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Riding Lessons (Riding Lessons #1)

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  8,659 Ratings  ·  1,050 Reviews
A stunning new voice in American fiction, Sara Gruen makes a masterful debut with a novel of family, tragedy, rebirth ... and the breathtaking love of something wild.

As a world-class equestrienne and Olympic contender, Annemarie Zimmer lived for the thrill of flight atop a strong, graceful animal. Then, at eighteen, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career and Harry,

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Published August 1st 2008 by Findaway World (first published January 1st 2004)
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Keisha This would not be a good book for children. However, if you are looking for a horse themed book for juvenile there are a lot out there.
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Community Reviews

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Terrie Shortsleeve
After I loved "Water for Elephants" I really thought this would be another great book. But, the main character was SO annoying. No one person could possibly be that incompetent in every area of their lives: marriage, parenting, relationship with her own parents, business, romance. She was a failure at everything and she never seemed to learn from her mistakes. Read "Water for Elephants" instead!!
May 16, 2008 Elise rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I once had a gentleman friend extremely fond of the phrase, "Over the top," although he pronounced it, "Overrrr de TOPP," for reasons I won't go into.

In any case, that phrase recurred in my brain as I read this book. Gruen is a good writer, but an editor really needed to slap her hand away from the crisis button during the review of this book. I mean, the main character is getting divorced, barely on speaking terms with her parents, oh wait, her father is dying so that helps things in that scena
May 04, 2014 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So it was hard for me to like the main character, Annemarie Zimmer. Even a little bit. She’s self-centered, socially inept, and she flies off the handle at the slightest provocation. She’s a walking nightmare, and yet she’s not a complete lost cause. She does try, however miserably, and she always ends up failing, but there’s something to be said for effort, right?

There is something to be said for the tragic character, and in many respects that’s exactly what Annemarie is. And if it hadn’t been
Life is really too short to read books this damn dumb. When I pulled this book from my shelf and read the back cover I couldn’t remember why the hell I’d bought this book back in 2009. I’m guessing I’d just finished the author’s Water for Elephants and liked it enough to give another of her books a shot. Also, horses are involved and I’m a sucker for anything horse-related. Well, the horsey descriptions cannot make up for awkward writing, a moronic and odious heroine, and clunky romantic element ...more
Mar 15, 2015 treehugger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: horselovers everywhere!
I DEVOURED this book - from start to finish it took me about 3 days, and I'm almost through with its sequel. It's a new take on an old theme - horses, illegal activities, danger, mystery, romance, and riding, riding, riding! I couldn't tear my eyes away from the descriptions of the horses and the tack and the general horsey-life I left behind so many years before.

And I have to admit, as I read "Flying Changes", the sequel, I continue to have pangs of jealousy and regret at not reaching the leve
Sep 08, 2012 Angie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really tried to muddle through this one but had to give up about 1/3 of the way through. I've had another Sara Gruen novel, Water for Elephants, highly recommended to me, but it'll take a lot of convincing to get me to read it after this one! (Not that anyone cares enough about this to try to convince me...:-)

To me, it read like one big cliche. Woman has horrible riding accident and loses beloved horse (which has an unusual white brindle pattern that was described as "striped" often enough to
I could not stand Annemarie. She was snobby, selfish, unsympathetic, narcissistic and completely useless. Everything she said or did pissed me off. I have no idea whatsoever what Dan saw in her. On the plus side, the narrator of the audiobook did a fantastic job.
Kerry (The Roaming Librarian)
Oct 15, 2007 Kerry (The Roaming Librarian) rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the author
I was intrigued by this book, because I've heard such great things about the author (this is the lady who wrote Water for Elephants) and was curious as to her writing style. I ended up finding it a bit jarring, but perhaps I'm not used to the first person account (though I've never had this much of a problem with it before). The story itself was interesting, though some parts seemed a bit too easily fixed. What I mean by that is that the main character gets herself into soooooo much trouble and ...more
Kelsey Burnette
I loved Water for Elephants, and so decided to read another book by Sara Gruen. I'm certainly not giving up on her, but this book was nowhere near the quality. A lot of it I ended up just skimming because it was just so obvious and contrived. For example, the scene where the main character decides to make dinner for the new man in her life--of course, she can't cook but decides to make something incredibly complicated--and gee, what a surprise, she fails miserably, but she and her man end up hav ...more
Laura Kilmartin
I was torn while reading this book because I found the main character thoroughly unlikeable. Every action she took was so obviously a plot device - I could see the consequences of her bad judgment coming a mile away and thought it was unbelievable and insulting to the reader that a character would act in such an obviously illogical manner. That said and main character aside, the writing itself was phenomenal. I sat up until 1am this morning finishing the book because I just didn't want to put it ...more
Oct 07, 2009 Becky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pretty close to making this a "DNF".
I picked it up because I loved the author's book "Like Water For Elephants"but this book is not bringing me that same level of enjoyment. I am not certain if it is the book or the person reading it, but I dislike both the main character Annemarie and her Daughter, Eva. Both seem to be in perpetual states of anger - shrieky anger. Some of that may be the person reading who, the actress is just driving me up a wall. Everything is overdramatic.
Annemarie and her
Mar 02, 2008 Lacy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2008
I read this because I'd loved Water for Elephants SO MUCH that I felt an overwhelming need to read other things written by the author. On the plus side, I can say that it's obvious that Gruen has grown tremendously as a writer, because Elephants
Nov 04, 2012 stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chicklit, horses, animals
*re-reading 10/12*

