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What do your students want to learn?

Great riding instructors ask their students questions. They solicit feedback on future riding lessons so they can constantly improve their performance. Most important, they teach what their students want to learn.

You’d be surprised how often riding instructors follow a pre-conceived formula in each of the lessons they teach. They know what has worked for them in the past—the logical progression of learning how to ride—and that formula never varies from one class to the next.

This is boring. It’s also bad for your horse business.

Teaching riding lessons is not like teaching algebra or world history. There is no set curriculum, and most of your students probably set through enough lectures every weekday. They come to riding lessons to be challenged and to participate in an activity they love.

Your job is to meet their needs—whatever those needs might be.

Some students want to learn as fast as they can so they can start their careers as professional riders. Others are content to learn at a more leisurely pace because they have no ambition when it comes to horses; they just love to ride.

Your job as a riding instructor is threefold:

Find out what your students want to learn.
Teach them what they want to know.
Make sure they are safe.

That third requirement imposes a few boundaries on the first two. Yes, you need to figure out what your students want to learn in riding lessons, but first you must give them the tools to learn what they want.

Scenario 1

Emily has been taking riding lessons for three weeks now. During her fourth lesson, she expresses a desire to canter. She’s still a little wobbly at the trot and she hasn’t fully grasped the concept of posting, but she’s adamant about that canter. She wants to go fast!

Riding Instructor’s Response: You know that Emily is not yet ready to canter, so you tell her she needs to wait until she masters the walk and trot. However, you concentrate more on seat and balance in her lessons because you recognize her desire to reach a higher level of mastery.

Scenario 2

Bobby is in his sixth month of taking riding lessons. Most of the other kids in his class have the same level of experience, and they’re all riding western. Suddenly, however, Bobby realizes he isn’t interested in barrel racing or reining or western pleasure. He wants to jump!

Riding Instructor’s Response: Because Bobby has established the basics of a western seat, he can choose the discipline he wants to ride with some authority. If you teach jumping lessons as well as western classics, it’s time to move him to a new class where he can learn the English seat and progress to jumping. If you teach only western, you’ll want to refer him to an English riding instructor.

See how that works?

It is important to let your students tell you what they want to learn, but it is more important to keep them safe. Your goal should be to solicit feedback while keeping your professional obligations in mind.

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