EQ Life Masthead - 2019
live TV (up)
EQ Life virtual competition
CMH.TV advert (V2)
EQ Life Magazine
12 month subscription
Get back on the dream

This article has appeared previously with Equestrian Life. To see what's in our latest issue, click here.

Karen Rycroft and Wilhelm of Xanthe. © Jess van der Vlist

Karen Rycroft and Wilhelm of Xanthe.

© Jess van der Vlist


As a child, did you plaster your bedroom wall with horse posters and dream of one day wearing those tailcoats and riding at serious dressage level? If so, adult riding is waiting for you to continue that journey.


ELEGANT GRAND PRIX riders in tailcoats and top hats on magnificent steeds that jumped off those glossy equestrian magazine pages at you. You looked at them for hours, chores and homework forgotten. Your non-horsey parents were perplexed. Where did this obsession come from? Every Christmas and birthday from the age of three you asked for a pony. Living the suburban life, the best your parents could do was drop you at riding school at 8am and pick you up at dusk. You worked for your lessons on fabulous school horses. Jumping, flatwork, vaulting, cross-country, bareback or with a saddle, you didn’t care – you were in your bliss. But your own pony never came.

Fast forward... you’re a proud parent or grandparent... a mortgage-holder... and now the happy owner of your own horse. Everything is in place. The time has come to resume that dream. How? Let’s first eliminate a couple of myths.

True or False: If I want to ride Grand Prix I need a fancy-pants Warmblood with a canter that will eject me to the moon.

True or False: I have left it too late, this is a young person’s dream to live.

Yep, you guessed it – both are false.


Bill Noble and Airthrey Highlander, a Clydesdale-Cross, competing in the Grand Prix at NZ HOTY. © Roger Fitzhardinge

Bill Noble and Airthrey Highlander, a Clydesdale-Cross, competing in the Grand Prix at NZ HOTY.

© Roger Fitzhardinge

Warmbloods are great, but there are many horses of mixed-origin and talent taking dressage riders to the top. The Clydie cross, the part-Arab, the Australian Stockhorse, the off-the-track Thoroughbred, to name a few. Don’t sack your Riding Pony just because today your 20-metre circles looked more like a 30-metre banana. This is a reflection of your current level of training, not the ability of the horse. Also, be open to the realisation that the horse in your front paddock may not be the one to take you where you want to go. For some, riding FEI has been a 25-year journey with multiple horses along the way. Horses come in and out of our lives to teach us what we need to learn at that point. The rider you become is a result of all the horses that have taught you.

As for the notion that it is too late, picture your life experiences as something you could pack into a suitcase. Do you fill the suitcase, close the lid and zip up the bulging sides, sit on top and wait for it to be taken away? No, you get a much bigger suitcase. It’s time to start packing the bigger case.

Tips to get started

•    Become a goal-setter and a planner.
•    The right coach/es are imperative. Find one with recognised qualifications and who respects your goals. If they are riding FEI they will know how to get you there.
•    Volunteer at dressage competitions – “writing” is a brilliant way to learn the nuances of riding a test and what judges are looking for. 
•    Ask your Club how to help; you will learn about your sport from all angles, including protocols and etiquette.
•    Sit in on tests, even go to judges’ workshops as a demo rider.
•    Read the rules – they’re online and an excellent resource for competitors; what to wear and how to prepare for a competition et al.
•    Develop a support network: Surround yourself with riders also aspiring to reach their goals. It motivates you and gets you through the lows.
•    Recognise it will be hard. You will be challenged beyond extremes you thought possible. 
•    The journey has been taken by many adult riders before you. Get to know them, you will find their stories empowering.
•    Commit the time, yet forgive yourself if something in your life puts things on hold. If your daughter’s 21st clashes with a competition, go to the birthday! There will be another competition but your daughter is only 21 once.
•    Make sacrifices. Your daily latte could be the difference between a fortnightly lesson and a weekly one.

Commit to the journey, throw all of yourself in, and others will help you when they see your determination. Patience will be your friend, don’t rush a dream. Finally, be brave and trust yourself. The beauty of being an adult is that we have the ability to engage strategies to learn. You can learn to sit-trot, you can learn to ride a 20-metre circle, you can learn to ride a canter pirouette. Riding is not wired into us at birth, it is a skill we acquire, like being a parent, being a chef or becoming an astronaut. You learn the skills.

You can be your own dream come true. You just need to give in to it.





Back to top. Printable View.