I’ve recently started traveling to various horse shows and watching trainers give lessons and school their students both in the ring and in the barns. When you decide to teach, you all of a sudden become much more aware of the teaching styles of others, and, how their students receive their instructions.
When I think back to my experience in show training as a junior rider, I regarded my trainer as a marine would respect their commander. In fact, every coach I had, I had the utmost respect for; I remember clinging to every word they said. I would show up early and stay late to watch lessons of upper-level riders just to see if I could learn more. During the summers, I begged my trainer to ride as many horses as possible, no matter how well-behaved they were. Today, I realize that there is no shortage of students who want to ride; however, very few of those students care to take the time to learn how to ride properly.
Learning to ride takes a lot of time, a lot of commitment, and is a lengthy process unless you give up everything to pursue a career in the equestrian sport. Many people say that they want to learn, but in reality, they want to jump big jumps or execute fancy movements, but they don’t generally want to learn the basics.
I hope that as my time teaching goes on, I’ll find this not to be the case and meet students who actually want to learn how to ride. While it may not be sexy, it’s important to learn and will make you a better rider overall. Mostly, I hope that my students will take the time to learn the basics because horseback riding is dangerous. Even if our horses are sweet and kind and gentle, they’re still animals, and because we can’t directly communicate with them, we never truly know what they’re going to do.
If you have any comments, tips, or teaching suggestions, please comment/post them!
[Below is my follow-up reflection after two years of teaching.]
I have been so lucky to have had the opportunity to teach a fabulous group of young riders who push themselves and want to learn it all. While I stand by my thoughts on why learning how to ride isn’t sexy enough, I’m glad that there are still those who think it is.
The greatest thing that sets the equestrian sport apart from all others is that we work with living, breathing, creatures. If a soccer player takes a few days off, the soccer ball isn’t going to be any different. However, if a rider takes even two days off, they may have an entirely different horse. It’s because of this that a student must commit to learning how to ride, from the ground up, to account for the unpredictable nature of horses.
My grandmother used to say that nothing worth doing is going to be easy.
While you can strengthen and condition your body elsewhere, learning how to ride requires trips to the barn, no matter the weather, and a commitment to work as a team with whatever horse you’re put on.