How long does it take to learn to ride a horse?

How Long Does It Take To Learn To Ride A Horse?  For San Diego riders and beyond!

Learning to ride a horse well takes years.  I compare it to learning ballet.  No one expects to be a great ballet dancer in a 1 year of lessons, or after a week of ballet summer camp.  Good and safe horseback riding takes months and years to accomplish.


Where to start?  It has been my experience that for people taking 1 riding lesson a week, it generally takes approximately 2 years to develop enough competence that you can safely to all the basics of horse care and riding on your own (e.g. catch, tie, lead, tack up, ride, go down the trail).   This is not set in stone; each rider will progress at their own rate.  Variables that can increase your skill acquisition include natural talent, good instruction, and number of hours in the saddle.  The more you ride the better you get.  Below is a breakdown of each year and the milestones you should be working on.

First year- During the first year you should learn how to groom, tack, catch, tie, lead and ride the horse.  This does not mean you will meet mastery of all of these skills in the first year, but you should at least be able to define the previously mentioned terms.  In the first year, you should be able to walk and trot, ride basic patterns and begin your canter work.

Second year-  During your second year you should continue with the tasks of refining your walk, trot, and canter, and then ride more difficult patterns with increasing  accuracy.  You may begin to learn how to ride a horse in collection or in the bridle.  In addition, during this year it is a good idea to increase your exposure and education with horses by joining a pony club, attending a horse show, or attending a clinic.

Third year- During the third year of riding lessons, you will likely be at a point that you can safely own or lease a horse and ride independently.   When a rider is competent to ride and care for a horse independently, I recommend leasing before buying. Leasing a horse is a great opportunity to increase your saddle time without taking on the commitment or expense of owning your own horse.  Leasing also allows you to trial the experience of caring for a horse on your own, a great way to prepare and assess if you are ready for a horse of your own.


“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man”- Winston Churchill.  Horses open up new opportunities, new worlds, and the doors to many peoples hearts.  Riding is a fantastic sport!  If you have questions or comments, or if you would like more info about our lesson programs and riding school at

Thank you and Happy Trails!

Salisbury Farms

Horses Helping Humans

About Amy

Dr. Amy Jane Hayden Oleson is the founder of Salisbury Farms. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and lifelong horse enthusiast. She has combined her passion for working with horses, instructing, and helping others into a unique and versatile community support program. She offers equine assisted activities and classical riding instruction to individuals interested in learning more about horses and themselves.

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