What is a good sport for an adult beginner rider?

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Answered by: Regina, An Expert in the Horses - General Category
Long after the horse-craziness of girlhood, after college, marriage, career, and kids, you might find that strange longing re-emerge: the moment when you stop to pause at the horse races on TV or admire the white horse next to the model in an advertisement. "She has no idea how to handle that animal," you mutter. "Probably never been near a horse in her life."

Oh, yes. The bug is back.

You may have given up the dream of a horse of your own when you discovered boys, but the empty saddle is still waiting for you. Fact is, adult women across the country have been rediscovering their love of horses and developing their skill as adult beginner riders through the classical art of dressage. Dressage attracts women who may have left the equestrian community to pursue family and career, because of its emphasis on proper technique and training in stages. Adult beginner riders of a certain age find the combination of a slow progression with clear-cut milestones more appealing than galloping full-tilt at local playdays or bouncing around with no instruction on trail rides with friends. Plus, beginning is easy. Any horse can do dressage (a French word meaning simply 'training'), and the expectations for tack and accessories are simple. Since dressage as a discipline prides itself on keeping horses fit, sound and flexible, the lower levels of training are suitable for any breed or age of horse. The older, quieter mounts suitable for adult beginner riders may actually be helped by the methodical limbering and strengthening movements. As for tack and show clothes, all purpose English tack, a hunt coat and a helmet will get a beginner through the lower levels. Trainers are growing increasingly easy to find as the sport grows in popularity. Group lessons with a reputable trainer may run as little as $35 a session. If you don't have your own horse, some trainers offer 'school masters' for lease well.

Be prepared for a workout! Riding might be a bit more strenuous than your Saturday yoga class. And some adult beginner riders find they've developed a much greater fear of falling than they remember from their youth. But dressage encourages riders to 'develop a seat' which is just a way of saying that as your balance, position, muscle tone and over all horsemanship improve, you'll lessen the chance of a bad spill.

And dressage is a sport that grows as you grow. From the fundamentals of riding a rising trot to the canter pirouettes of Olympic performance, dressage riders can always learn something new. The governing body of the sport, the United States Dressage Federation, actively supports its adult amateur members by offering clinics, scholarships and club recognition to riders in the adult amateur category. Adult amateur dressage classes are growing across the country and membership in the United States Dressage Federation grows yearly as more and more individuals rediscover the love of their youth.

The USDF also certifies its trainers and maintains records on show results, which takes the guess work out of finding a qualified instructor. Check out the USDF website at usdf.org to find a chapter in your region, contact a USDF recognized trainer, or watch educational videos on what dressage has to offer you.

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