One of the most stressful responsibilities a riding instructor can undertake is schooling students at horse shows. It’s nothing like teaching riding lessons at home, and no matter how carefully you prepare there never seems to be enough time.
This is especially true when schooling lots of students at horse shows. You can only give a certain number of minutes to each student, and disasters always strike at the least opportune times.
So how do you go about schooling students at horse shows without losing your mind? Here are some tips I’ve picked up in my travels.
Ask for Volunteers
You might be the only person schooling students at horse shows, but you need helpers to keep things moving along without incident. Parents, siblings, students who aren’t competing, assistant riding instructors—all of these people make great volunteers.
Essentially, your helpers will act as gophers while you’re schooling students at horse shows. They will go back to the barn to grab forgotten gloves, pick up fallen rails in the warm-up arena, lunge over-excited horses, and generally make themselves useful. They are also great for coffee runs at five a.m. when you can’t leave the barn.
Hold Practice Shows
Schooling students at horse shows is stressful, and one of the main problems you’ll encounter is confused students. They don’t know where they’re supposed to be and they’re tugging on your sleeve every ten minutes to ask you another question. You get it, they’re nervous, but you’re on your last nerve.
The best way to combat this is by holding practice shows. Prepare your students beforehand so they’ll know what to expect. They will ask fewer questions and you won’t feel like you’re being pulled in three million different directions at once.
Map the Schedule
Every riding instructor has a different method of scheduling their schooling methods at horse shows, but you’ll need to pick a system that works. Don’t rely on the printed schedule you’re given at the start of the horse show because you’ll waste precious minutes wading through all the names and show numbers to find your students’.
Instead, write out a personalized schedule with all your students or highlight your students’ names on the printed schedule. Some riding instructors even pair a customized schedule with a map of the grounds, especially when you’ve got multiple arenas going at once.
Give the Babies Priority
Prioriitization is an important skill when schooling students at horse shows. The students for whom this is a first competition should rate highest on your list, with the veterans at the bottom. This doesn’t mean you should neglect your more-experienced students, but you’ve got to make sure the babies are taken care of.
I also recommend requiring that younger and less-experienced students come with a parent, guardian, or other adult supervisor. This way, they always have an adult around to help them get what they need.
I know that schooling students at horse shows can be stressful, but organization is key. Keep to your schedule, know your priorities, and try to have fun—remember, it’s supposed to be an enjoyable experience for you and your students!