Book Review: Getting the Most from Riding Lessons
By Jayne Pedigo

In all the best horse movies, such as National Velvet, International Velvet and Sylvester, the
heroine has a top trainer to help her achieve her goal, but if you are like many beginning riders,
you struggle to get the most of your once-a-week lessons. Does it sometimes seem that you are
taking one step forward and two steps back?

Getting the Most from Riding Lessons, by Mike Smith, is an ideal companion to your weekly
instruction. It's intended to complement and reinforce the techniques introduced in your lessons.

The book is geared toward the English rider and the author uses a unique and entertaining tool in
the book. He introduces horses from his own lesson barn, such as Sprite, Foxy and Guinness,
emphasizing the fact that an important part of becoming a confident, accomplished rider is learning
to ride different horses.

Each chapter covers a different skill, taking the reader from the first lesson, meeting the horse for
the first time and learning to mount, to advanced skills such as jumping. Photographs and
diagrams illustrate the book throughout, enhancing reader understanding of the techniques being

Practicing with Rein Aids
The rein aids will begin to make more sense as you practice them, and if you practice enough,
they'll become second nature. Try to practice with the same horse, in the same place, at the same
speed. Consistency will help you distinguish the differences in how the various rein aids affect the

Do not, however, try to practice the different rein aids without breaks between them. The horse
might get confused. He'll anticipate what you did the last time or two, and think that's what he's
supposed to do again. That's because horses are creatures of habit. They relish repetition.

Instead, try practicing one rein on a circle a few times, and then walk in a straight line. This will help
clear your mind as well as your horse's. Then reenter your circle, in the same place and at the
same speed, and try another rein aid.

Excerpted from Getting the Most from Riding Lessons, © 1998 by Mike Smith with permission from
Storey Books, Pownal, Vermont 05261, 800-441-5700 Dept. YP.
Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156          fax: 301-421-9049