It seems that everybody in the horse world thinks they’re a trainer or instructor. (For trainers, please refer to an earlier post So Many Trainers … Which One Is Right For My Horse? ). Just how much does your instructor really know?
Although there is a certification for riding instructors, it’s not required (in my opinion it should be) in order to give lessons so anybody that thinks they have knowledge can advertise themselves as a riding instructor.
- First and foremost, is your instructor safe? If you’re riding a lesson horse, does the horse match your skill level or do you feel like you’re constantly being “over horsed”? If you’re taking lessons on your own horse, are you being asked to do things that are new and somewhat challenging to you and/ or your horse or are you being taught well above the skills of you and/or your horse?
A good instructor should know the horses in their lesson program and be able to match the horse’s level to the ability of the rider. The rider should feel safe and under control. He/she should also be able to asses your skill level and the training level of your horse if you take lessons on your own horse. Lessons should be informative and slightly challenging to you and your horse. They should not be so far above your skill level and your horse’s training that you either don’t understand or don’t feel safe.
2. Are you progressing? It doesn’t matter if you take lessons several times a week or once a month, new lessons should be a review of what was learned in the last lesson and something new. The review is to make sure the lesson was learned and understood. Something new doesn’t need to be huge – just something to progress you toward your goal of becoming a better rider. If lessons are the same thing every time and you’re stagnating as a rider, you may be above your instructor’s skill level and it’s time to start looking for a new instructor. After all, you’re not paying to ride, you’re paying to be taught.
3. Does your instructor ride and how well? No longer and don’t are two very different things. No longer could be due to an accident or injury that prevents them from riding. The old adage “Those who can do and those who can’t teach” is far too prevalent in the horse world. Good riders have the potential to be good instructors, only limiting them by their ability (or lack of) to teach. Bad riders or “I don’t” riders have absolutely no business giving lessons. If you lack the skills to do, what makes you think you can teach? Beware of the person that calls themselves an instructor because they spent years watching their child’s lessons, but don’t ride well or at all. These people put your life in danger because of their lack of knowledge and just take your money so you can ride a horse. How can you safely teach someone to canter and jump if you can’t do it yourself?
4. Is he/she knowledgable? Can they offer solutions that work to a problem you might be having? If your instructor is offended by or blows off questions, chances are they’re covering for their own lack of knowledge. How can you learn if you don’t ask questions? Good instructors should welcome questions and be able to give an informative and correct answer. If they don’t know, they should tell you they’ll find out and answer the question next time.
5. Are their lessons really their lessons? Maybe …. or maybe not. If lessons are planned and you can’t deviate chances are it falls into the maybe not category. At some point in time you’ll read, hear or see something that you’d like to learn. A legit instructor shouldn’t have a problem teaching that “something” if you ask and postponing what was planned for the following lesson. Unless it’s going to be far above your skill level, if it’s an issue, it should be a warning sign. If it is above your skill level, the instructor should tell you it’s well above your skill level, but something you can work towards. They either don’t know it and won’t tell you, have a set plan that they recently learned from someone else or had to study to come up with your lesson. Another one for the maybe not category is if you’re always hearing references to another instructor. It’s fine for an instructor to be a student, but not a parrot. They should be taking what they learned and making it their own before teaching it. References to another instructor should tell you that you’re really paying for the other instructor’s lessons. You might be able to learn more if cut out the middle man and taking lessons directly from the other instructor.
Follow your potential instructor on Social Media. Do they write their own articles or just repost articles that other people have written? Using Social Media to promote your knowledge is a great way to attract potential students. Why wouldn’t you share some of your knowledge for free in order to increase your client base?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do you ride? If so, at what level? How long have you been riding? How long have you been teaching? May I come watch a few lessons (someone close to the same riding level as you)? If simple questions are offensive, you should probably continue your search for an instructor. It’s your hard earned money that you’re paying these people for their knowledge – you have a right to know the answers.