Ask- Don’t Assume

Before you hand over money to a riding instructor for your child’s first riding lesson find out what their policy is regarding your presence during lessons. Never assume that a riding instructor thinks like you think.

Some instructors would like parents to watch every lesson, particularly with small children and beginners.  Other instructors don’t mind if you drop your child for the lesson and go to run errands (as long as you come back on time.) There could be times an instructor will ask you to sit out a few lessons for a particular reason. An example might be the child who tries too hard to impress her Dad or one who can not concentrate when Mom is on the rail. In this case the instructor is trying to bond with your child. If you’re the parent of a teenager, your teen may not want you at the lesson because she wants to bond with the other barn kids.

 My Red Light

When I meet an instructor who does not want parents present at lessons at all- my caution light begins to blink. They’d better have a very good reason for their stand or my light turns into a big red stop light. Once I get past my partially paranoid reaction of “what are they hiding?” Common sense tells me that this instructor is a potential control freak.

Using the term control freak bothered me so I looked it up.  Webster defines control freak as: a person who has a strong need to control people or how things are done.  Yup, that seems about right. But the truth is, most riding instructors have a little control freak streak in their personalities. (I’m saying this kindly and including myself.) It’s because they know how to do what your child wants to learn, they become partially responsible for helping her to succeed, AND because they are charged with keeping your child safe.  So there are good reasons for a small dose of control freak but not an over load.

Keep Looking

The control freak instructor is not looking for a harmonious relationship with you. He or she wants you to send your child and your control freakmoney, but leave all decisions up to the instructor. You won’t be included in enjoying your child’s progress and your child will begin to look at you as if you couldn’t possibly help them make a decision about their riding. If the instructor who says “No parents” can’t give you really good justification for their position (which I’ve yet to hear)- my vote is that you look for another instructor.

Develop a Relationship

It’s important to develop a good working relationship between you and your child’s riding instructor because she can have a significant impact on your child’s life and development. And she will have an impact on your finances. It’s important for parents to educate themselves enough so they can ask informed questions as riding progresses. A good relationship makes it possible to ask the right questions. I recommend that parents develop an understanding of what child’s goals are and how the instructor plans to meet the goals. It’s also a good idea for parents to learn a little bit about handling horses, maybe take some lessons even if they are ground lessons. Chances are, one day your child will hand you the reins at show and there will be a horse attached to the other end!

The first step is choosing an instructor that suits your child’s need in riding and your needs as the parent.  A good line of communication is paramount and it begins when you interview the potential instructor.

Next time I’ll give you some tips about how to be a good observer at lessons!

Thanks for reading !

Barbara Ellin Fox

Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
  • I have found that parents who diligently observe their childs lessons learn along with the child, things such as recognizing correct (or wrong) diagaonals and canter leads, short and long distances at fences, etc. Once the riders begin to compete in horse shows, these educated parents allow me to spend more time working with their rider on correcting an error in preparation for the next class, than explaining to Mommy/Daddy why Little Suzi/Johnny didn’t get a ribbon.

  • You must have the same innate ‘red light’ that I have!

    As a riding instructor and horse trainer I personally like having the parents around when giving lessons to child. I also like having the owners around when I work with their horses so I can explain exactly what I am doing and why if they have any questions. I consider openness as a riding instructor and horse trainer as part of the whole process.

    • I love to have parents there. I’m sure you know the other side, too, which I’ll eventually blog about. The parents that learn just enough to be dangerous (or troublesome) and school their kids behind the barn or from the rail. We have to help the parents of students find the best balance for the situation. I really want the parents (or owners) to understand and be part of what is going on but my red light comes on again when a soccer or little league parent emerges! It’s a balancing challenge to be sure.

      Thanks for your comments:-)

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