7 Things Riding Instructors Should Never Say

1. “You aren’t good enough.” Each of your students will have a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Your job is to appreciate your students’ strengths and help them work on their weaknesses, not to tear them down.

There is always a better way to phrase constructive criticism, and with every comment you make, focus on providing advice your student can actually use.

Say Instead: “We really need to work on your position in the saddle before you’re ready to try that. It’s important for you to focus on keeping your eyes up and your heels down.”

2. “Just let me take this call.” As a riding instructor, your attention should be 100 percent focused on your students from the time they arrive until they get in the car to go home. Don’t answer your cell phone or chat with other employees when you’re supposed to be preparing for, teaching, or cleaning up after a lesson.

Not only is this unprofessional, but it is also a safety risk. If you’re concentrating on the person who’s just called your cell, you won’t be able to react as quickly if one of your students gets in trouble.

Say Instead: “Just let me put my phone on vibrate.”

3. “Why can’t you be more like Ashley?” Never compare one of your students to another, whether to their face or to someone else. It’s bad manners, and it leaves students feeling like they are inadequate. Each of your students is imbued with a set of natural gifts, and that is the raw material you need to work with.

You can, however, use exemplary students as examples. Phrase it in such a way that you are offering useful guidance rather than criticism or insult.

Say Instead: “See how Ashley keeps her eyes on the horizon? Try that over your next jump.”

4. “If you don’t get it this time, the lesson is over.” It is not a riding instructor’s job to threaten her students. Don’t use fear to get results; instead, rely on encouragement and other forms of positive motivation. Remember that your students are clients as well, and if you issue threats all the time, they’ll find somewhere else to go.

You’ve probably noticed a theme in this article: Always impart some type of wisdom. Whether you’re offering criticism or praise, make sure you’re offering something of value to the student.

Say Instead: “Try it again, and this time sink your weight into your outside heel a little more to maintain balance.”

5. “But this is so easy!” Maybe it was easy for you to learn, and perhaps most students catch on quickly, but everyone learns at a different speed. Riding instructors must respect this fact if they want to give their students the best lessons possible.

Never demeanor student or make him or her feel stupid or inferior. Low self esteem will lead to more difficulty in the saddle, so you’re only working against yourself by using this tact.

Say Instead: “Go again, with a little less pressure on the reins. Don’t worry, you’ll pick it up!”

6. “Here’s what you did wrong.” Kids and adults are talked at enough during the day: by teachers, bosses, parents, and friends. So much so that they turn a deaf ear toward it. Riding instructors can increase their efficiency and effectiveness by engaging students in a conversation.

Rather than picking apart a rider’s performance, talk about it. Ask the rider to think for him or herself. When you make the effort to do this, students remember their lessons much longer.

Say Instead: “What do you think went wrong there?”

7. “Just do it.” You’d be surprised how often I hear this from riding instructors, and it completely defeats the purpose of riding lessons. When your students ask “why” or “how come,” they’re seeking answers—answers you need to provide.

Say Instead: Either the answer to the question or, “I’m not sure why we do that, but I’ll find the answer and tell you next week.”

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