Morgan riding Desiree over poles.

Morgan riding Desiree over poles.

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” ~ Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

One of the most frequent questions we hear at the barn is, “How often should my child take lessons?” Our answer usually is, we expect the rider to ride weekly. Our lessons are scheduled on the same day, same time for your convenience.

Some parents are satisfied with that answer, others wonder if riding twice a week would be beneficial, and others start to explain why weekly lessons aren’t doable.

This makes me wonder. If your child was taking music lessons, not only are the lessons usually weekly, but you would also have that instrument in the house and the child would be expected to practice daily. The same for ballet or any other skill that the child was learning.

Sports teams have games weekly or bi-weekly, and have practice almost daily. Swimmers try to get to the pool as often as possible to build skill and stamina for the meets.

So, why the reluctance to commit to a weekly riding lesson, especially when you do not have a horse to practice on?

Weekly lessons are designed to build on the acquired skills week after week. Horseback riding also uses core muscles that aren’t typically used in everyday activities. Muscle memory needs to be reinforced by performing the same activities over and over again. None of these will be accomplished by the occasional rider. Bi-weekly lessons can advance riding skills but not as much as weekly riding.

During the summer we have three weeks of day camp where everyone riders every day. The parents are surprised and pleased to see how much their child advances after one week of camp. The reason – practice, practice, practice.

So that brings us to the second question – would riding twice a week help. Most definitely, but we hesitate to have real young riders taking lessons that often. Although they would get better faster, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll advance twice as fast. There is a lot going on in the rider’s body and their connection is their horse.

If the issue with weekly riding is finances or arrangements, then, every other week is better than no lessons. But, if it’s scheduling or other activities are taking the priority, and the riding lessons would be once a month or so, then, maybe everyone should wait until a true commitment to riding can be made.

Commitment to regular lessons is what separates the “wanna be” from the person who really wants to do it.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.

Learning to SerpentineOur new exercise was to serpentine the arena, first at a walk, then at a trot. As I explained the directions to the riders, I realized that they weren’t quite sure what a serpentine was, so the old school teacher in me kicked in.

“What word do you hear in the first two syllables of serpentine,” I asked.

All I got was a blank stare. I had no choice but enter into an English class.

“Ser-pent-ine” I said while holding up one finger for each syllable. Ah, they got it.

“Serpent,” said one rider.

“Good, what’s a serpent?”

More blank stares. One mother tried to help me out.

“What spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden?” she asked.

“A snake!” I heard that clearly from the other side of the arena.

“Great! Now who can tell me how a snake moves? Did you study snakes in science yet?”

They were deep in thought.

“Do they move squiggly or straight?”

“Oh,” piped up one rider, “They move side to side.”

Close enough. Now we were able to apply how a snake moves to the term serpentine and complete the exercise.

One mom commented after the lesson on how she never thought “classroom” lessons could be incorporated into a horseback riding lesson.

I just smiled. She hasn’t heard my math lessons yet.