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Utah’s horse world – Putting the fun back in riding

Meisja Wagner with Sarah and Tuffy
Meisja Wagner with Sarah and Tuffy
photo taken by: Savannah E.

Adult riders often have a lapse in confidence, and this quickly spirals into a lack of fun. Sometimes insecurities crop up after an accident, after seeing a friend get hurt, or often just because of the realization that we don’t bounce as easily after the age of 40.

Partaking in any activity that leads to fear, tension and uneasiness is generally not enjoyable. Don’t despair. It’s relatively simple to bring a playful spirit back into your riding adventures and groundwork sessions!

One sure-fire way to rekindle the flame is to take riding lessons with a skilled, respected and fun instructor who has a teaching style that’s compatible with your personal learning style. Someone who’s well versed in the classical position and possesses an eye for relevant detail is strongly recommended. Remember, if you’re not learning the right thing, you’re learning the wrong thing, and bad habits are exceedingly difficult to unlearn.

If you feel you cannot afford lessons, you probably can’t afford a horse. If you choose not to enlist the help of an experienced and proven local instructor because you believe so strongly in your own proven abilities, you may still enhance your at-home sessions by studying Parelli techniques, the methods of other popular clinicians, or trying Jan Dawson’s Secure SeatSM riding instruction. Dawson’s do-it-yourself program is used by some teaching schools to aid their beginners in creating (as the name would suggest) a secure and balanced position on the horse. Information is available online; the book of the same name is somewhat poorly organized and not particularly helpful. The general ideas are good though, and if anyone is opposed to getting help from a professional, the sequence of foundational skills suggested by Secure SeatSM certainly can be a help.

Having a truly knowledgeable ground person can prevent you from practicing incorrectly. Every time you ride or handle your horse, you’re building muscle memory and imparting lessons to the animal. Working with your horses and riding in a manner that increases your control and confidence are key ingredients in the equation of fun. Lunge-line lessons can be extremely beneficial, as they allow you to relax and concentrate solely on your own position; no need to worry about directing the horse (as long as the person on the end of that line is calm, confident and experienced with lunge-line riding instruction).

Interacting with an attentive and trustworthy horse (to whom you’ve proven to be a trustworthy leader) is another significant factor. If you feel your horse needs a tune-up, you may want to have a trusted trainer that you enjoy working with assist in getting your horse to a level that you’ll feel safe getting on and working with.

The education and understanding that come along with instruction can contribute greatly to rebuilding the confidence of an adult rider. Whether you invest in your abilities, safety and fun by enlisting the help of a terrific Salt Lake area trainer or putting the time and resources into your own DIY program, you can carve out a path to more enjoyable adventures with your horse.

Here are some of our area's top riding instructors and their areas of expertise:

Todd and Adrienne Smyrl - Location: Gemini Farm, Rush Valley (they also travel to W. Bountiful). Specializing in: eventing, jumping, dressage. Phone: 801-953-6287

Meisja Wagner - Location: Salt Lake City (will travel to locations nearby). Specializing in: classical dressage, jumping. Also an exceptional barefoot practitioner. Phone: 801-875-1713

Denise Tilley - Location: W. Bountiful (Rockin E Farms). Specializing in: Hunter-jumpers, all ages. Phone: 801-589-5895

Joe Ruiz - Location: Taylorsville (S. Salt Lake). Specializing in: reining, barrel racing, roping, cutting. A real cowboy and expert horseman. Phone:801-502-0313

Jim Montgomery - Location: W. Bountiful. Specializing in: reining, advanced western riding, mounted shooting. Recommended for the skilled and serious rider at any age. Phone: 801-721-0001

You may also want to seek out facilities such as;

Sunset Equestrian. While situated within a community of equestrian estates, this barn is open to the public. A family-friendly stable in Kaysville, Sunset is ideal for children and adults alike. This large and active facility often offers shows and clinics, along with riding lessons and horse training. Find owner Suzie Hansen on Facebook or call her at: 801-573-6960

The Stable Place. This is not only a rescue facility! Located just off Redwood in S. Salt Lake, The Stable Place is a playful locale that offers instruction to both kids and adults, while also taking in horses for rehabilitation (many of whom are available for affordable adoption as well). It's a lively group that always has something going on! Owner Jayme Alexander can be reached at: 801-860-3906

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