not as neatly split up as that.

Thank you everyone for your insight, personal stories and general support. These have all been GREAT! Really, thank you all so much.

I guess I just got “jaded” (do people still use that word?) from my teen experience at the barn. It was pretty rough. And then, in my 20s, it was like snarky comments about my horse being a crackpot. (She was, but she was MY crackpot and I loved her dearly, even if she spooked at her own poop. Smooth as butter to ride though!) The teenagers on the site had that same sort of aura, which is unfair on my part to judge based on photos, but you know… it brought flashbacks. They probably are lovely and love horses, want to excel in their riding, and want a safe place to ride.

While I do need to get back to riding fit, my horse care knowledge and horsemanship skills are still there. Such as I know how to groom, tack up, know barn etiquette and arena etiquette, so to come into a situation where I am approached as a dummy (because of riding a school horse) gives me pause. Obviously, that is my own ego talking there and it probably wouldn’t happen.

My riding theory is there too. Such as I know what to do, but just my body hasn’t been on a horse. Horsey friends (out of town now) still come to me to discuss an issue.

To be honest, I never thought I would be in the situation of needing to rely on riding a school horse again. Nothing against them as they often sweet angels of the industry, but I just got spoiled. As well, the freedom to ride when I wanted and such.

Since I have been relegated to flatwork for the rest of my life, it really isn’t a big deal, right? It’s not as if I need to be concerned about slowing down a jumping lesson with being rusty…ever.

I guess I just have my own personal barriers for feeling like a burn out at my age having had an organ transplant and my life in a rebuilding stage. I’ll probably start bawling once I get on the back of any horse. Gotta start somewhere.


I will be 70 this year. I am by far the oldest rider at my lesson stable. I am also very crippled from MS. And by the way I have been riding seriously since 1970.

I really do not care what the younger riders think about my riding.

Now, if I was abusing the horse I ride a lot of objections would be valid, but I work very hard not to abuse these wonderful and patient horses.

You see, my riding teacher uses me to ride the “useless” horses at the stable. The horses that learned they could get away with stuff with beginners, well these horses eventually go the way I want them to. Some of these horses have problems that rule out jumping–well I train them to be more responsive and obedient horses on the flat.

When a horse comes up with an evasion that had worked 100% before to get out of work, I have a very good idea of what to do. Often after a discussion with one of these horses they end up being really surprised that they end up obeying me–like when they try to run away and I stop them cold within 3 strides, non-abusively.

So long I can train them at just the walk and trot I can be very effective on a non-explosive resistant horse.

When I start at a stable I tell them that I am an ideal rider for teaching lesson horses that they are expected to OBEY the aids even if my balance is bad, or my aids are not totally exact, or even if it takes me a few strides to get my seat back centered in the saddle.

You can do a lot of good work with a horse as an older not so perfect rider, so long as you do not panic.

I also serve as an good example for the younger students (some in their 40s). Everything I do with a horse has a reason, I know what to expect, I know how to deal with the horse’s objections so long as the horse does not simply explode, my tack is clean, my bits are properly fitted, my saddle pads are brushed off and vacuumed after every ride, with everything I do I try to show good old-fashioned horsemanship.

I did get some dirty looks from the teen-age riders one lesson though. I was just doing a “homework ride” while they were trotting, cantering and jumping. At the beginning of my ride I did the “vertical far” position (standing up in my stirrups with a straight leg) to stretch out, and my riding teacher started asking for it from her lesson students. They had done this in lessons before so they sort of groaned. Then my riding teacher told them that I had introduced her to that exercise, pointing me out with her finger, and I got those looks of “now I know who to blame for all this extra work.”

Shrug. If I, crippled with MS can do it, well they can do it to.


You have to change how you look at this.

Think about it this way - the average lesson facility sees all levels of people claiming to have all levels of skills. The majority of them are probably exaggerating their skill level. Think about that lesson mom who describes their kid as advanced because their daughter just moved from all flat lessons to lessons where they are doing itty bitty jumps.

I think it says a lot (positive) about a lesson program who starts out a new person with a lesson that allows them to get to know each other first. They are doing what is best for their lesson horses and the riders.

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I completely agree with this. 100% Yes, it is true that some typically over-exaggerate about their skill levels, and then consequently leads to a whole bunch of problems. Safety, primarily.

It’s just in this certain instance with the lesson program, prospective riders have to purchase a large block of lessons up front and a rider gets plopped into a group. And it starts with the assumption that all are beginners, even the “intro” package to see if one actually likes riding, is beginner-centric. (Which makes sense.)

I guess this is where private lessons may be the best option because there is that room for customization.

One positive aspect is that they do ask on the application for which recognized level one has achieved through relevant organizations. And I have proof. Just it’s that grey area where on paper I am advanced, but need a refresher after 6 years.

