Well . . . really the best thing you should do is save it. But if Christmas money is burning a hole your pocket, why not invest in some riding lessons. Everyone can benefit from lessons no matter what your abilities. This is especially true if you are just beginning. It’s my opinion that this is the absolute 1st thing a beginning horseman (novice) should do. That is even before you start looking for a horse. How are you going to know what kind of horse suits you best, if you don’t even know how to ride or groom a horse properly?
Shop around a little. Talk with several trainers in your area and definitley go to their stables to check them out before you sign up for anything. Be courteous though. If you arrange to meet a trainer, make sure you show up. If for some reason you can’t make the appointment, call them to cancel and reschedule for another time. You might find a stable that offers a package deal. That is, if you pay for a pre-determined amount of lessons, they offer them at a reduced price. These usually are only offered if you pay up front. Some stables may also offer lessons at a group rate. You’d be riding with other people of the same ability, this can actually be fun. I would check into taking a few private lessons first though. This will give you a trial time for the stable and the trainer. You do want a trainer that you are comfortable with and one that will not push you beyond your abilities. Trust your instincts. Be wary of a trainer that promises big results in a very short amount of time. If a beginner is pushed too hard too fast, it will probably end up in an accident.
That’s what happened to me. I wanted to learn to jump. My husband called several stables as a Christmas gift one year. A few of the trainers he spoke with told him that the basics and ground work had to be done first and that could take awhile. The length of time depended on the rider. The trainer I ended up going to said she would teach me to jump in no time. She was right about that. On my third lesson, I was going over crossbars. Never mind that I couldn’t even sit a trot or even post. As the 8th lesson, we were going to go to a schooling show. So on my 7th lesson, we were practicing a course for the first time. I was riding a new horse as the one I was used to riding had come up lame. As we approched a fence, the horse and I had a difference of opinion as which way to go and we parted ways. He went left and I went right . . . right into the jump. While I was recuperating from this, I bought my first horse; but that’s another story. I never went back to finish the riding package my husband paid for.
Riding lessons are more than just sitting in a saddle and going around in circles in an arena. In the barn I’m at, the trainers show the new student how to groom the horse before and after riding. This includes brushing and which brushes are used for each area of the horse. The new student is shown how to pick up the feet and clean them as well as combing out the mane and tail. They are shown where/where not to apply fly spray and how to apply hoof dressing. They are shown how to properly place the saddle on the horse, tighten the cinch/girth and how to remove the saddle. How to adjust the stirrups to fit the rider’s legs. Then one of the most important things, is how to put the bit/bridle in and remove from the horse’s mouth without clanging teeth. A horse will not take having their teeth hit too many times before they start to resist being bridled. Believe me, this is not good for the horse or you.
As a novice, the first few lessons may only be 30 minutes, but you’ll appreciate the short time in the saddle. Your legs and rear end may be a little sore, but not at all like they would be if you had a full hour for the very first time. Besides, an hour may be too overwhelming, especially for the young novice. There are just too many things to remember. After the first few lessons, the time can be increased to the full hour, but this all depends on the rider. Young riders may not have a long enough attention span to last a hour. If not, don’t push them.
Remember riding is supposed to be fun!!!!!