Looking to Return to Horseback Riding? Five Steps to Get You Back in the Saddle
By Emmie Strommen
November 18, 2020
I was on my first horse at age four and then it never stopped, I grew up riding, owning horses, and showing as a Junior Hunter/Jumper around the US. I went to college to major in Equestrian Business and also rode on the IHSA team. I was a full on “horse girl” through and through.
Then, I switched my major freshman year to creative advertising and pivoted my future without fully realizing it. I graduated as a copywriter and headed to NYC for my first job at an advertising agency. Everything was going great except for one thing—no horses in sight.
I was a year into living and working in New York when I decided I had to find a barn immediately or else! I hit a point where I wasn’t feeling like myself. My inner horse girl was screaming, and I was finally listening to her.
So, I started the process of getting back in the saddle. It was daunting but I was determined, like a true horse girl. Here are the five steps that helped me the most that I think would be helpful for anyone trying to get back in the saddle.
STEP ONE: FIND THE RIGHT BARN
Finding the right barn nearby can feel impossible. For me, I needed a barn with a schooling program, but also one that would take me seriously as a rider that wants to improve. I ended up never finding that in New York City. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles, three years later, that I found that barn and got riding back into my life. Here’s how I found it—Google. Google is your best friend! Read the reviews, look at their website, call the barn and tell them what you’re looking for. Try riding at a few different barns to see what feels right. I’ve actually created a “Master Barn List” to help make this process easier. But alas, it is a process! Don’t give up.
STEP TWO: FIND THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
When I got to LA, my saddle was 13 years old, my helmet was more dangerous on than off, and my breeches were goners. Even if you aren’t sure of how committed you may be coming back to riding, there is nothing more important than investing in a quality helmet, pair of boots, and breeches. You don’t need to spend a fortune, you just need to get back in the saddle and have safe equipment to support your riding.
STEP THREE: FIND YOUR COMMUNITY
I knew that to keep riding consistently, I needed to have a community (outside of my bff school horses of course.) I wanted barn friends again! But I quickly realized that a large group of horse girls were missing—the ones like myself that had to put horses on hold for other life things. I ended up starting CALLING ALL HORSE GIRLS because of it! But I did make great barn friends too, a simple “good morning” can go a long way.
STEP FOUR: HAVE GOALS BUT BE PATIENT
When I got back on a horse for the first time after four years of not riding, I couldn’t remember which side to get on. “BUT HOW?” I thought. It takes time to get your groove back, but it does come back. Keep realistic goals with your time and your energy. It also helps to share those goals with your trainer so they can do their best to set you and the horse up for success, as well as help keep you accountable.
STEP FIVE: PRIORITIZE YOUR TIME
Speaking of time, in LA I had the most demanding job of my career. I had to be honest with myself even though I wanted to be at the barn more, so I gave myself every Sunday for horses. Just start somewhere, prioritize it, and take it one day at a time.
Once a horse girl, always a horse girl.