Lessons - Coaching - Training

Lessons can be one of the best ways for you to train your horse, and yourself at the same time. Once I get a horse started so that it knows basic aids and reining I like to take as many lessons as I can. It is always good to have eyes on the ground taking in the whole picture because when you are concentrating on a particular aspect of training your horse you are probably not entirely aware of other points.

For instance, while you are trying to keep your horse's head straighter going into a shoulder in movement you may not notice that your shoulders are not in correct position. When your instructor/coach corrects you, you will find the whole movement going much smoother.

Riding without lessons we tend to get stuck on certain things, we also forget sometimes to change things up a bit for the horse, to keep them interested. At times we may have a tendency to push too hard, or not enough, for the level the horse is at - and for the horse's temperment. All of these things are addressed in lessons. Also, for those of us "non-pro" people working with our horses the coach has got a whole bag of interesting approaches that make learning fun for both rider and horse.

Of course, successfully training a horse through lessons and coaching doesn't make us trainers.  That's why I hesitate to give out too much advise...instead I like to share some things I've learned and I always encourage people to find a coach or instructor to work with.  Becoming a good trainer takes years of work and practice.

Also, sometimes it's a good idea to take a lesson from an outside or different coach to get a different perspective on your riding and training. This doesn't mean that you should be hopping from trainer to trainer, as this can be very confusing to horse and rider alike. It simply means that occassional participation in a different class, maybe a clinic, can open the mind and give you and your coach some new things to work on.

The work with horses is never done! I recently saw a demonstration where a dressage coach had a Grand Prix level horse and rider in the ring for a lesson and she was able to visibly improve the pair within 10 minutes. We can never have too much GOOD training on our horses (or ourselves).

Finding an instructor to work with is not always easy. Word of mouth is a good way, seeing other riders and horses that have been trained by that coach helps, participating in a clinic or a couple of casual lessons with someone will give you a good idea as well. Look to the coach's accomplishments, see how they handle themselves with the horses and how the horses respond to them. Although price can be a factor, I would suggest that you are better off having fewer lessons with a really good coach than having more lessons with a novice. At the same time, a higher level coach may not necessarily be what you and your horse need at the time. Don't be too dazzled by big names, some of them have their apprentices taking over many of the lessons anyways.

Once you choose a coach, however, it is best to stick with them for a good period of time (6 months or more) to give the training a chance to really show results. If after that time you don't feel that you are progressing as you should, or you don't enjoy working with that coach, then by all means search out another. Don't feel that you have to stay with a coach because you don't want to "hurt" their feelings. The coach is a professional and will (or should) understand if you feel you need to branch out....they would do the same in your position.

Good luck, and good fun, in your learning process....and please feel free to share your experiences on our Blog!

Playday - Reward for hours spent in lessons!