February 24

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Riding Instructor – Shannon Christ

By TheRidingInstructor

February 24, 2016

Certified Instructor, CHA Certification, riding instructor, Riding Instructor in Maryland, Riding Instructor Interview, Shannon Christ

 Today I want to introduce you to Shannon Christ, a hunter and balanced seat riding instructor from Maryland in the U.S.A. Shannon is one of those lucky people that gets to have her horse at home. She teaches basics in dressage and horsemanship with an emphasis on the relationship between horse and rider.

R.I.:
Welcome, Shannon. Will you tell readers what motivates you to teach riding?

Shannon:
Riding/horses has brought me so much joy in my life and I was blessed enough that my mother rode when I was born so I always had access to horses. I know not everyone has that easy access, I love giving that opportunity to others

R.I.:
How did you get started teaching?

Shannon:
I taught here and there but nothing formal when I was a teenager. When I was an adult, I was going through some big changes in my life and had to temporally board my horse at a lesson farm while I moved out of my current location. It was agreed that my pony would be used in the lesson program since stall space was limited. The owner of the lesson barn was unable to use my spunky little welsh/thoroughbred pony in her lessons so she told me she couldn’t continue to board her. During our conversation, she told me that the riding instructor she had lined up for her new lesson program had bowed out on her right before start up. She asked me if I would be interested in helping. I was a little hesitant but agreed and she spilt the cost of certification with me. I worked for her part time (evenings after my full time job,) then eventually left my office job to teach full time. It was very enjoyable for me and I taught full time through the entire pregnancy of my first child. My spunky pony was also allowed to stay there since I worked there:)

R.I.:
What program did you participate in?

Shannon:
I was Certified through CHA in 2003, English level 3 jumping and flatwork.

R.I.:
What was the process for Certified Horsemanship Association?

Shannon:
 I was actively teaching when I attended this 3 day clinic to become certified. I learned so much from the clinic instructors who were very knowledgeable and encouraging. In the clinic we were mounted all day (always on a different horse we knew nothing about.) We were either the riding instructor or the student during the entire 3 days, what a great way to learn. I do recall wishing that the jumping portion was the first day instead of the last because my legs were pretty sore on the 3 day of riding all day, but I made it through.

R.I.:
It sounds like it was a pretty intensive 3 days.  I noticed that you have your certification score sheets on your web site. http://www.hazystarridingacademy.com/#!about_us/c12dk I enjoyed reading the comments. Congratulations on doing a good job for your CHA certification.

Would you recommend CHA for other people who want to become certified?

Shannon:
100%

R.I.:
Do you do anything special in the way of continuing education?

Shannon:
I read articles and books. I attend webinars and clinics whenever I can.  My horse is still teaching me whenever I ride. I also try to take dressage lessons whenever I can. I love outlets like RI because another wonderful tool is reading what other instructors are doing or what they have experienced.

R.I.
Thanks for mentioning The Riding Instructor. It’s always nice to know the R.I. is helpful.

Tell us a little about your riding life.

Shannon:
I try to ride at least twice a week now. I ride hunter and dressage and enjoy both. I spent most of my childhood into young adult years competing. I enjoyed competing and did well. I have two young boys now and don’t currently compete. My riding has become much more for pleasure. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to push myself further and further and get better and better. I am older now, and my thought process has changed. Riding brings me so much joy but listening to my horse and riding for fun and to connect with her is where I enjoy being right now. My goals right now are just get out there, do it, and enjoy it.

R.I.:
Would you tell readers about your early instructor? She sounds like a special lady.

Shannon:
When I was young, my first instructor was from England. She has now passed on but I swore that little woman knew everything about horses. She was a tiny statured woman and she always brought her dogs with her to give me lessons. She was with me at every one of my horse shows and I have no doubt, she gave me everything she had. She was a wealth of knowledge and tough as nails. She taught me so much and showed me what I was capable of. I can’t leave my mother out of this because I still call her today with all things horse related. She is the reason I started riding and we both share the passion for it.

R.I.:
Would you tell readers what life as an instructor is like for Shannon Christ?

Shannon:
I have worked for various barns over the years teaching full time. About 9 years ago, I went back to the office to work full time and starting teaching part time for students that already had horses, I would travel to them or teach at the barn where I boarded my two horses. About 4 years ago I brought my horses to my home, I now teach only from my home. I lost my older mare about 2 years ago and just have one horse right now. I only teach on her and only 2-3 a week right now. We learn about safety and focus on having fun. We incorporate games and stretching into our lessons. We are a simple facility, and if you are looking for a very social, busy, competitive barn, we might not be the right fit. However, if you love to ride and learn in a relaxed atmosphere that focuses on partnership between rider and horse, we might be a good fit for you. I have been on both ends of the spectrum, teaching at busy competitive barns and more relaxed (riding for pleasure barns,) they have both served me well at different stages in my riding. I put safety first and at the end of the day, if I don’t feel like you are ready for the next gait or moving on, we aren’t going to do it. I want my students to have a very solid leg, position, and equitation has always been a big focus of mine. I want them to understand that if you earn a horses trust, there is nothing they won’t do for you.

R.I.:
What is your strongest teaching quality?

Shannon:
I have a strong eye for equitation and developing a strong leg/ seat and balance. I like to think I am fun too.

R.I.:
Is there one thing, other than a student, that you can not do without for teaching?

Shannon:
I use the lunge line a lot.

R.I.
What’s your special teaching philosophy?

Shannon:
I feel like the relationship you can develop with a horse takes riding to a whole new level. It took me some years to learn this and I hope I pass that along to my students. It isn’t about what you can make the horse do or what the horse can do for you but what you and the horse can do together.

R.I.:
I like your philosophy because it does’t just apply to horses and it’s one that will
give horses a better life.

What’s the best thing about teaching riding?

Shannon:
Teaching students that honestly love horses and love to ride. You know when you have the students that come through the door that will be doing this for a lifetime- that is always awesome to be able to teach them.

R.I.
What would you like to do in the future?

Shannon:
I am very interested in therapeutic riding. I have volunteered for programs in the past and I would love to become certified in this.

R.I.:
Therapeutic riding is an important field. From what I’ve learned about you, I think you’d be a good therapeutic riding instructor.

What advice would you like to give to instructors who are just starting out?

Shannon:
An instructor I once taught for told me one time, “know your horse.” This is so true. Especially so when teaching beginners. We want our lessons to be as safe as possible and while we can’t control everything, knowing the horses you teach on will help you immensely.

R.I.:
That’s good advice.

I wish my students…

Shannon:
would thank the horse after every ride.

R.I.:
I love it when students. . .

Shannon:
kiss and love on Cleo (the horse)

R.I.:
What kind of activities do you do outside of horses?

Shannon:
I recently just left a long term job in Accounting to homeschool my two boys!  I like to run (sometimes:)

R.I.:
Thank you so much for interviewing with me, Shannon. I admire you for continuing to teach with the busy life of being mom to two little boys! I love that you look at the big picture – people riding for a lifetime, and that you work to make students aware of the wonderful relationship they can have with the horse. I enjoyed visiting your web site at http://www.hazystarridingacademy.com . I wish you the very best in teaching and riding and particularly with your homeschooling. A special kind of joy shines through your interview.

Shannon and I are happy that all of you could join us at The Riding Instructor. Thank you for reading.

Barbara Ellin Fox
http://TheRidingInstructor.net
http://USHorsemanship.net

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