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When you give your trust and your money to a riding instructor, you want to make sure that you are getting what you deserve. If you learn bad habits it will take longer to undo them then it did to learn them in the first place. Plus you need to find that happy medium of being challenged so that you get better, but not to the point that you are riding above your skill level.

Taking riding lessons will have a huge impact not just on the way you ride but also on how you view horses and riding. Having someone work with you one on one can be invaluable, but you want to make sure that it’s the right person.

I have taken lessons from a lot of different people. I love getting different opinions and then putting it together in my own style. But if you are just starting out that can be confusing and it’s better to find one person that you are really comfortable with. But you also have to know when it’s time to move on and find someone else to take you to the next level.

I have one instructor that really stands out to me. Her name was Martha and I took lessons from her from about four years. In the beginning she was perfect for where I was at. I had been bored at my other lessons, and Martha knew how to make things fun and challenge me every lesson. I made huge progress in the first year. Then I started to show with her barn and the pressure began to escalate. I had a green horse at the time, and we were both being pushed way past our comfort levels. He started bucking at the canter and stopping at jumps, and I started falling off – a lot. My confidence took a beating. Then I started spending more time at the barn and I saw her methods of training horses, which I was totally not comfortable with at all. I finally made the decision to leave, and it was a tough one, because Martha was a good friend by now, but I knew that my riding was not going anywhere if I stayed.

I went to a few different trainers before finally settling in somewhere again, but I never regretted making that move. A riding instructor is just like a coach, personality and teaching style can be every bit as important as the actual instruction they give.

I made this video for you to just chat about what to look for in a riding instructor and what questions to ask yourself to know if you are in the right program.

There is one thing I forgot to mention in the video, but it is really important! Watch your instructor ride… do you want to ride like them? If you do, great! If not, find someone else!

Enjoy the video!


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11 Responses

  1. You Asked if I would like to ride like my Instructor and I have watched her videos and I would Kill to ride like her. Not literally, of course. She is very patient but knows when to confront my mistakes. For that I am grateful because I can be quite dense. After about 8 months I am almost ready to canter so you can see she values my safety. I was 80 in December so we err on the side of caution. I love, love, love all your blogs. Thanks you

  2. In this age of technology, I think it is important to have your instructor pay attention to you throughout the lesson and not be on the phone. I dont mind them taking a call if you are taking a break but I have had trainers who look down and fiddle on their device the whole time I am doing my flatwork before jumping.

  3. Hi Callie,
    I’ve returned to riding in my 50’s having never lost my love for horses. A friend and I tried a few barns and I can totally relate to what you say about trusting your gut. The first barn was saddlebred focused and that was not my interest. The second barn was clean and neat with good school horses but the instructor talked to us like we were 9 years old. I thankfully found the barn where I’ve been riding now for 7 months every week with an instructor who is great at modifying her instruction for each student. I’ve gained confidence and ability beyond my own expectations.
    Thank you for your great blog posts and videos. They have helped me a lot since I am someone who wants to immerse myself in information about horses. I hope there are others out there like me who find your resources and learn from them!

  4. Great video. Thanks for making it. I have taken lessons from several instructors and most were ok but not what I was looking for. Good in their own right though. Ever since I started with horses I wanted to be around them so much that I would offer to work with anybodies horse that would let me. So I have had all kinds of horse experience and have taught myself and horses a lot about groundwork, in-hand, lunging, long lining and riding.
    What I would love to find is a trainer that would teach me how to train. But I haven’t really been able to. I want more than anything to take any horse and find where he is at and be able to confidently move him along in his training. I do that now but there are times where the horse seems to get worse before he gets better or is trending better but it is hard to see because I am not taking a win on the small steps, and also those times where you just question if you are doing things right, etc.

  5. Hello I have been riding since June 2015 and I don’t feel pushed enough in my class. I am thinking of changing the time of my lesson again as I believe they keep showing me beginners stuff rather than moving forward with my lesson. Also they seem to have small little kids and we have to keep starting and stopping sometimes. The place seems ok but don’t feel the push you enough and that it is possible they have their favourites.

    They have also give me a sheet if I want to get rosettes for ie controlling the horse by changing directions, or controlling the horse while trotting round the cones some of the stuff is very easy. I am wondering now if I do change lesson that they may not tick these things off etc but I have had a go at cantering and not afraid of doing that bit more on a horse as I do like horse riding, also I am not young anymore I am now 40 and will turn 41 in 2016.

    What do you think.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Many farms do cater more to teaching kids, and adults learn differently than kids. I would recommend checking out your options. It never hurts to visit other farms and watch other instructors teach to see if there is a better fit available. If you don’t find one, perhaps leasing would be an option and would give you more independence to work some on your own outside of the lessons?

  6. Hi I rode for about 20 years when I was young, had my own horse, loved it. Then my parents stopped paying for riding and I left riding for about 50 years. In the last couple of years I have started taking lessons again twice at two different hunter/jumper barns and just this spring at an eventing barn. As a kid I was taught forward seat, but have now have moved to a more balanced seat. In my adult life I have had three different instructors – the first instructor didn’t seem very interested in teaching a “newbie” and also didn’t always hear my concerns. As an older returning rider, being put on a huge horse was somewhat intimidating. My second instructor was young and sometimes seemed to come to lessons in a bad mood. I know myself as a learner and I know I need consistent feedback and I do best with positive reinforcement as opposed to negative or disinterested feedback.
    I am now riding in a smaller, but very professional barn. I like everyone from the kids who are mucking stalls and grooming to the owner and my instructor. I am gaining confidence, enjoying every minute and learning lots.
    In August I am going to Iceland to ride for 4 days. I can’t wait! It is great to be back to riding after almost 50 years.

    Thank you Callie for your blog. I just recently found it and many of the topics you cover are very helpful and add tremendously to my learning both on and off the horse.

    1. Hi Sally! Welcome to the blog! Congrats on your upcoming trip to Iceland – that sounds like fun!

  7. As always your videos are inspirational as well as instructive! I want to get in the saddle again. (As a youth, I remember learning directly from my cousins without any formal lessons. They are now training racing horses.) So far, every horse stable I have gone to visit, appears to be either dirty or rundown. And no one seems friendly! Are these signs to be wary of? I’m getting a little discouraged…

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