Five tips to gain the most out of every riding lesson
Riding lessons are never free. Depending on which coach you are working with and your arrangements with him/her, the price of a single lesson can range from days of hard labor as a working student to over $100 a pop. You need to gain the most out of every lesson to improve as a rider without going broke. Remember, your coach is not your babysitter. Do not be pay your coach to simply supervise your rides a few times a week and then ride around aimlessly the rest of the time. Even if you can afford to ride with a coach every time you are in the saddle, this method will turn you into a dependent rider. During competitions, your coach cannot shout out advice so if you are too reliant on your coach it will show with poor results. Make a promise to yourself that from this moment forward you will try to utilize every lesson to its full extent to take your riding to the next level without spending a fortune. Use these five tips to get the most out of your lessons and become your coach’s favourite student:
1) Schedule your lessons logically: Look at your budget and decide how many lessons you can afford in a month. Find out when your coach is available that month and write it on a calendar. Then add the days that you will NOT be able to ride for whatever reason (work, school, special occasions, etc.) to the same calendar. You do not want to book a lesson the day after you give your horse off. Decide which days you want to jump and when you want to dressage then space your lessons out accordingly. You need enough time between lessons to practice what you learn so you can move on to new exercises. By organizing your horse’s training schedule with a good old fashioned calendar and booking lessons accordingly, you will instantly get more out of your lessons.
2) Make sure you understand the big picture: It can be easy to get caught up in your coach’s instructions of half-halt, kick, circle, jump, etc. but still not grasp why you are riding how your coach is commanding you to. The next ride after your lesson, you will be left clueless without having someone on the ground to micro manage your riding. This coaching style is effective to get riders on the right track with their mounts but in order for the effects to be lasting, riders need to understand the method to their coaches’ madness. I used to ride around like my coach’s puppet in lessons and my horse would go amazing. Then when I would ride on my own I could not recreate the magic. It took a long time for me to realize that I needed to talk to my coach to understand the big picture. At the end of your lesson take the time to ask your coach to clarify why he/she had you riding the way you were. Be detailed about your questions. Ask things like “Why when my horse did this during this exercise did you tell me to do x,y,z?” Don’t feel silly about your questions, asking them is a lot smarter than riding around confused on your own.
3) If something is NOT working talk about it: If your coach is telling you to ride a certain way or exercise and you feel like you’re making zippo progress then speak up. Maybe you do not understand the instructions or purpose of the exercise. Perhaps because your coach cannot feel what is happening underneath you, he/she is giving you advice that is not 100% helpful. Communicate with your coach during your lessons to ensure neither of you ends up wasting your time on something that doesn’t work. This is not to say that if something isn’t happening you should immediately abandon ship. But if you are certain you have given it your ultimate effort and there is still absolutely no progress then its time to move on to plan b.
4) Devise an ‘after the lesson plan’ with your coach: You can only work on so much during one lesson but you can pick your coach’s brain to formulate a training plan for your horse in-between lessons. Ask for specific exercises that you can work on by yourself to improve your own weaknesses and your horse’s. Coaches want students who ride well, so your coach will be happy to spend the time to set you on a productive path between lessons. Follow this plan and you will be rewarded with noticeable improvements from one lesson to the next.
5) Do not be afraid to ride with different coaches: Not every coach is meant for every rider. If you feel that your riding has hit a plateau it may be time to try switching coaches. You do not have to leave your coach permanently; sometimes just taking a few lessons with a different person will fix an issue that your coach was struggling to help you solve. Just like horses, all coaches have different strengths and weaknesses. You are not married to your coach and even if you were it is 2017 so you could get a divorce. Use these six helpful tips to help you find the right coach for you if you’re currently coach-less or thinking that you need to move on.