Perfect Match: Find an instructor who is compatible with you
by J.L. Orchard
The perfect instructor is someone that
brings out the best in you. You might not always be friends (and you
don’t need to be, outside of the lessons), but you respect the person
because he or she knows your strengths and weaknesses, are skilled at
what they teach, and respect you and your goals. You can trust them
with your riding future and at the end of the year you ride better than
you did at the start.
If you are looking for a good instructor,
listen to what other riders have to say. Who have other riders had
positive experiences with? This is for general consensus only, since
you may have different needs as a rider than someone else. Always audit
(watch) a lesson with an instructor before signing on with them, and
always go in with a clear idea of your goals.
To help determine if a particular instructor is a good match for you,
ask yourself these questions:
teach your discipline, at your level?
an instructor can’t teach beyond your current level, there is nowhere
for you to progress. The easiest way to weigh an instructor’s ability
is through accreditation. If they are certified, ask at what level and
find out what they are qualified to teach. If they’re not certified,
ask why not (a valid question) and see if they can give you a demo
lesson, which will give you a sense of their skill and teaching
ability. Have a more experienced riding buddy or knowledgeable adult
audit the lesson with you. They’ll have a better idea of what’s
knowledge and what’s just talk.
sign for lessons without knowing how much time is spent in the saddle
and whether you’ll receive instruction on the ground. You may come to
your first session expecting a 15-minute ground lesson and 45 minutes
in the saddle, but they’ve planned for 30 minutes mounted and the rest
as unsupervised “bonding” time for you and the horse. If you’re being
charged for an hour, is that an hour from the time you mount up, or an
hour from the time you walk into the barn?
they interested in your goals?
has goals. For many people it is simply to become a better rider, but
what does that mean? What are target points that prove you are
progressing? The instructor should be able to provide a verbal or
written outline of mini-goals to help you reach your larger goal. You
don’t want your instructor to haphazardly move you toward some unclear
end result. Make sure he or she is planning lessons that will get you
where you want to go.
they cater to your unique way of learning?
is a little different. Some of us learn by example (being shown how to
do something), while others respond better to verbal instructions. Will
the instructor suggest reading materials or create visual examples by
demonstrating something, or are they teaching “cookie-cutter” lessons?
teach your style?
important to have an instructor that rides and teaches your discipline,
but do they teach your style of riding? Do you appreciate the
nitty-gritty details of equitation and want to know the what, how, and
why of everything? Or are you more casual and just need to know what to
do when in order to stay on and have fun?
this someone you can respect for their knowledge and also for their
treatment of their clients? Do you trust them to make fun of your
failures to other students? If you’ve heard them gossip about other
students, be assured they’re going to gossip about you. Also, do they
exhibit safe habits both in their teaching and in their general
behaviour? Can you trust them with your safety? If you’re already in
lessons and have been wondering if you have the right instructor, ask
yourself these questions:
not, this can be for three reasons: your instructor hasn’t put in the
effort, you haven’t put in the effort, or your instructor isn’t able to
teach beyond your current level. If you’re not putting in the effort,
your instructor should help you find motivation. If you’re just not
interested and nothing they say or do will make you interested, a
considerate instructor will advise you to quit and save your money. If
you’ve hit their teaching limit, they should direct you to ride
Do you feel anxious or uncomfortable, or find yourself dreading your
could be a social issue that has nothing to do with your instructor’s
ability. Perhaps your personalities just clash. If this is the case,
it’s best to find someone you are comfortable around. (Ed. note: if you
feel you are being pushed far beyond your comfort levels, or are being
asked to do anything potentially dangerous, please alert an adult to
the situation). Remember, you are the employer. Your instructor needs
you for their income as much as you need them for your riding, so make
sure you are getting what you need. When you and your instructor are
compatible and have clear expectations of where the lessons are
progressing, the better you’ll grow and develop as a rider.