How to Show Your Horse Trainer You’re Serious

How to Show Your Horse Trainer You’re Serious

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!

Thank Them
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?

20 thoughts on “How to Show Your Horse Trainer You’re Serious

  1. I also always make sure my horse is turned out. Not only for my lesson but well taken care of after. I would do this regardless (and do make sure he is clean for all rides) but I think that being especially nice looking for lessons shows your trainer that you took the time to prepare. And if you own a horse and it has a nice coat/ pulled mane, etc they will appreciate it I think. Outside of that I always say thank you after lessons and it never hurts to show up with a coffee or some nice “treat” of appreciation 🙂

  2. Great post! I actually agree (and grew up learning) every single one of those posts, even if I have gotten a little lax in the past few years. Time to pull out the hair net again. Thanks for the kick in the pants. 🙂

  3. Being on time!!! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a group lesson where people were late! (this goes all the way back to the Junior/Children years!)

    Your list is really good, things for me to remember when I am making the foray to a new barn as I won’t be in that comfortable familial relationship that I currently have with my trainer.

  4. Yep this is totally good reminder… i get “gung ho” and then slack off again, I need to keep on it! Thanks for the swift kick to my breeches 🙂

    One thing that drives me nuts is people who are in group lessons and aren’t there to really participate … I want to get the most out of my lesson!!

  5. All good points…. except you’re joking about the hairnet, right? Right?
    Also, I’ve never heard of rolling your bridle into a figure 8. What’s that?

    1. Hairnets are a must. Well when my hair was longer anyways. I much prefer to have my hair in my helmet than in a pony flopping about. As for a figure 8 – It is a way of looping your bridle so it hangs uniformly and tidy – So you pull the throat latch over the front then put it through your reins and back up front (making a “figure 8”) and attach it and then loop your noseband around the bridle. Kind of hard to explain but here is a picture of my bridles figure 8’ed.

    2. I don’t do hairnets except for shows or foxhunts, and then I always use those little black show bow things with the hairnet attached. However, for lessons I always have my hair in a tidy bun at the base of my neck and make sure any wispy bits are tucked up neatly into my helmet. I used to just have it in a braid, but even that was to hot for me, so up in a bun it goes!

  6. I agree with all of this, but in my group lesson, I am the only one who actually owns the horse. The other girls are not really there to further their riding. It is just a hobby for them. So our lessons are ALL ABOUT social time (in a good way – we get lots of stuff done too). I think our trainer likes it that she can put down the barriers for us because we’re the only adult class she teaches, and so while she’s calling out instructions and we’re muddling through the lesson, we chatter the whole time. It makes for a chill lesson AND I am still able to ask loads of questions and get work done. I don’t know what I’d do in a more professional-esque lesson. I can’t keep my mouth shut.

  7. All great points! I forget these things sometimes because like L.Williams, I am in a very familial relationship with my trainer. I am always polite and I always thank him and all that, but turnout isn’t necessarily my number one priority. I’ve been bitten with the polo and breeches bug again (or for the first time – I was forced to wear polos (red, specifically, ick) and breeches in a lesson barn when I first started riding so when I left I rebelled a bit with jeans) and I’m looking forward to classing it up.

    I don’t know about hairnets though! Ugh. I should get in the habit, I suppose. Lately I’ve been riding with my hair in a pony tail or braid because my helmet literally doesn’t fit me with my hair up. I got a new, bigger helmet though so I’ll have to stat putting the old hair up again. Easier said than done with hair that goes to your butt!

  8. I’m guilty of talking back. Bad me.

    “But if I do that. then I can’t get him to do this….” etc. etc.

  9. Great advice! I’d go a little easy on yourself for the “don’t analyze your riding for your trainer,” because there have been many times where I’ve talked to my trainer and said “this is what you’re saying, this is what I’m feeling and I’m obviously not doing something correctly, please help?” or “this is what I hear you saying but I’m not sure what you mean or how to do that.” I guess what I’m saying is don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for clarification – that’s how you learn!

  10. As an instructor, I’d agree with all your advice, Lauren! These days, though, I just teach lessons at my place on my horse, so some things don’t really apply. None of my students around here are ever going to show, so we’ve never focused on horse and rider turnout. Being on time is the BIGGEST complaint I have, though. I can’t tell you how rude it is to be late to a riding lesson (unless you have a good reason). I’ve had students who were late every single lesson. I guess because I’m not a big fancy barn they don’t think I have anything else going on. I finally had to tell one student that regardless of what time she got there, her lesson would be ending at the same time. The other thing that really bothers me is that some students just don’t pay attention! Even if you don’t plan to show, you are taking lessons so you can LEARN and improve, right? So pay attention to your instructor! If you don’t do that, you are just wasting your money and everyone’s time.
    Also, I love that your final tip is to thank your instructor. That really does make an instructor feel good to hear you’re appreciative! ( :

  11. I’m not guilty of talking back but I think there needs to be some communication between riders and trainers sometimes. If I didn’t understand or agree with something the trainer was doing I would ask the reason why. Like say the time he chased my horse over a water jump with a pole. I found that unacceptable and got a new trainer.

    There are a few more things I think I could add: I always showed up on time for my lessons and my horses were always clean and ready to go. Great post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.