July 15

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Dana Merritt, Riding Instructor in Post Falls, Idaho

By TheRidingInstructor

July 15, 2016


I’m happy to introduce Dana Merritt to The Riding Instructor readers. Dana teaches beginning riders of all ages ( 5 years old through adult) at Young Riders,LLC in Post Falls Idaho.

RI:
Why do you teach riding?

Dana:
I have always enjoyed teaching children. I started teaching pre-school and kindergarten when my ownSadie Dana Merrit children were pre-school age. Moved on to teacher assistant in middle school and then substitute teaching K-12 in Post Falls school district. The pure joy of watching a child have that ah-ha moment when they understand a challenge or concept is priceless. I have never been happier since I have combined my love of teaching and my love of horses. The pure joy and excitement of a child meeting a horse for the first time or learning a new skill on horseback is what gets me up in the morning.

RI:
Knowing how other instructors got started is encouraging for new instructors. Will you tell readers how you got started teaching?

Dana:
While I have loved horses all my life, I came late to horse ownership. I had my first horse in my early 40’s. I dove in with total dedication and love. I learned everything I could from anyone who would teach me. I am still learning new things everyday! After about 10 years of riding I had a friend come to me and ask if I would teach her daughter to ride. I jumped at the opportunity and that developed into me starting my business and dedicating myself to teaching beginners to care for and ride horses.

RI:
Are you a rider as well as a teacher?

Dana:
I love riding horses and ride every opportunity I get. Whether it is trail or arena work I am having a blast riding. I have competed in open 4H shows both English and Western and have done some reining. My favorite thing I have ever done was ride in the opening ceremonies at the Ellensburg Rodeo. What a rush! I love controlled speed and challenging myself all the time. One of my current riding goals is to learn how to barrel race. Now that would be thrilling!!

RI:
Do you have a favorite instructor or someone who mentored you?-

Dana:
I am very grateful to everyone who has shared knowledge and skill with me. I keep my mind and heart open to new ideas and new ways to do things. I think with horses it is so important to never think you know everything there is to know. Keep learning and growing and you will always have wonderful experiences and stories!

RI:
Did you have the opportunity to go through a particular program or certification/licensing process? –Amberlie Dana Merritt

Dana:
I am a member of the American Riding Instructors Association (ARIA). I am working on gathering the required items to become certified.

ARIA’s publications are a great asset to instructors. The publication helps with continuing education items and new ideas for working with students. I also use this publication for the same reasons. The riding instructor is very valuable to me!

RI:
Would you recommend this program for others?-

Dana:
Yes, but my biggest suggestion is to find what works best for you! Find what works and use it to improve yourself.

RI:
What do you do for continuing education?

Dana:
I try to work with different trainers regularly. By not sticking with one instructor or style I can keep gaining skill and growing. I feel it is very important to have another professional check my style and skills to make sure I am not teaching bad habits and that I stay current in my teachings. I attend riding clinics, watch training videos, and I’m always watching and listening.

RI:
Tell us about your riding program

Dana:
I run my lessons from my home for students aged 5 to adult. I have a round pen and an arena plus open land we can work with. My lessons are taught one on one with a few exceptions. I have three lesson horses. Two are for beginners and one is for advanced students. I will travel to student’s homes if they have their own horses and wish to take lessons on them. I primarily teach western riding. I introduce students to English riding to help them keep open minds and try new things.

RI:
Do you have a special teaching philosophy?

Dana:
I believe my job as instructor is to give the student the most rounded education possible. Students need to learn that jumping in the saddle and riding is not all there is to horsemanship. Every lesson students work on ground work, saddling, and riding. Each lesson they attend they get a hand out to keep that has various information about horses and horse care. Most importantly each student must be allowed to progress at their own speed and comfort level.

RI:
What’s your teaching strength?

Dana:
Patience. When you are working with students that are young, scared, never been around a horse before, having a bad day, happy, sad or bored you have to be able to read the situation and build the lesson accordingly.

RI:
What obstacles to your career have you over come?

Dana:
I have 3 biggest obstacles, some I have overcome and some I have not.

  1. I need an indoor arena so I can still give lessons in rain/snow. Right now I am an all outdoor facility and have to cancel lessons when the weather is not cooperating.

  2. I would love more lesson horses. It is a challenge to find the perfect lesson horse. During the season my 2 horses get quite the workout!

  3. Parents. Working with young children is so wonderful and rewarding. Sometimes their parents are not so wonderful. They can tend to “armchair” instruct from the side lines, giving conflicting instruction or guilt the child into trying something they are not ready for. I have learned to talk to the parents about this and if needed work on the far side of the arena to keep the parent at bay. I always tell my students we work at their speed, they decide what we try or don’t try and if they are not comfortable with anything they need to speak to me about it so we can work it out.

RI:
Your number three (above) is something that most of us have to deal with, particularly if we teach children. The level doesn’t seem to matter. It can take a while for instructors to decide to address parental interference but I think the sooner it’s addressed the better. At it’s most basic level, kids need to focus on their instructors for safety’s sake, but there are a myriad of other reasons that it’s important. I’m glad you brought this up.

RI
Do you have an unusual teaching situation?

Dana:
I have a student with Asperger’s Syndrome. She is so very fun to work with but I have to be very clear in my communication with her. I also have to work against boredom as her attention span is short. I am constantly coming up with new ways to get her to practice the basic skills.

RI:
What’s the best thing about teaching riding?

Dana:
My favorite thing about teaching riding is to watch the student’s growth in skill and confidence. The major payoff is to see their face when they have been struggling with a skill and are finally able to execute it, the smile is amazing!

RI:
Where do you see yourself in the future?

Dana:
I see myself having a wonderfully successful lesson facility. Whether it needs to be seasonal or I find the funds for an indoor facility I will be teaching beginning riders basic skills, respect and love of horses.

RI:
Here’s a couple of fun questions:

I love it when students. . .Smile and laugh during their lessons. When they are relaxed and having fun I know they are

If you could have instruction from anyone in the world, who would it be?

If I had nothing but money I would travel around the USA and Europe going to clinics and taking lessons. I would be a professional student!

What is the one thing you can not do without for teaching?

I could not give lessons without my wonderful lessons horses. Finding patient, well behaved, caring horses is difficult. The two lesson horses I have for beginners are the best. They challenge students but also know how to keep the students safe and are so tolerant of the students mistakes.

RI:
It’s been fun getting to know you, Dana.  Thanks for being my guest on The Riding Instructor.

To learn more about Dana,

you can visit her FaceBook page www.facebook.com/YoungRidersLLC

or you can e-mail her at danalmerritt@gmail.com

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