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Returning to Horse Riding: Breaking Bad Habits and Rebuilding Strength

Returning to Horse Riding as an Adult

Horse riding is a popular recreational activity that can be enjoyed at any age, and it is not uncommon for adults who rode horses in their youth to want to return to it as they get older. However, returning to horse riding after a long hiatus can be challenging.

This article will provide insight into the re-learning process, the importance of breaking bad habits, and how to rebuild strength, coordination, and mindset.

Muscle Memory and Re-Learning

The body has the amazing ability to remember previous actions through muscle memory, which can make re-learning an activity much easier. The first time someone learns to ride a horse, it can take weeks or months to get the basics down, but when they are re-learning, it will come back much faster.

Muscle memory can help riders to remember how to balance, how to sit in the saddle, and how to control the horse’s movements. However, it is important to note that muscle memory can also work against riders when trying to break bad habits.

In addition, the re-learning process will still require some effort. Riders will need to go through the basics again, but this time they will be building on knowledge and experience they already possess.

As such, the re-learning process could take some time, but it will be faster than starting from scratch.

Overwriting Bad Habits with Good Ones

Breaking bad habits is an essential aspect of returning to horse riding. It is essential to identify bad habits and work on them right away to avoid them becoming ingrained.

With muscle memory, bad habits can have a significant impact on a rider’s performance, so it is essential to be aware of them. Common bad riding habits include having an unsteady rein control, having a leaning upper body, and incorrect leg position.

These bad habits can impede communication with the horse, disrupt the horse’s balance, and cause discomfort to both the rider and the horse. Therefore, the sooner riders can replace bad habits with good ones, the faster they can improve their riding skills.

Initial Focus on Rebuilding Strength, Coordination, and Mindset

Before riders can develop their riding skills, they must focus on rebuilding their strength, coordination, and mindset. Horse riding is a physically demanding activity requiring strength, balance, and coordination.

When returning to horse riding after a long break, riders can expect to lose some of these attributes. As such, it is essential to focus on rebuilding them before getting back on a horse.

Some exercises and stretches that can help include yoga, Pilates, and core strengthening exercises. These activities work on improving flexibility, balance, and stability.

They can also help retrain the body to move correctly on the horse. Additionally, riders must have the right mindset when returning to horse riding.

Riding can be intimidating, especially after a long break. It is important to have a positive attitude, maintain focus, and trust in the process.

Take the time to relax and control breathing as it can help deal with anxiety that may arise.

Adjusting to Changes

Technology and Equipment

Technology and equipment have evolved since many adults were last exposed to horse riding. For instance, the horse equipment used in earlier years went against safety standards.

Today, safety equipment has become standard across the industry. Helmets and safety vests have become a requirement before riding.

As such, riders need to familiarize themselves with the new safety standards in the industry. Similarly, the tack, or riding gear, has evolved as well.

It is important to take the time to familiarize oneself with new technology in the industry. For example, lighter saddles, comfortable stirrups are available that make riding more comfortable and less tiring.

Physical Strength and Coordination

Riding a horse requires strong muscles for balance, control, and endurance. Many individuals returning to horse riding initially lack the physical strength and coordination required to ride effectively.

Riders need to rebuild these muscles and build balance before progressing to more technical aspects of riding. Stretching and exercise can make a significant difference.

Before getting on a horse, spend at least 15 minutes stretching. Stretching before riding loosens up the muscles and gives the rider better balance.

When riding, engage the core muscles, as it helps maintain stability. Simple exercises like planks and lunges can help build muscle strength and coordination.

Incorporating Stretches and Exercise

Stretching before and after riding is important. It can help prevent muscle soreness and reduce the chances of injury.

Keep in mind that riding involves both aerobic and anaerobic exercise; therefore, incorporating both types of exercise into your regimen can help you build more stamina and muscle endurance. Aerobic exercise like jogging and cycling is great for strengthening the heart and lungs, while anaerobic exercise like weight lifting helps to build muscle strength.

A combination of both exercises will help riders to maintain the necessary physical fitness required for riding.


Returning to horse riding as an adult can be challenging, but by putting into practice the steps outlined in this article, riders can make the process easier. Remember, muscle memory is a powerful tool when trying to re-learn an activity.

Focusing on breaking bad habits and re-building strength, coordination, and mindset paves the way toward better riding. Also, keep in mind that there have been changes in equipment and technology and that re-adjustment is necessary.

By incorporating good exercise and stretches, physical strength and coordination will improve, be sure to make use of the available resources to make learning to ride easier.

Benefits of Preparation

Whether it’s horse riding, running a marathon, or a job interview, preparation is critical for success. Preparing for an activity can help reduce soreness and discomfort, increase confidence and relaxation, and reduce the risk of injury.