Yes, that is your own ego talking. Chances are that everyone else at the barn is too busy worrying about their own stuff to concern themselves with you or your skills in the slightest. As long as you are not doing anything unsafe or disruptive, no one is going to care. However, your knowledge of how to tack up, lead, mount and all that will surely separate you from true beginners.

Also, since you say you have been “relegated to flat work” have you considered looking at a dressage barn? The average rider age there is likely to be older than at a HJ barn, and you just might enjoy it and not feel that you’re missing out on jumping.

I’m 43 and by far not skewing towards the older side of dressage riders in my local area. We have had a big increase in teen girls at my barn over the past year, and there is a bit of inter-teen drama at times, but overall it is fine. They are very respectful to all the adults, and only cause consternation when they forget to put things away, or make a misstep with their horse handling that an adult feels the need to intervene with.

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Sadly, there are no local dressage facilities. :frowning:

However, once I move to a larger city centre (in the next 2 years), I will definitely be going gung-ho into dressage. So, your thinking is spot on. Right now, it’s just about getting back on a horse. :slight_smile:

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Its just the opposite where I am, almost everyone does private lessons, groups are almost impossible to find, mainly because nobody has a string of school horses anymore I suppose. I spent about 10 years doing strictly private lessons but that 30 minutes was very intense, I certainly felt as though I got my money’s worth and accomplished something in most lessons. I recently discovered a nearby lesson barn that does have some very nice schoolies and I’m hoping to start group lessons in the spring when it warms up. I love riding in a group, I’m more competitive in that situation and feel as though I try even harder than in a private.

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Coming back as an adult with adult concerns (mental, physical, financial) will present both challenges and benefits that you didn’t have as a teenager/young adult. My situation and background are similar to yours and it’s just different when you come back. Sometimes it’s super-frustrating to be limited to just lessons on a schoolie and sometimes it makes me extremely happy, cost- and convenience-wise. Sometimes I am perfectly at peace with the fact that riding 1-3 days a week will never get me as fit and skilled as when I rode 6 days a week and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it at all.

It sounds to me that you should treat this lesson opportunity as just that - an opportunity to get back into horses. Nothing more and nothing less. If it only lasts a couple of months before you lease or buy something, that is great. If it lasts two years, also great, because it allows you to do the thing you love. You’ll get out of it what you put in (assuming it’s a good program).

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Hey, I know that it wouldn’t ever the same layout, but can you tell me what was worked on in 30 minutes that was intense. I am intrigued. As well, if it is not too intrusive, what is the going rate (cost) for 30 minute private lessons in your area? Just want to see if I am skewed (and wrong) on value.

Thank you so, so much. This is a good philosophy to adopt and it is how I will look at it. I’ve been so focused on just becoming a horse owner again, that I truly missed the notion to enjoy the opportunity. Really, I do have to come to terms that it won’t be the same and I probably won’t ride the same, but at least there will be horses in my life again.

I guess it would be bad to go into the schooling shows though. :laughing:

Last time I was at a lesson barn the going rate for a 1/2 hour private was about 1+1/3 the cost of a group lesson. Some made up numbers, if a group one hour was $30, the half hour private was $40.

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I never hadessons as a kid, I taught myself to ride and was pretty good on my own horse by my mid teens.

When I returned to lessons in my 40s and my body would not obey my mind, I just chose to check my ego at the door of the barn and decide it was absolutely amazing and wonderful to be on a horse at all. No whining about what I used to be able to do. No agonizing over the next step or the expense. Just go and take a lesson twice a week and be thrilled to be back in it.

Within 5 years I had a horse at another suburban self board barn that I never knew existed, doing beginner dressage. Within a decade I had a truck and trailer and was going horse camping. Now 13 years later I am still progressing with that horse and working on a green fell through the cracks horse. I go horse camping in the summer. I am a better rider now than when I was 17, technique has made up for bravado. I have found a small but close group of horse friends and a coach who has been an amazing mentor.

Not one bit of this could have been predicted when I started lessons.

Part of what led me away from horses in my 20s was indeed that everybody in my horse world then was mean teenage girls or really sketchy bad cowboy types.

But as an adult you can make another reality. Start the h/j lessons and see where it takes you. You really don’t know where you’ll be in 5 or 10 years.


Italics as a big yes! It seems those types span the globe.

Once again, some really great advice in this reply. I sincerely thank you. Truly, I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but the thought of being here “the next 5 or 10 years” was alien to me for a long time. And now, I have this constant stress of making up lost time (which I know can’t be done) in professional fields and personal life stuff. Horses shouldn’t be lumped together in this, but I guess I did it.

But, the odds are (hopefully) in my favor now so perhaps I can take this horse journey slow and be open to possibilities. You’re right. Who knows what can follow after a first step.

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