Try these teaching tips to give great riding lessons.

Pre Lesson Teaching Tips

Plan Ahead

Have a goal for each lesson. Do you want your student to gain more control of his horse’s body?  Do you want your budding jumper to learn about bending lines? Develop a lesson plan that is geared toward your goal.

Spell it out.

Put your lesson plan on paper.  This help you to organize and it gives you a great record of what you’ve taught your student. Allocate time for each activity so that you can be sure to cover all of the material and provide plenty of actual “try it” time. Incorporate a related warm up and a positive finish for your student.

Set up before your class.

Make sure materials are on hand at the arena. Material on hand will prevent you  from last minute searches for jump cups, pins or other tools. Measure distances and set poles so only minor alterations are necessary during the lesson. Students deserve your undivided attention during lessons. Instructing a student to warm up while you set a grid wastes the student’s time .  And time is money for students and for you.   If warm up is part of the lesson,  be involved in the process, using exercises and activities that prepare the student and horse for the entire lesson.

Pre-lesson preparation insures that your lesson has a beginning, middle and end. Any good gym work out has a warm up, intense work period and a cool down. Let’s face it, riding is a work out for both horse and rider and a lesson should incorporate all of the muscle conditioning and precautions included in an athlete’s work out. And pre lesson preparation will help you to save precious time by keeping you on track and on schedule.

Teaching Tips for During the Lesson

Talk Less, encourage more

The less time your student stands still for instructions, the better. Students come to ride.  Keep your stationary explanations short and simple, not more than 10% of your lesson

Teach your student on the move as much as you can. Teach your rider “through the process” and help  produce the momentary success that your student needs in order to experience, not just hear, the lesson.

Know several ways to explain the same thing.

Notice when your explanation  is producing the wrong results or no result at all and change your approach. Be aware of the “Bambi in the headlights” gaze. Different people have different learning styles. Develop several approaches for the same topic.

Make positive comments

Make positive comments whenever you notice  small improvements. Encouragement goes a long way toward empowering your student as she progresses toward her goal.

Fun and Games

Get students into action through games and exercises that build on your lesson plan. Use simple games for all levels of horse and rider, even if students are advanced. For instance, the beginner can practice navigation by riding her pony to the fence to remove a colored cloth.  You can use this same exercise for advanced riders by requiring that the last few steps toward the fence be done in half pass and then requiring the horse stand quietly while the cloth is untied. Call it a game for the 9 year old and an exercise for the 29 year old.

Break it down into small pieces.

Start with the simplest skills possible for the level of your rider and increase the difficulty as your student becomes proficient. Small steps provide more opportunities for your student to achieve success.

Be Flexible

Lessons will not always go the way you planned. Stress effects all ages.  A child is effected by how his school day went, just like adults are effected by the work day or family.  Horses have good and bad days.  So, what will you do if Johnny’s pony won’t go anywhere near the cloth tied to the fence? Have a plan that steps this activity down to smaller challenges, so Johnny and his pony can work as a team and succeed. Review the goal for your lesson and seize difficulties as new opportunities to help your student progress.    Develop multiple ways to reach the same goal.

A Good Ending
Plan to end on a good note. Normally this is accomplished by reviewing something that you know the horse and rider can do well.  Beware of introducing new material toward the end of a lesson.  If the new material is not well received by your student or his horse, you’ll more than likely end on a less than successful note.  Your goal is for the student to have a sense of “gain” or achievement.

A good instructor prepares ahead and lays a foundation to help their student succeed. Successful lessons will bring your students back for more. I hope these teaching tips will help you give great lessons.

May each student and lesson teach you something new.

Barbara Fox
The Riding Instructor

copyright 2009

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Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
  • Heya.

    I do agree fully. I used to teach children about dressage skills each week at a riding school in order to help my community. The weekly lesson involved loud music sometimes. Yet far more often in addition to improve attention I used colours instead. For example the letter A was painted blue and so on. I found that this teaching technique really did work wonders with the kids. I typically would call out a letter.

    Then I gave a simple order for the whole class to follow. We spent half a hour working on basic dressage terms and rules. They all wore hard hats. That was my number one rule. No pupil could ride without it on. Occasionally as well we went on fun trail rides or hacks together. But much more often we had fun learning the basics. I focused on teaching them about other horse activities and sports too.

    • Thara, It sounds like you include a lot of variety in your lessons to keep riders focused and engaged. I love the idea of using color with your class. It seems you use good planning and that you are also safety conscious. All ingredients for a good riding program. Kudos to you and keep up the good work! Thank you for your helpful comments. Barbara Ellin Fox

    • H Keela, I’m happy to remove this photo if you want me to. It came from the internet. Just for curiosity are you on the first palomino or the second? Happy kids on happy horses. Let me know if you want it removed from this site. I can’t do anything about someone else’s site, though. Barbara

    • Julia – thanks for letting me know that my article was helpful. Best wishes for fun times on a horse for your daughter! Barbara

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