In this article, we will go into detail about the benefits of preparation, and why it should be taken seriously.

Avoiding Soreness and Discomfort

One of the main benefits of preparation is avoiding soreness and discomfort. It is common for riders to experience soreness in the muscles the day after riding.

This is because horse-riding is a physical activity, and the body needs to adjust to the demands put on it. Preparing yourself physically before riding can help ease the pain of soreness after riding.

Stretching before each ride can help loosen up the muscles, increase blood circulation, and reduce the chances of injury. The muscles that require stretching before riding include the quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.

By warming up the muscles, they become more pliable, which can help reduce discomfort when riding. Additionally, being physically fit can also prevent soreness and discomfort.

Staying active with activities like jogging, cycling, and Pilates can help build stamina and endurance, which can help when riding for extended periods.

Achieving Confidence and Relaxation

Another benefit of preparation is feeling confident and relaxed. Riders who are relaxed can communicate better with the horse, leading to a more comfortable and enjoyable ride.

Feeling confident in one’s abilities can help remove any doubts that could negatively impact performance. Preparing oneself can lead to fewer worries and stressors, thus improving overall relaxation.

To achieve confidence and relaxation, riders must be familiar with their horse as well as their riding equipment. Knowing your horse can help improve communication between horse and rider as well as help the rider understand what works best for the horse.

Riders should also spend time practicing moves on different horses to be comfortable in diverse riding situations. Similarly, riders should invest in proper riding gear like helmets, boots, breeches, and gloves.

The right gear ensures the safety of the rider and can help them maintain the proper form and control.

Reducing Risk of Injury

Preparing for a ride also reduces the risk of injury. Horse riding is a risky activity that can lead to potentially life-threatening injuries.

Hoof strikes, falls, and getting thrown from a horse are some of the risks associated with horse riding. Honing riding techniques, getting familiar with the horse’s behavioural patterns, and wearing appropriate safety gear can all reduce the risks of injury.

Strengthening core muscles is another way to help reduce the risk of injury. Strong core muscles improve balance and stability, which can prevent falls or loss of control.

Core strengthening exercises like planks, crunches, and yoga can help riders strengthen their core muscles. Additionally, to reduce the risk of injury, it’s important to know one’s limits; riders should avoid activities they don’t feel comfortable doing and avoid pushing themselves too far beyond their limits.

Preparing for different riding situations can also help reduce the risk of injury. For example, riders must prepare for riding on different terrain types.

Riding on rough terrain or hills can be more challenging, and riders should be ready for these challenging situations. Experience is the best teacher, but preparation can help riders build skills and advance to more difficult rides safely.


Preparing for horse riding, or any other activity, is essential for success. Preparation can help reduce soreness and discomfort, increase confidence and relaxation, and reduce the risk of injury.

Flexibility and physical fitness are just some of the preparations necessary for reducing the risk of soreness and discomfort. Proper communication with the horse and using the right equipment can help improve our riding skills, leading to higher confidence and relaxation.

Finally, understanding the potential risks associated with horse riding and taking necessary precautions can reduce the chances of injury. By following proper preparation techniques, riders can improve their chances of success in horse riding.

In summary, preparation is critical for adult horse riders because it can help reduce soreness and discomfort, increase confidence and relaxation, and reduce the risk of injury. Riders can avoid soreness and discomfort by stretching and remaining physically active, while they can achieve confidence and relaxation by understanding their equipment and strengthening their riding skills.

Finally, reducing the risk of injury requires riders to understand their limits, prepare for different situations and terrain types, and invest in proper safety gear. Overall, preparation is vital to adult horse riding, and riders who prioritize it can have a safer and more enjoyable experience.


Q. Can adults learn to ride horses even if they have never ridden before?

A. Yes, adults can learn to ride horses even if they have never ridden before, but it is important to start with the basics.

Q. What exercises can riders do to improve their physical fitness?

A. Riders can do exercises like stretching, yoga, and Pilates for improved flexibility and balance, and aerobic and anaerobic exercise like jogging and weight lifting for building muscle strength and endurance.

Q. Why is it important to wear proper safety gear while horse riding?

A. Wearing proper safety gear like helmets, boots, breeches, and gloves can help protect riders from potentially life-threatening injuries caused by falls or horse strikes.

Q. Is it safe to ride a horse even if you have limited experience?

A. Limited experience can increase the risk of injury, so it is important to take necessary precautions, follow proper riding techniques, and progress gradually to more difficult rides with the help of a qualified instructor.

Q. How can riders build confidence and relaxation while horse riding?

A. Riders can build confidence and relaxation by improving their communication with the horse, honing their skills, and wearing appropriate riding gear.

It is also important to practice and gradually progress to more challenging rides.

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