BY ROBIN GREENWOOD
Equestrians spend a lot of time, money, and effort to be able to ride their horses. Whether you take multiple lessons a week or one a month, time with a good trainer is a privilege. It’s important to set yourself up for success, especially when starting with a new trainer or attending a clinic.
A good lesson will give you takeaways that last far longer than the time in the ring, but students have to do their part. Here are my tips for getting the most out of your lesson.
1. Arrive on time to be mounted in the ring at the appointed time so you are not late (and stressed).
If you’re late to your lesson, you’ll miss out on valuable information that you may not get back depending on the schedule. Your trainer also has a schedule to keep, and it’s frustrating (as well as unfair to others) when some arrive rate. Plus, the added stress of rushing to get ready will not help your riding. Get there early, give yourself plenty of time, and enter the ring relaxed and ready to learn.
2. Have everything you need organized in a bag or backpack.
Again, this helps your mental state for your lesson. Plus, it’s great to be prepared if your instructor asks you to add a spur or crop. It never hurts to be over prepared!
3. Focus. Focus. Focus. Listen carefully and do your best to follow directions.
It doesn’t matter if you had a hard test at school or a stressful day at work prior to your lesson. Try to flush everything else from your mind, and focus on your horse and the help coming to you. A good trainer will never get upset at someone making mistakes while trying to learn, but failing to listen to directions will leave everyone flustered.
4. A positive attitude is important.
When things don’t go well, remember that challenging yourself is hard. Take the mistakes as learning opportunities, and continue to push harder. A poor attitude will almost always insure failure.
5. Don’t decide you already know a better or different way.
There are countless ways to teach something. Just because you’ve been doing it a certain way for a long time, doesn’t mean that’s the best way. All horses respond differently. Be open to new ideas. After all, you showed up to hear the trainer’s expertise!
6. Watch what’s going on around you.
Watch the other riders in your group when they’re taking their turn. See who was able to follow directions. See how their trips worked out. Learning isn’t limited to what you are doing. You soak a lot in by observing.
7. Study the horses too.
Watching the others is also a good way to learn about different types of horses. Quick ones, lazy ones, horses that are heavy on the forehand, horses that go around with their head up in the air. See how the riders navigate their different strengths and weaknesses, and what does (or doesn’t!) work out.
8. Be open to a lifetime of learning with horses.
This is not a sport that can be learned overnight. The best riders are lifelong learners who are completely open minded. They listen to everything, and try their hardest. You don’t even stop learning, so never stop trying to improve!
Learn more about Robin Greenwood in the March 2021 issue, “A Little Bit of Magic: Robin Greenwood on the Moments that Made Her Career“