Ok, so we all know I’m a bit of a hunter snob but I think the following advice goes for any discipline. I’m not an amazing rider nor do I play one on TV, but I do know a bit about being a student of a sport. I grew up very seriously competitively figure skating, then coached figure skating all through high school, and have taken lessons and clinic with a variety of horse trainers on the east coast and here in Texas.
That being said, this is what I have learned from being on both sides of the fence so to speak. Also, I have made most of these mistakes at least once.
Dress to Impress
Lesson with your hair up – as in in a hair net. Tuck your shirt in. Wear a belt. Wear your tall boots for a clinic for sure, and if you wear half chaps for lessons – make sure they’re not caked with mud. Everybody has that “fun” piece of tack that they like to use (my baby blue saddle pad with a whale embroidered on it!) but keep the polos and saddle pad more conservative for lessons.
Social Time is Not Lesson Time
Don’t text. Don’t chat with fellow riders. Don’t ask someone to video you. Listen to what your trainer is saying at all times – even if it is to someone else. You can learn a lot from watching other people’s mistakes and hearing what the trainer tells them.
Keep Your Tack Clean
Not just for lessons – always. It takes 5 minutes to wipe down your bridle after a ride, and roll it in a proper figure 8. Probably not even 5 minutes, but the next time your trainer sees your clean figure 8’d bridle among all the dirty school bridles – she will know someone did their homework.
No More Drama
Every barn has drama, but you don’t have to create it or facilitate it. If someone wants to complain to you about something, you can politely listen or just say “I’d rather not talk about so and so. How is your horse doing?” This is true in horses and in life, but nobody likes working with someone that is a constant problem. Choose your battles, and don’t delve into the drama.
Don’t Analyze Your Riding For Your Trainer
This is something I’m guilty of big time, especially during dressage lessons. A trainer will tell me something, and instead of shutting up and listen I immediately start speaking back to them about what they’re saying and what I think it means and how my horse will respond to it. You know what? They don’t need to hear any of that. They’re the trainer. Shut up, listen, and then ride to the best of your ability. You can have an in-depth discussion about their instructions with a horsey friend, not during the private lesson you’re paying for by the minute.
Do Your Homework
When you’re new to showing or riding, there’s a ton of info to process. Naturally, you’re going to ask your trainer about a zillion questions – which is totally okay. That’s what they’re there for! However, there’s a lot of learning you can do on your own. Want to show jumpers for the first time? Learn what the different jumper classes are. New to hunters? Research tack rules. You’d be surprised at the extra instruction you can pick up by reading online and in magazines, and your trainer will be pleased that you are willing to go the extra mile!
Every lesson. Every training ride. For most equine professionals, this is a labor of love. It’s respectful and it may be the little oomph they need to keep on riding the crazy train!
I’m sure there were some tips I missed. What do you do to “go the extra mile” and show your horse trainer that you’re a serious student?