Selecting a Riding Instructor

Courtesy of America’s Horse Daily, Written By Lynn Palm

Horse Training 101: A good riding instructor brings out the best in you and your horse. In this article, I will give you some suggestions on how to select a riding instructor to help you improve the skills you bring to the partnership.

Finding the “Right” Instructor

I stress the importance of creating goals for both horse and rider. Your riding goals should be based on an honest evaluation of your personality, expectations and riding skills. Once you have accomplished this step, you have a blueprint to help you select the right instructor to help you achieve your goals.

Just like with horse training, the “profession” of riding instruction does not require a license or official degree. There are many riding instructors out there with a wide range of teaching abilities, knowledge and experience. It is up to you, the rider, to evaluate the person you are considering to serve as your instructor.

Unlike finding a trainer for your horse, finding a riding instructor adds an additional element to the mix – the human interaction between rider and the instructor. This means an honest evaluation of your personality and how it mixes with the instructor’s. When a riding instructor’s personality and teaching skill keeps you motivated and interested, you will learn. The opposite is also true.

Teaching Is the Key

One place to start looking for a riding instructor is to find a person who possesses credentials from a professionally acknowledged riding instructor certification program. The U.S. Dressage Federation is one organization that has instructor certification programs based on a professionally accepted curriculum that develops both riding and teaching skills.

By contacting USDF, as well as professional horsemen’s or breed associations, you can find certified instructors practicing near you. Ask the person you are considering for your instructor whether she has completed any type of instructor certification program. Instructors who have earned these credentials often don’t need to be asked because they have their certificates proudly displayed on their office or tack room walls.

While show ring wins do not always indicate a person’s ability to teach, they can provide another way to evaluate an instructor’s abilities and professionalism.

In the United States, show ring success has been the traditional way of gauging a person’s proficiency as a horseman. Show success can be one of their abilities. So when evaluating instructors, consider their riding experience. Ask the instructor to provide you with a resume of riding achievements.

Evaluate the quality and type of accomplishments. Has the instructor demonstrated proficiency in a riding discipline that you are interested in? Is the level of achievement sufficient to indicate a high degree of competency?

Often, news about a good riding instructor comes by word of mouth. Obtaining references from riding students can give helpful feedback about the instructor’s professionalism, teaching skills and his ability to build a bond with his students to promote learning.

If you can, observe an instructor’s students. Their riding skills and knowledge reflect the quality of riding skills and teaching philosophies the instructor has transmitted to them.