Dealing with people in any field can require compromise. When we set our standards as instructors or barn owners we should have a mental list of things on which we are absolutely steadfast, and others with which we are willing to compromise.

Having a list allows you to be flexible while at the same time maintaining the control, or standard, you need for your business. Every instructor must make their own decisions and choices. What follows are a few things that have worked for me. They may not be on your list.

Five Things I Won’t Compromise

  • Hold Harmless Release

    • This protects me and is an absolute must. If a student isn’t willing to sign, or if they forget, they will not ride.
  • Helmets

    • This is for the student’s safety. No one gets on a horse at my farm without a helmet.
  • Safety

    • It’s important to determine your basic safety rules for students or horses and stick to them.
    • They are safety rules, not safety suggestions.
  • Kindness to animals

    • It’s bad enough that we unintentionally hurt and stress the horses through poor riding. It’s the nature of learning and the bane of the faithful lesson horse. But let me see someone intentional jab a mouth, kick a horse in the belly, lose their temper or do something else inconsiderate, and I’ll take the student off the horse or out of the barn.
  • No smoking in the barn

    This really doesn’t qualify for an explanation. If a person needs to smoke they may do so in their car.

Five Things I Might Compromise

  • Helmets at horse shows.

    • I won’t require a western pleasure rider to wear a helmet at a show. They’ll wear them at home, but for a shows I’ll agree to a hold harmless that states they are aware of the danger and choose to take the risk.
    • And of course parents sign for minors.
  • Footwear

    • I prefer students wear boots to ride but in certain circumstances I won’t turn someone down for wearing tennis shoes. They may have to ride without stirrups or bareback. Or they may stay on a lead.
  • Price for lessons

    • If I know a dedicated student who can’t afford lessons, I’ll find away to make lessons possible.
  • Time

    • Yeah, even though I know a good business person is a clock watcher, sometimes I’ll let a lesson go long just to make sure we have success, but not at the expense of another student.
  • Lesson Schedule

    • Like people in other businesses, I hope for regular hours. I have been known to give lessons as early as 5:00 AM or as late as 11:00 PM to fit an impossible schedule.

It’s Your Turn

Do you ever compromise in your riding program or boarding barn? What are your ‘never’ and ‘sometimes?’

Here’s to wise and gentle instructors, and students who are sponges.

Barbara Ellin Fox

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