Respecting the Rules: It’s All in the Details

Photo by Adam Hill.

BY April Bilodeau

Whether you lesson once a week or four times a week, it’s important to put your best foot forward every time you step in the ring.

While taking direction and being coachable are key factors in keeping your trainer happy and excited to teach you, there are a few things you can do before you even enter the ring that will make your trainer smile from ear to ear.

  1. A Thoughtful Turnout: There are few things more cringeworthy than a dirty horse walking into the ring. Make sure that you leave enough time to properly groom your horse and get their coats looking healthy. No crust, stains, or shavings should be visible, that includes in their tail! This includes for you too! Boots should be polished, tack should be clean. You should be dressed for the part you want in the ring.
  2. Proper Equipment: Before choosing your tack for the day, consider what you’ll be doing in your lesson. Is this a flat lesson? A jumping lesson? Not sure? Just ask your trainer so your tack and equipment can match the plan for the day.
  3. Warm Up: Your horse works hard for you and deserves a good, proper warm up before your lesson. Whether you bring them into the ring 10 minutes early to let them warm up at the walk, or take them up and down a few hills outside to start, a good warm up is so important for your horse’s long-term health and should not be included as part of your lesson.
  4. Be Punctual: You and your horse should be in the ring and ready to work as soon as your lesson time begins.

Now, what about after your lesson? You’ve shown up well dressed, your horse is clean, you had a successful lesson because you were prepared.

Consider the following as you put your horse away:

  1. Cool Out: Just like warming up, a proper cool down is incredibly important for your horse. Give them the opportunity to stretch and relax their muscles. This can be done in the ring, or by getting out of the ring and walking around outside. The reward of getting out of the ring can be imperative for the mental state of some horses, so keep your horse in mind when cooling out!
  2. Groom Your Horse: No trainer wants to see saddle marks on a horse. Properly groom your horse and ensure that they are just as clean as when you brought them into the barn.
  3. Clean Your Tack: All tack should be cleaned and inspected before being put away. Look for any damage that may cause an issue in the future. Once cleaned, cover your saddle, if possible, and wrap your bridle before putting it away.
  4. Wash Your Saddle Pads: Whether your horse sweat or not, make sure you wash your saddle pads after every use. This prevents any spread of skin disorders as well as keeps your horse’s skin and coat healthy.
  5. Put Everything Away: Sweep up after yourself and make sure all your equipment is put away where it should be. A tidy barn is a good barn!