The Adult Rider: A Practical Guide for First-Time Equestrians and Adults Getting Back in the Saddle
by Sarah Montague
As part of a blog tour, the publisher contacted me and asked if I would be willing to read and then post a review of my thoughts on this book. Of course! When do I not have an opinion?
I was a little skeptical. From the title, I figured it would be yet another “How-To” introduction-to-horses book. Stores are packed with (often necessarily) oversimplified books on “How to Start With Horses” that leave the reader lacking crucial information.
This is not one of them.
The scope and clarity of information in The Adult Rider sets it lengths ahead of the pack. Montague expertly conceives the needs of the adult rider from a perspective that is both sociological and inherently practical. The information is so deftly handled and natural in tone, that it seems amazing this book is really the first of it’s kind. She repeatedly prompts the reader to remain in the context of their life while making the deliberations necessary to make honest decisions.
Ms. Montague presents overviews of all the main horse disciplines that manage to be both basic and comprehensive. The chapters are divided by discipline (Western, English, and every derivative from reining to polo) and subdivided into short, easy to digest sections, i.e.:
History and Overview
Pros and Cons
Leisure and Competitive Opportunities
Clothing and Equipment
Training Opportunities, and related sports.
Remarkably, she also spells out what to expect in the way of the social culture that one is likely to find surrounding each sport. If there is a faux pas that is commonly made, it is likely to be included, as well as any expectations that are blatant to the initiated, and blithely invisible to those just joining. While the actual details of any faux pas and expectations may realistically vary somewhat by region or country, the basics are here, and will get the reader thinking in those terms: what do I need to know to enter this sport politely and generate a good experience?
Montague is clearly passionate about imparting the most accurate, current, and detailed information possible, clearly wanting to inspire passion in each horseman to create a best-fit experience on many levels.
After the initial “How do I get a handle on this horse stuff” proceeds to “this looks like the kind of horse experience I’d like”, the book goes further, and delves into the differences between the way adults and children learn, a serious precursor into the next step: choosing the right instructor or school.
Again, Ms. Montague goes beyond the usual, and explains basic universal barn culture, the situations that may arise, and how to approach them. She addresses both sides of the rail: the instructor’s view as well as the student’s. Unlike retail, the consumer is not always right in the horse world, and she pulls no punches in spelling out to the student how things are from the instructor’s point of view. She also has kind and specific advice on how to tell if you need a change in instruction, and how to hold that conversation when it needs to happen.
The Adult Rider is the book you wish someone had given you (or your parents) when you first started riding. This is the book you will be dying to give to that friend who is out of sync, possibly over or under mounted, or you believe is pursuing a discipline that is basically unsuited to them. It’s a book you’ll want to loan out to eager parents buying their child’s first horse. It’s the book you will want to anonymously slip into a few tack trunks.
If you are an adult beginner, or returning rider (affectionately known as “re-riders”) this is a book that will lead you to ask yourself the right questions, and challenge your assumptions about what you want to do, likely saving you both money and emotional distress.
Interestingly, I found I asked myself some new questions that are going to result in changing my own riding experience for the better. I had no idea I wanted to continue what I’m doing, but with a different goal than I had long pictured obtaining. Instead of disappointment, I feel happy and secure: I’m going where I want and need to go.
The nutshell: Extraordinarily well written work book designed to make you drop any over-romanticism, think, review, evaluate, and make good choices. Deserves a place on your horse book shelf to read and loan out, and needs serious consideration as a gift.