Whether you’re just getting back into a riding routine after summer vacation or have been doggedly working all season on improving in the saddle, incorporating lessons into your training plan means you get the opportunity to check in on your progress and benefit from the eyes of a more experienced rider. While taking lessons can be an investment in your future, it can also quickly drain your horse budget if you’re not getting the most out of each session. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re using your time in the ring with a professional well.
Showing up five minutes late to a thirty minute lesson means you may only get five to ten minutes of productive work with your trainer. Don’t waste your own time by being late! Plan to give yourself plenty of time before your lesson begins to groom and tack up, so you’re already in the ring and in a learning mindset as the last lesson is wrapping up.
Some trainers like to include your warm-up in the lesson so they can use the time to check in with you and see how your horse is moving, while others prefer that you are already warmed up and ready to begin training at your scheduled lesson time in order to get the most active working time out of the lesson. Either way, the warm-up is an important part of every ride and gives you and your horse time to stretch and prepare for the harder work. It can be used to check in with your horse both mentally and physically for that specific ride. Don’t cut your warm-up short because of poor time management – it’s not fair to you or your horse!
Knowing what you’re working towards, both in each lesson as well as long-term, is key to getting the most out of your ride. If you have trouble setting goals yourself, it may be helpful to schedule a time with your trainer where you establish your season, year, and multi-year goals, so they are aware of what they should be aiming you towards in each session.
It can be tempting to bluff your way into jumping higher or moving on to more challenging skills even before fully mastering a concept, but it’s important not to move too quickly or skip fundamental building blocks. If you can’t perform at the level you’re at, be patient and keep working on the skill – don’t push your trainer to let you move up every lesson.
While it’s important to keep an eye on your finances and not pour ALL your money into lessons, staying in a consistent program will give you and your horse the best results. Riders in a routine are more likely to stay on task outside of a lesson as they have the exercises they need to work on during their own rides. Horses in a regular program overseen by an educated and experienced professional stay more fit as well, which can reduce the chance of fitness-related injury.
Your relationship with your trainer should be one of mutual respect, and you should be comfortable enough to be able to ask for help when you need it! If your horse has been acting up when you’re riding alone or you’re struggling with a concept, a lesson is a great time to ask for tools and exercises to help. This not only makes your schooling rides more productive, but also helps you improve your overall skill set with techniques that can be used in the years to come with other horses.
While individual lessons are tailored solely to you and your horse’s needs and can be extremely beneficial, group lessons bring a lot of other opportunities to the table. Group lessons give you a chance to meet other riders who have experience that might be helpful with your own riding. Watching others tackle movements or difficult courses can give you an idea of what will and won’t work with your horse. Not to mention, group lessons are a great chance to make barn friends and feel like a part of a team, which can motivate you when you’re in a riding slump and not looking forward to getting in the saddle.
If allowed, opt to show up early or stay after your lesson to watch other riders during their sessions. Many times you can learn a lot from watching that can make you a more effective rider. Since everyone learns slightly differently, you may hear a concept explained in a different way that makes more sense to you as well.
Is he due to get his teeth done soon? Have you had your saddle checked recently? Tracking behavior and what you’ve worked on each ride is a great way to see if your horse’s mental or physical state is related to the weather, a change in difficulty of the workload, or something else. As a StableSecretary user, you can track all of this and more in the horse health records section. Plus, you can use the scheduling tool to keep your lesson schedule organized!
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