The Right Instructor for You
Having the right instructor can be the difference between loving to ride and being scared to ride or even hating it. The right instructor can be different for everyone depending on your personality, how you learn the best, your current skill level, your goals, and your horse. Having a good relationship between the student and instructor is important to really learning a lot and being comfortable with asking questions and asking for help when you need it as a student.
First determine what kind of riding you are interested in, or what you may be interested in depending on your personality. For example, do you like competing and going fast? Then Barrel racing or Jumping may be something to look in to. Or do you enjoy competing but prefer elegance and getting everything perfect? Then dressage would be a great option.
After you decide what kind of riding you want to do, you can research instructors in the area. Depending on where you live, sometimes you may have to drive up to an hour or so to take lessons with a good instructor that matches you and your goals.
Once you find a possible match, you should make sure you ask some questions to make sure they are a good match. It’s also important to check out the barn where they teach if you will be going there for lessons.
Questions to Ask
Here are some questions you think about and ask –
Find out about the facilities-If the instructor cannot come to your barn, and if you will be riding a lesson horse, then how are the lesson horses behaved? Do they have a variety of horses at different skill levels so you can start out on a solid mount but can still continue to advance as a rider? Do they have the facilities for the kind of riding you are wanting to do? If it snows a lot is there an indoor arena for year-round riding? Is there a cross-country course if you are interested in doing eventing? A dressage arena? Trails?
What are the riding policies they have/ the barn has about dress, lesson cancellations, safety, tacking up, etc.? It is important to know if they expect you to get there early and get your own horse ready or if they will have your horse ready for you, in which case you don’t have to arrive so early. If you are expected to get your own horse ready, how early do you need to get there? Will the horse be up in a stall for you or will you have to go out to a pasture to get them? How far is the pasture?
What experience does the instructor have? How long have they been teaching and in what discipline? What kind of riding do they do? Do they have experience taking people to shows? Do they have experience teaching mostly adults or kids?
What kind of record does the instructor have? Do they have a lot of upset looking students before/during/after their lessons? Are there many falls during their lessons? Do they emphasize safety and make sure horses have appropriate tack and riders have appropriate clothing? Are they on time for their lessons? Do they reschedule at any time such as for weather?
Make sure that they have liability insurance. Horseback riding is dangerous and if they do this shows that they are serious about teaching and can take you to shows.
How does the instructor communicate during lessons? Do the lesson students seem to understand what the instructor is asking? Do the students seem comfortable talking to the instructor and asking questions?
You should definitely ask and watch at least a few lessons to help you observe the above and help decide if you want to take a trial lesson with this instructor. You should always first start with a trial lesson after observing so you aren’t yet committing and you can experience their teaching style firsthand before signing up for regular lessons.
It is always good to check out a few different facilities and instructors before ultimately deciding. Having a great instructor that you are compatible with can really further your riding and help take you where you want to go, while a bad instructor can turn you off from riding and quit all-together.