oh, horses. i do love them. the writing stood up, which was nice to see. i love the idea of harry, of eve and flicka . . . mutti and - i wish there was more resolution with regards to annemarie and pappa. i still didn't like how that ended. i don't feel like there was peace. i wanted her to bring him to the stall with his carrots. i liked jean-phillipe better.

of course, i went out and rode my horse after finishing this. someday he might be balanced enough to complete even a tr
Beth Cato
I bought this book because I loved Water for Elephants, but I think my expectations were too high.[return][return]I was horse-obsessed as a kid. This is a book about a woman who loves horses, and who lost her beloved horse in a tragic accident 20 years before and is still living with the consequences. It sounds like a good match. However, the heroine, Annemarie, is completely unlikeable. She's mean, petty and selfish, and drags everyone down with her. Her husband leaves her for another woman, sh ...more
Mar 27, 2009 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-fiction
Book #21 o 2009
What can I say... I was reading the book and enjoying it and then I just had to go on Amazon to see what the other reviews said and once I read those, that's all I could think about when I went back to reading it. But - what I did like: the imagery. Chapter after chapter I could picture the horses, the barns, the riding lessons, the tack room, the stalls... I even imagined the trainer to look like the one I had in High School. In one of the chapters, describing a riding lesson, I
Feb 19, 2011 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I saw that Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, had other works, I was excited. I really enjoyed Water, and had high hopes for this book, the first of a two-part series. Uggh, what a disappointment . . .

In Riding Lessons, we meet Annemarie Zimmer, a former Olympic-class equestrian competitor whose tragic accident twenty years prior ruined her career. She is now 38 and her life is falling apart. At first you may feel pity for her as she loses her job, her teenage daughter gets expelled
Mar 26, 2009 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book you'll either love or hate. I haven't seen a reader review that was lukewarm...either the book was highly praised or villified.

I really liked it. I thought Annemarie Zimmer was a wonderful character. She is so completely self-absorbed and in dire need of a good therapist. I found her absolute inability to cope with life hysterical (and her inner self-talk is downright funny...especially her first cooking-for-the-new-boyfriend date with Dan.)

On the more serious side, Annemarie has
probably would've rated less if i wasn't such a sucker for all the horse prose. of which there wasn't even ask that much. Annemarie's constant overwroughtness makes her a less than ideal narrator and makes it difficult for a reader to really absorb/process each of the problems she's got going on (kid, horse, divorce, new relationship, dying parent, failing family business, identity crisis, the whole book with the exception of her scenes with her mother feels like someone running around with thei ...more
Caitlin Maxwell
May 28, 2011 Caitlin Maxwell rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like horse stories with some angst and romance mixed in
Honestly, I thought that this book was terrible. I sincerely hope that Water for Elephants is nothing like this, because if it is, I have no clue how it became a bestseller.
The main character is what did it for me. I was expecting to read about a mom who, yes, was going through difficulties with her family, daughter, etc, but who still had some backbone at least. Annemarie definitely did not display anything like that, throughout the whole novel. She was no better than a teenager, and honestly,
For me, the redeeming quality of this book was found in the horses. Gruen's portrayal of equine characters through the eyes of the human MC was authentic and spot-on.
If nothing else, she did butt-loads of research -- but I'd like to step out on a limb (without knowing anything about the author) and venture a guess that she has at some point spent a less-than-healthy amount of time around the animals (in the opinion of a sane individual, which I am not). Having done so myself, the quality of the
Sep 13, 2010 Jillian rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oye. I loved Water for Elephants, so thought picking up another book by Sara Gruen would be a safe bet. What a disappointment. The story was totally implausible, the main character was extremely and unbearably annoying, and despite the mess that the main character made of everything, POOF! It was all fixed by the end of the book. The main character annoyed me so much that I didn't want her problems to be fixed. I had an uncomfortable feeling of almost wanting her to fail (which is very unlike me ...more
Aug 09, 2011 Natalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently lost two afternoons of potential farm work due to a fabulous gut-wrencher of a horsey novel: Riding Lessons, by Sara Gruen.

