So much has happened to effect riding programs in 2020 that many riding instructors have re-evaluated where they are headed with their students. Trainers and instructors who depend on horse shows and other competitions for part of their income missed a lot of events this year. The shows that have continued have smaller entries and are struggling. Clinics are down because travel is restricted.
Running a riding program during social distancing requires more work, more attention to detail, and more time. Depending on where you live, you may have to switch from group lessons to private lessons. If you’re used to teaching four riders at one time, in switching to private lessons you’ve quadrupled your time commitment. Add to that whatever method you’ll use to sanitize equipment in between lessons and you’ve eaten up more time. Depending on where you live, even boarding students’ horses requires more supervision with fewer people at the barn at one time.
Without a doubt things have changed.
Some Things Don’t Change
One thing that never changes is the need for good instructors who teach beginners. Every facet of the horse industry depends on new people catching the horse bug. In my opinion, beginners are the most important people in the horse industry.
Beginners are the Backbone of the Equine Industry
On the surface, this may not seem true when you compare the little girl hoping for her first ride on a pony to an Olympic competitor like Stephen Peters or Buck Davidson. How is she as important as these top horsemen? Without the influx of many little girls and boys hoping to ride their first pony there would be no Olympians. If we didn’t have beginners beginners horse shows would eventually dry up as riders age out or lose interest interest in competition.
Without a new beginners into our riding programs, tack shops would go out of business, horse sales would drop, farriers and equine veterinarians would need a new career. Beginners become the students who take college level equine studies classes. They become the adults who buy horse trailers and farms, and they fill the show ring.
Check Out These Numbers
Starting new people riding horses is crucial to our industry. The interesting thing here is that no matter what happens around us; fewer horse shows, canceled competitions, social distancing, the supply of potential beginners doesn’t diminish.
In 2017 the American Horse Council did an Economic Impact Study and they found that 30.5% of all American homes had a horse lover. That’s 38,000,000 homes that have a horse enthusiast. That survey probably does not count the eight-year olds in your local third grade class who are dreaming of horses while they read the Saddle Club series, Pony Pals, Misty of Chincoteague, and the Black Stallion books. These are kids who may never have petted a horse.
Getting Started With Beginners
What does it take to fill your programs with beginners? It takes a dedicated riding instructor who is committed to teaching beginners. If you don’t love teaching total newbies with parents who probably have no clue about a horse, this may not be your forte. If you have an abundance of patience, a solid equestrian background, a positive personality, and a very creative mind, teaching beginners might be your sweet spot.
You’ll need a reliable lesson horse because beginners rarely come with one of their own. Trustworthy is a valuable trait in a lesson horse. Of course, you’ll want a place to teach the lessons. Plus, in our litigious society, insurance is a must.
And you’ll need a plan for teaching. Be sure it includes a variety of lessons that teach safety and the basics, like the type you’ll find on The Riding Instructor. My post The Bandana Game will give you an idea for variety.
I ♡ Beginners
No doubt, if you’ve followed the Riding Instructor for long you know I have a heart for beginners. That’s because I believe strongly in what learning about horses does for kids. My post Horsemanship Life Skills You Child will Use as an Adult goes into this further.
If you’d like a template to plan your lessons, just sign up for the RI News and you’ll receive The Riding Instructor’s Planner as a free gift.
I hope all my Riding Instructor friends are doing well during the pandemic and that you’ve found creative ways to keep your good programs going. Drop me a note in comments and let me know how things have gone for you this summer. And If you have a great idea that will help other instructors, I’d love it if you share.
Barbara Ellin Fox