For the first 3 decades of my teaching career, I assumed, along with every instructor I knew, that new riders just have to ride badly until they have more experience, and the horses just have to put up with it. Many instructors still believe this.
We don’t have to teach this way any more.
We are introducing a new approach, based on letting the horse tell you whether your teaching is correct. If it doesn’t work for the horse, the rider is doing something wrong; and allowing the rider to continue doing it wrong is just helping her to practice her mistakes. This approach is called:
How Horses Want You to Teach
And how they can help you to teach more effectively
The overall benefit of this method is one that all instructors strive for: it produces a good safe, effective rider in the shortest possible time, in a way that is a positive experience for the student, the instructor, and most important, for the horse. That’s really what we all want: satisfied, safe customers who make good steady progress, on horses who are cooperative and stay sound. (When I say ‘shortest possible time,’ I am not talking about having the student canter the third week. I’m talking about having the student become what we would consider a good rider in 5 years, not 25. That is, safe, comfortable, able to handle any reasonable horse in a way that is safe and comfortable for the horse as well. In 5 years.)
The guiding principle of this teaching system is that the horse must be comfortable.
And the reason behind this is very simple and obvious. If the (sound) horse is not comfortable, it is because the rider is doing something wrong! If the rider/student is doing something wrong, that means that she is ’practicing her mistakes’, that is, developing bad habits which take a long time to correct.
This is the fundamental cause of slow progress in learning!
And of course an uncomfortable horse is a horse that is a potential danger both to his rider and to his own physical well-being.
You can find much detail about this approach by reading my books, What Your Horse Wants You to Know; How Your Horse Wants You to Ride: Starting Out, Starting Over; and More How Your Horse Wants You to Ride: Advanced Basics: The Fun Begins.
To promote awareness of teaching in a horse-friendly manner, I have formed a new non-profit organization, What Your Horse Wants, Inc. With the help of several dedicated partners, we will be developing instructor resources such as clinics, DVD’s, teaching materials, a discussion board, and more. If you have any suggestions for resources that would help you as an instructor, please email us.
THE RIDING INSTRUCTOR’S CREED
That every student, and every horse, can be
ALL THE TIME!
If I, as the instructor, observe that they are not, then my job is to help them to return to or find that secure and happy state.
Only when I have achieved that, will I feel comfortable, confident and competent as well.