As a horse riding instructor there is often a balance that must be maintained while teaching between safety, education and enjoyment as well as the balance between teaching what riders want vs what riders need.
A good instructor will say that safety comes first with horses and while I agree to a point, there is a balance. After all if you would like to be guaranteed that a horse won’t stand on your foot, then stay away from them. The same goes for falling off. There are no guarantees. Don’t get on a horse if you would like a guarantee that you won’t fall off. Speed and jumping usually increases the risk with horse riding, yet we teach, compete and find a great deal of natural adrenaline from jumping and riding in the faster paces.
Horse riding lessons should include both education and enjoyment and ideally the activities within each lesson should include both. The focus and goals of the individual rider or rider/ horse combination will guide the equestrian instructor through the lesson on the activities and tasks within each lesson. A more focused professional elite level equestrian competition rider may want 100% education and this type of rider will find the fun in the education of themselves and their horse. Younger riders, particularly beginner riders could want a 100% fun lesson.
This is where the balance is important. What riders want versus what they need is a balance that can be called customer service. For example . . .
- The rider wants to learn flying changes, they need to learn to sit still and follow the movement in the canter first
- The rider wants to ride in an open area, they need to learn to control the speed and direction of their horse before they leave the arena
- The rider wants to jump, they need to develop the strength required to maintain a forward seat
The list goes on . . .
From a customer service perspective the best idea is to give your students what they want and also include what they need. That idea is great in theory. There is also a living breathing and potentially dangerous animal called a horse who also must be considered.
Option one is to just tell the student that you won’t teach them what they want because either they are not ready, their horse is not ready or both. Then you could close the discussion and move onto what you know the student or horse needs.
Option two is more about customer service. This is the preferred option if you are in the process of building up the number of students you teach and you would like to develop a reputation of being patient and thorough. Breaking down the skill is the best way for the students to realise that the end goal is possible, although it may be a little further away than they first thought.
You could continually refer to their end goal and teach them the exercises they need.
- improving their position on the horse in walk and trot to improve their position and seat in the canter which will prepare them for flying changes.
- accuracy in the arena figures with a focus on the rhythm and tempo increasing control to prepare them for riding outside.
- short periods of forward seat and building up to longer sessions over poles to prepare your student for jumping.
These preparation lessons may go over weeks, months or possibly longer and you continually refer to the student’s wants while giving them what they or their horse needs. The student’s wants may change over that period of time as they gain more knowledge and develop a greater understanding of the skill required to ride correctly even in some of the more basic movements.
The next time your student tells you what they want, include some customer service and great communication into the balance of the lesson so you can give them what they need.