The 50 Year Old Beginner

The 50 Year Old Beginner

4 months on and Amber remains lame, so I have missed the whole eventing season. The main idea behind getting Toby was to make sure that when Amber returns to work, I am ready to get cracking with her immediately. But she has other plans. And I have discovered that while I could just about ride Amber, I can’t really ride other horses. Well I can ride them but I can’t ride them. I am a passenger, or even a hindrance. Far from improving myself for Amber’s eventual return to fitness, I feel further away from being back in a start box, on her or any other horse, than ever.

I can’t work out if that is because my standards are higher now and I am more aware of what I don’t know. Or whether getting used to a new horse after several years learning to cope with Amber is a tricky adjustment for anyone. Or whether I am really just a bit rubbish and Amber filled in the gaps for me by being awesome. The bottom line though is:

  • Toby is a lovely, uncomplicated, sweet horse and I can’t yet ride him in a straight line, or in a decent rhythm or with much balance. So, not surprisingly, he rarely works over his back correctly or approaches fences straight or with a decent canter.
  • I am used to Amber towing me in so I am not positive enough with Toby. He therefore does not jump confidently as I faff about on top, not committing to the fences.
  • This is only an issue with me on him! He jumps fine with others on board.
  • I can’t ride Dolly effectively either even though she is in the form of her life at the moment with Katie.


It is sometimes tempting just to set my ambitions lower. Accept that I have no natural talent and just have FUN. Toby is so much fun. He is safe, forward, willing, kind, genuine. A true go anywhere, do anything horse. We have had a ball all Summer: farm rides, XC schooling, camps, clinics, hacks. I discovered that I actually do like hacking. I just don’t much like hacking AMBER. Toby, on the other hand, is a dream to hack. So why not forget about trying to ride well and just enjoy my lovely young horse.

But, above all else, I want to be a good rider. I don’t even care if I don’t compete. I want to be good for its own sake. I want to improve horses, not get in their way. I want to feel competent and skilled, not disorganized and unco-ordinated. I want to be able to produce a calm, happy, willing, well-schooled, confident horse.

So my plan C, (or are we on D, E, X now??), is to finally LEARN TO RIDE. I am having school master lessons at Ingestre. I am having biomechanics sessions on Toby. I am still plugging away at Dressage Rider Training and Noelle Floyd Masterclasses. And I am getting as much saddle time as possible to practice. It feels like I have taken about 100 steps backwards but hopefully this is going backwards to plug some gaps in my foundation in order to move forward again. One day. The saying goes: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Whether Toby will be my future eventing partner remains to be seen. But for now he is my teacher and I am trying to be a good student. I’m certainly a committed one, if that counts for anything.