Even the best trainers and instructors can only do so much. The rest is up to you—the rider.
1. Arrive on Time
We’ve all had that experience of leaving work late, being stuck in traffic and arriving at the barn to find our equine partner is in the furthest corner of the pasture. What ensues next is a rush to convince aforementioned equine partner to hurry out of the pasture, brush him off quickly, tack him up and hurry over to the arena. You’re five minutes past your lesson start time when you mount and you haven’t even warmed up.
Arriving on time is not just about being in the ring on time; it is equally important that you and your horse are physically and mentally prepared to work. I have found that if I rush to get ready, I am not in a mindset that I want my horse to emulate, and if he is stressed from my stress, we certainly will not gain the most out of our lesson. By being on time you are also respecting the time of your coach and demonstrating that their time is indeed valuable. If you’re in a group lesson, the courtesy extends to the other lesson students.
2. Be Prepared to Learn
Have your mind clear of outside “clutter” before coming to the barn. Your horse will benefit from a rider who is fully present in the moment. Have a goal for each lesson, if that helps you to focus. Come ready to glean as much information as you can take away in 30 or 60 minutes, and be prepared to help your horse learn as well.
3. Ask Questions
After a recent clinic, a fellow rider told me she didn’t understand what the instructor was asking for, nor did she understand exactly what she was doing well when she received praise. Instructors can be intimidating. I try to begin each lesson with the goal of learning, and part of learning is clarifying when you don’t understand something. If you’re having difficulty with an aspect of your previous lesson, ask if you can begin the lesson working on improving what you learned the last time. Your instructor likely will appreciate the thought and effort you are putting into each lesson.
4. Keep an Open Mind
Have you ever been in a lesson or clinic, and there is one person who seems to just “do their own thing” the entire time? This mindset completely baffles me. Riders and trainers come from different backgrounds and have a wide variety of experiences that guide their training techniques. You may not fundamentally agree with every point a clinician makes, but you can learn from every clinician. If the strategies are not helpful for your current mount and situation, pack them away in your toolkit for later use. If you found the lesson to be abusive or threatening, take away points of what not to do (though hopefully these particular lessons are few and far between).
5. Have Fun
I am an adult amateur (emphasis on amateur). Horses have been my dream, and I am so happy to live this dream. If the dream is no longer fun, that takes away it’s original purpose. Have fun in your lessons, so you can be safe and have fun in all of your equestrian endeavors.
Remember: lessons cost good money, so make the most of each one!
About the Author
Amie Fonder is an adult amateur who has been passionate about horses since her dad made her a rocking horse at the tender age of one. 26 years later she brought home a retired racehorse, Dublin. Follow their journey on Facebook.