I started horse riding late, most horse riders I speak to have been riding since they were in the womb! Here I am trying to learn and catch up 27 years later. Now at 32 years old and with one of my own you would think I would feel I was further ahead in my journey, but alas, I am no where near my peers, effectively I am still on that lead rein pony in walk, back at Willow Farm with my peers cantering around the outside of the school.
It's quite difficult learning as an adult, the horses are larger, the responsibilities are heavier, you are more conscientious and if you are anything like me, shutting down the big, red, flashing 'DANGER' sign is not so easy. I have been fortunate to ride horses that are very straightforward, that know and love their job, incredible horses. However, has this been a good thing? I haven't had the experience of kicking on a fat pony that won't budge, or dealing with the bucking and rearing of a stroppy mare, I haven't experienced the excitement and the speed of Gymkhana games or the confidence of getting back on in front of a group of pony club friends when the pony has stopped at a jump but you are still travelling. These experiences, as a child make you more resilient, they make you a better rider, giving you skills to cope with an array of different horses later on in life.
A girl on our yard recently has bought a young mare (a chestnut one at that). I have watched a few of her lessons, the mare is opinionated and the child has fallen off, sometimes making starfish shapes as she lands. The thing that I find utterly inspiring is her ability to shake it off. get back on and carry on. Carry on through the bucks, carry on through the run outs, carry on through the tantrums that the mare repeatedly throws her way. Then I compare this to my own reaction, I would have undoubtedly cried, had some form of panic attack and then stormed out the arena, leaving said horse there.
When you learn as an adult you are trapped in a world of going to work, paying bills, cooking meals, exercising, maintaining the house, driving; to the shops, to the dentist, to work, to the doctors, to the pub, to the park, to the vet. Even when I am riding, although it is my utter escapism from the world, there are still things in the real world that will cross my mind.
So I have missed out on all those vital skills you pick up as a kid and when it all goes wrong in the arena I have to dig deep, find my inner child and bounce back.