Sara is much more famous for Water for Elephants, her New York Times bestseller. I never got around to reading it and all six of the local copies were checked out, so I suppose it’s still quite popular.

But this book – oh, it is unapologetic in its horsiness. She could have dumbed it down and made it a bestseller, perhaps, and I love her so much for keeping it tech
Oct 01, 2016 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just could not like the main character, Annmarie, because she was so whiny. There are much better books by this author.
Jessie Frederick
Okay, overall I really enjoyed this book. I thought the plot was interesting, and the pacing was good. I was constantly itching to read just one more chapter.

However, there was something that annoyed the living the hell out of me, and it needs to be brought up. The MC, Annemarie, drives me up the wall. She is so selfish and foolish and immature and clueless and I just cannot, y'all. Absolutely cannot. It's to a point where it's just unbelievable.

(view spoiler)
Aug 17, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Goddamn, my flaky connection just ate my entire review :|

So, to sum up. Flawless, flawless writing. Flawless characterizations. But the main character.....just as patently unlikable and abrasive on the last page as she was in the beginning. There was character development, but she's, so unlikable. The ending was really too good for what she had earned. She had earned a bittersweet ending, but wound up getting everything handed to her on a platter. Not satisfying at all.

I would love to
Kerry Hennigan
Feb 06, 2013 Kerry Hennigan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some books just bring it all back, don't they? That pre-pubescent horse-mad phase that so many girls go through. I certainly did, as did my older cousin, who actually went on to be an owner and eventer. I made do with being a happy accomplice, especially after I displayed no natural aptitude for staying on a horse or pony!

Sara Gruen's novel Riding Lessons took me back to those years of pre-teen longing for an equine companion. Annemarie Zimmer was a champion eventer as a teenager; she and her be
Dec 06, 2008 Janie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At eighteen, Annemarie Zimmer is a world class equestrian and Olympic contender when she’s badly injured in a jumping accident that ends the life of her beloved mount, Highland Harry.
Fast forward 20 years. Annemarie is laid off from her job and her husband leaves her for a younger woman. Feeling as helpless as she did after the accident destroyed her future plans, she takes her rebellious teenage daughter and returns to her parents’ New Hampshire horse farm and riding academy. There, the vital f
Ambrosia Sullivan
Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen is an emotional story that takes you down several different paths. It takes you down the what might have been and the what could be path with Annemarie Zimmer. Once a promising eventer on the way to the fast track to the Olympics, that all came to an end in a horrific accident. Annemarie almost lost the ability to walk, move and most of all she lost the horse love of her life Harry. Twenty years later her world starts to fall a part at the seams again with the loss o ...more
Marlee Pinsker
I gave two stars for the excellent horse writing of this book. The sweet musings about how nice it was to trace her horse's cowlick between his front legs were so very true. The general feel of a good working stable seemed accurate and believable. This book's strengths were all beautifully on display for the first chapters, but gradually they were drowned under the weight of an impulsive main character who couldn't seem to hear what other people were saying, couldn't seem to curb her narcissism, ...more
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The "Water for Elephants" author.... 4 78 May 25, 2014 12:35PM  
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Sara Gruen is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five novels: AT THE WATER'S EDGE, APE HOUSE, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, RIDING LESSONS, and FLYING CHANGES. Her works have been translated into forty-three languages, and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS was adapted into a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon, Rob Pattinson, and Christ ...more
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Other Books in the Series

Riding Lessons (2 books)
  • Flying Changes (Riding Lessons, #2)

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“I was always searching, always seeking the next big thing, because that was the thing that was going to make everything all right again. And while I was working toward it, it gave me something to think about other than that thing I couldn't put my finger on. But it always came back.” 7 likes
“The longer I do this job, the less I like people. The species, of course,” he adds grimly. “There are individuals I like just fine.” 2 likes
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