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Rider Insider: Becoming a Real Rider

What experience made you'd finally become a real horseperson?

November 6, 2013

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Trail RidingThere's a popular notion in the equestrian world that you're not a real rider until you've fallen off 10 times. Or is it three times? Either way, if you hang out with enough horse people, you've probably heard some variation of this old adage. Maybe it's just something that riding instructors and other experienced equestrians say to comfort newbies after they've met the dirt for the first time, but it does make some sense. You can sit on an old trail-string pony and wander around for days, but you've hardly earned your stripes until you've reached beyond that comfort zone.

There's much more to equestrianism than staying in the saddle (or not.) Chances are, when you fell off that third (or tenth, or hundredth) time, you didn't jump up off the ground feeling like you'd suddenly made it. However, maybe there was a lightbulb moment when you realized you weren't just a beginner, dabbling in this horse thing. Was it the first time you were able to groom, tack up, ride and cool out a horse without having to ask for help? Did it come somewhere later on down the line when you were able to act confidently to help a sick or injured horse? Was it when other riders at your barn started asking you for help or advice instead of the other way around?

All riders are growing, learning and improving as long as they keep working with horses. It's a process that never ends. But unless you were born into the horse world, you can probably look back at a time when you had no idea what you were doing around a horse, and see how you've progressed from them. What was the experience or event that made you realize that you had become a true rider or horseperson? Click Submit a Comment below and tell us about it. Some of the editors' favorite responses could be featured in a future issue of Horse Illustrated!

This month, Noble Equine is sponsoring the Rider Insider column in Horse Illustrated with a prize for the selected featured response. If you'd like to be considered for a prize, make sure to include your contact info in the email field of the comment form (emails will not be publicly displayed.)

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Reader Comments

Nicole    Arab, AL

1/22/2015 3:58:37 PM

I think I became a real rider the first day my horse ever stood for the farrier without being tranquilized or ear twitched. It took two years of training, every day.

Erin    Northfield, MN

5/31/2014 4:06:59 PM

The moment when I felt like a real rider came about three years after I started riding. During those first three years, I understood go and whoa, I could make a horse walk trot and canter, jump, and I could perform several figures and lateral movements. However, I didn't fully understand the essence of dressage (my primary discipline). However, in the summer of my third year of riding, it clicked. I understood the concept of being on the bit, and the idea of rounding up your horse and driving him in to a soft contact with your hands by using your legs. I knew exactly what part of my body to use and when to use it to get the results I wanted. Horseback riding became more than just pointless maneuvers, but a true art.

Magda    Ithaca, NY

5/14/2014 6:44:22 PM

My greatest goal as an equestrian has always been about the bond between horse and rider. Every time I feel the bond between myself and the horse that I ride grow, I know that we'll do better in the arena with communication and working as one, but most importantly, we'll have more fun. Every time I see the trust in my horse's eyes, I know I have taken a step in the equestrian world, and gained a friend for life.

Maggie    Fredericksurg, VA

1/27/2014 1:29:35 PM

I felt like a real rider when I got back on a horse after a broken vertebrae in my back (not riding related) after two years of healing and not riding in those two years, and even after 11 years of riding, I knew that was when I became a real rider, and I again felt like a real rider when I decided that even though my trainer told me I was one of the better riders at this barn, that I didn't belong there, and found another barn to perform for.

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