learn to rideThis is a common question we all have at one time or another.

There are three very different, short answers.

First: it takes next to no time.

We know well about the people who get on a horse, learn to kick and steer, and for all intents and purposes, ride a horse. If you're lucky enough to find one of those golden horses, and you have some athleticism and coordination, you'll likely be able to go where you want and be able to stay somewhat securely on a horse in a matter of months. Of course, it does help to have a horse that is accommodating and compliant.

Second: it takes a lifetime. 

HL Five Years
HL Bundle
HL Goal Setting
HL Book 3
HL Book 2
HL Book 1

We all know of lifelong riders who continue to have "lessons" after multiple decades of owning and riding horses. I think of the high performance riders that I've followed from the time they began their international riding careers at the highest dressage Grand Prix level, who improved tremendously after five to ten years.

Let's face it - the learning is really never done. In fact, this is one of the things that appeals to me most about horse riding. Just when you think you've got it all, something new appears magically out of the woodwork, showing you a path to even more effective or better or less active... you never know until you get there. And it happens with everything - even the most basic skills such as riding the walk (how difficult can it really get??) or striking off into a canter stride.

Third: it takes two years.

This last observation is my personal one. Over the years, as I went through my own learning curves and as I observed my students develop, I've discovered that the two-year average is a pretty good time period to aim for.

That is, it will likely take you two years to really master a (any) riding skill. Of course, the more often you ride, the faster the learning will come. 

Let's say you want to learn shoulder-in. Even if you can achieve the shoulder-in position in a handful of lessons, and then you can do it at the trot and the canter... it likely won't be that great for a while. You'll likely go through several learning curves and plateaus until it has really and truly become second-nature to you - and your horse. Start with a new horse, and even while you can achieve it well, you will realize that the new horse will teach you something you didn't know. And that will take plenty of time to master all over again.

So the two-year rule is a good one to keep in mind. It is especially relevant for riding concepts such as "seat" or "swing" or "on the aids" or "bend" or "over the back." These are those fuzzy, difficult-to-describe, feel-based concepts that nobody but you can do something about. 

Two years. That's a fair amount of time to become really good at a given riding skill. So, really. Get started!

I'd love to know what you think. Leave a comment below.

Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!

Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions. 

This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.

Click here to read more and to join one of the most complete programs on the Internet!

Horse Listening

Don’t miss a single issue of Horse Listening! If you like what you are reading, become a subscriber and receive updates when new Horse Listening articles are published!  Your email address will not be used on any other distribution list. Subscribe to Horse Listening by Email


Let's celebrate!


Five Years Of Horse Listening

We're commemorating the event by compiling the top 20 most popular articles from the blog, covering topics such as:
- rider position (hands, seat, legs, elbows, upper body)
- improvement of the rider's aids (kicking, inside rein, outside rein)
- and more!

Learn More.

Read more here:

Top Ten Reasons To Ride A Horse: There must be as many reasons to ride horses are there are people who ride.

Do You Want to Own A Horse? Answer 'yes' to these questions and you are on your way!

Perfecting Perfection in Horseback Riding: We will never really find the perfect horse, nor will we ever be a perfect rider. However, of course we try for perfect! 

Riding is Simple, But Not Easy! Let’s face it – all we want is for the horse to do what we want, when we want, where we want, with suppleness and strength!

What you Ought to Know About Instant Gratification in Horse Riding: There is no such thing!


  1. j am in the forever group! That is one of the things I love about dressage – there is always a new skill to learn, level to reach, movement to take from a 6 to an 8, etc.

  2. I ask this completely earnestly. If it takes more than 2 years, say 5 years and counting, to master a skill such as getting the horse to go forward when asked or accepting connection, is that an indicator that the partnership is not right? Really struggling with these questions. I love my horse, I am dedicated, ride 4 X per week, and take a weekly lesson, but I am still struggling with these basics.

  3. Some good advice here! I’m riding a cross country course at Willowbrook (www.willowbrookridingcentre.co.uk) this week, and i really need to plan how i get round it in the best time possible. I think a good start would be not to gallop straight out and tire Benny out!