When you hear about things like horse show competitors who can’t ready their own horse, water withheld from horses so they are calmer for their riders, lunging to exhaustion in the early hours, and the many other ills associated with competition, you might wonder what kind of future is in store for the horse business.

The future is what we make it. You, as a riding instructor, can influence what the next generation of riders do with what you teach your students today. If you teach these 10 things to your students, you will positively affect the horse business in the future.

1. Grooming

Learning basic grooming should be part of the curriculum for every riding student. How to use a currycomb, brush and a hoof pick correctly is the minimum a student needs to know. Teach them why grooming is important, and that it isn’t just taking the horse to the wash rack and hosing him down. Let them learn how to pick up a horse’s hoof and dig out the manure. Show them what a well-shod hoof and a barefoot hoof look like. Explain what shoes are for and how often the horse needs shoeing. They may become rusty, but farther down the road, when they compete and have prep help, they will still know what it takes to groom a horse.

2. Tack-up

Not only should you teach students how to tack and un-tack their horse, all riders should learn to do the basic safety check. Have them safety check one another for practice. Give them the tools to know if their horse is tacked correctly. And teach them how to correctly put equipment away. If you do this for your students now, they are less likely to be caught in a situation where they can’t saddle their own horse.

3. Basic Horse Care

Teach your students horse care from feed and water, to correct warm up and cool down. Teach them how to turn a horse out and what the horse needs to stay healthy and fit. 

4. Equipment

Teach them how to clean tack. Have them take a saddle and bridle apart and then reassemble it until they are competent. Then let them refit the equipment to the horse so they know what to look for. Educate them about basic bits so they know what they have in their horse’s mouth. Is it a leverage bit, a snaffle, a gag? How do these bits differ from each other and what do they do?

5. Basic First Aid and TPR

How can you tell if a horse is sick? Teach basic first aid, including the signs and types of colic. Once they learn about impaction colic, they’ll know one reason it’s bad to withhold water from a horse. Teach cold hosing and simple wound care and what to do if they need to call the vet. And teach them how to take the horse’s vitals. Let them practice. Equineink.com  has a good post on TPR with videos. 

Equip your students with the ability to take care of their horse.

6. Longeing (lungeing) 

Teach them the fundamentals of lungeing, including why you lunge, how long to lunge, and how to lunge. Teach them about the damage lungeing incorrectly can cause. Show them the benefit of a properly lunged horse.

7. A Solid Basic Riding Foundation

A solid foundation carries a rider into the future. It gives them something to build on. If you don’t pass this on to your students, who will carry it into the horse world? Teaching the basics is crucial in passing on knowledge.

8. Sportsmanship

Some days I wonder where sportsmanship has gone in all kinds of sports.

Have you read the Sportsman’s Charter? This came from the opening pages (Page OP-2) of the 2022 USEF rulebook

It gives a person something to think about. How many equestrians read this code? How many live by it?

THE SPORTSMAN’S CHARTER

That sport is something done for the fun of doing it and that it ceases to be sport when it becomes a business only, something done for what there is in it;

That amateurism is something of the heart and spirit – not a matter of exact technical qualifications; That good manners of sport are fundamentally important;
That the code must be strictly upheld;

That the whole structure of sport is not only preserved from the absurdity of undue importance, but is justified by a kind of romance which animates it, and by the positive virtues of courage, patience, good temper, and unselfishness which are demanded by the code;

That the exploitation of sport for profit alone kills the spirit and retains only the husk and semblance of the thing;

That the qualities of frankness, courage, and sincerity which mark the good sportsman in private life shall mark the discussions of his interests at a competition. (end USEF code)

I would add the qualities of integrity, honesty, good ethics, respect, responsibility and fair-play are other important elements of good sportsmanship. 

And sportsmanship for the horseman should always include putting the horse’s welfare first.

If we don’t teach sportsmanship, how will future generations know?

9. Rider Independence

We all know riding is a dangerous sport and students must take advice from instructors and trainers in order to improve. But making a student dependent on a trainer for all of their decisions is one of the biggest disservices done to riders. A student shouldn’t have to ask their trainer if and when they may ride their own horse, unless they are over mounted and incapable. An adult rider should not need an instructor’s permission to take their own horse to a show or clinic. 

Teach students to make decisions and do things for themselves early on. Let them work out problems before you step in to help. Get them out of the arena as soon as they are safe and allow them to experience different situations. 

This is a hard concept for the professional whose financial security depends on controlling everything a client does. This professional is not concerned about the welfare and growth of the client nearly as much as he/she is concerned about the growth of their horse business. And yes, I know running any horse business is expensive, but don’t over-horse your riders and move them into divisions over their heads to elevate yourself. In my opinion, it’s unethical.

Knowledge and confidence help people become independent. If a rider, especially an adult amateur riding at A circuit level, must consult an instructor or trainer for everything they do, what are they missing?

10. Rider/owner Responsibility

Teach horse owners to take full responsibility for their animal in that the-buck-stops-here sense. Owner responsibility can be tough to learn when you think the other guy knows more than you do. When a person owns a horse, they should have final say in everything about that horse, including who rides it, whether it is lunged predawn at a show, if it has its shoes pulled for flat classes, whether it receives medication… in fact there is nothing an owner is not responsible for. Too often owners leave horses in the hands of trainers and walk away, assuming everything is hunky dory. But you know what they say about the word assume? It makes an ass out of u and me and often it’s the horse that suffers. Owners have a hard time saying no to someone they revere. Horse owners are their horse’s advocate.

And

If we don’t teach these things now, we have no business complaining if we don’t see it at the higher levels of activities later. The basic foundation in horsemanship that we teach now is crucial to the future of the horse industry.

What are other things we could teach students that will benefit everyone connected to the horse business in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s to good students and equally good riding lessons,

Barbara Ellin Fox
TheRidingInstructor.net

Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
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