View Full Version : What do you do to get the most out of your lessons

Jan. 30, 2012, 12:35 PM
Hi All,

I'm working on a little project and I would like your input on "what you do to get the most out of your lesson" and conversely, what interferes with getting the most out of your lesson?



Jan. 30, 2012, 12:54 PM
Asking the dumb question when I don't get something.

Jan. 30, 2012, 01:05 PM
Do what I'm told, and don't think about it. Afterward, ask why it worked, and what I actually did vs how it felt. Video is super helpful if possible. If I think too hard, I miss the feel - and I am one prone to paralysis by analysis.

Ask for homework - my instructor gives me something to work on each week. Usually we accomplish that and the next lesson means new homework, though sometimes we're working on bigger picture issues in which case she checks in on how we're doing and gives feedback on how well my work is heading toward what we want.

I'm finding video is REALLY helping me. Now when my instructor tells me to do something I can see how much I need to do; for example, she has been telling me to work on getting my legs back and with video I can tell how chair-like my legs are or aren't, instead of having a nebulous "back somewhere" concept.

Jan. 30, 2012, 01:06 PM
I am a visual learner. If the instructor will take the time to demonstrate something, I will learn faster.

Having an instructor who is open to answering questions during the lesson is a must for me.

I like having an instructor who will move my hands or put my leg where it is supposed to be.

An instructor, who has learned from many other instructors, and can verbalize different ways to say the same thing. In other words, what works for one rider might take a different description to get through to another rider.

I like an instructor who can explain the how and why we should give our aides a certain way. We should understand the effect our aides are having on the movement of our horses.

An instructor should have an idea of a lesson plan for the day. Winging it usually does not create an atmosphere for learning. ;)

I like to keep a journal, with what I have learned during the lesson. I read it before I go practice. Homework is good, too.

I do not learn from verbally abusive instructors.

Cell phones should be turned off. I am paying for an instructor's undivided attention.

Sitting in a chair, unless you are injured, during a lesson, gives the impression that you do not care about your students.

If you do not know the answer to a question, be honest with your student. After the lesson, take the time to find out the answer to the question, so that you will know for the next lesson.

I hope that some of these ideas are on the right track for you?

Jan. 30, 2012, 02:17 PM
For me, it's doing the schooling / homework inbetween the lessons. If I am riding enough and doing the requisite schooling between my lessons, my horse (and I) will be in better shape and much better prepared for the lessons to be learned with our trainer. If I haven't been doing the work, the subtleties of the lesson pretty much go out the window and we're just working on remedial stuff (which is the situation I find myself in right now, after an incredibily busy past year at work which impacted my ability to come out and ride with enough regularity). Besides not maximizing the lesson session, it is also both incredibly frustrating for both me and my horse, if we have not been doing the work on our own. And I won't even go into the jumping anxiety when we haven't been jumping enough!

Jan. 30, 2012, 02:17 PM
One word:

Jan. 30, 2012, 02:23 PM
I am one prone to paralysis by analysis.

I love this! Its very true. Sometimes I just get too much in my head, which definitely interfers with my lesson. I have been told many times to just stop thinking and ride!

I try to ask a lot of questions, even if it seems like I should know the answer. My trainer and I also talk a lot about something I just did, wrong or right, good or bad.

I also really try and pay attention when others are riding. I'm a pretty visual learner so when they are making the same mistake as me, it helps give me some tools to fix my problems.

Also, I HAVE to work on things on my own. I need a chance for all the information to process without getting instructions thrown at me, so I will ask my trainer for homework (or I always have a set plan of what we're doing on hack days)

Carried Away
Jan. 30, 2012, 02:29 PM
I also love video and find it helpful to compare then vs. now to see improvement/bad habits, etc.

I also like to write down a few of the helpful phrases or specific things we worked on during the lesson so I can look back and remember the key points (i.e. keep elbow more elastic, bend with inside leg after a fence to help get control back, etc.).

I am a big talker so I find myself discussing the issues and asking questions during the lesson to get a better grasp on the concept or what just happened. Some trainers I've ridden with don't seem to like this, so it's nice to work with one who understands that I retain things better by talking about them instead of no discussion at all.

Jan. 30, 2012, 02:33 PM
Thanks all. It looks like the video analysis is a helpful tool. Thanks Netg "Do what I'm told, and don't think about it. Afterward, ask why it worked, and what I actually did vs how it felt. Video is super helpful if possible. If I think too hard, I miss the feel - and I am one prone to paralysis by analysis." I love the paralysis by analysis ;) I wish some of my teenagers would just do as they were told ... not because they over analyze but because "I can't, my horse doesn't like doing that etc etc."

Auburn good thoughts on instructors, but I was more looking for what the rider's responsibility is in having a good lesson. Such as coming to the lesson with a positive attitude and thinking "we're going to have a great ride, I'm going to listen to what I'm being told with an open mind and do my best to do as I was told, expect the best of my horse only after I ask the best from myself first". Not "it's a windy day my horse is going to be spookie, I don't want to do pole work my horse doesn't like poles, my horse isn't listening to me so I think I'll jerk his teeth out". So the truth comes out. I'm tired of dealing with this sort of attitude and I'm trying to find some way of dealing with it other than leaving or sending them back to the barn.

We have had the 'chat' about this before and for a lesson or two it's better and I really praise them for doing the things correctly and how much better their horses are responding but with one particular rider it doesn't last very long ;(

So I was thinking if I could make up a comprehensive list of what eth rider's responsibility is in regards to their lessons along with what my responsibility is and give it to all the kids I won't be singling out one particular rider. It's gotten to the point where other kids don't want to ride with her because of her lack of respect for her horse and me ;(

Sorry, I really didn't mean to get into the details ...


Jan. 30, 2012, 02:45 PM
i always take notes after a ride. It used to be a hassle, but now its just routine to sit down for a few minutes and reflect on what exactly I did and what I want to do better. Sometimes I write a page of details, sometimes i just do bullet points saying what worked and what didnt. It has helped my riding so much, and I can remember almost every ride Ive done just by looking at my notes, its also very cool to see how my green horse has progressed.

Jan. 30, 2012, 02:49 PM
I really like a quick chat at the start of the lesson with some expression from me of what I would particularly like to work on and/or any problems I've been having since the last lesson (this more for dressage lessons because I pretty much only jump in lessons). I rarely feel the need to articulate anything for jumping lessons, they are all good :D

I think that in dressage lessons, not appreciating the incremental improvement can be an issue for me. And, it has always been really important for me to find trainers that are good teachers. I do a lot of teaching, both in my primary profession and in many side jobs and I will tend to tune out a trainer that is not articulate or totally forgets where we were in the last lesson, etc.

Jan. 30, 2012, 02:54 PM
I triple-agree with the video recommendations. I get a lot of benefit from having someone video my lessons to watch later. Just the other weekend, I had a lesson over fences that I thought was horrific nearly all the way through. First, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought; and second, I could SEE the changes I made that fixed things later on in the lesson, and it all sort of "clicked" for me.

Of course, I tend to obsess over the video a bit...I watch it about eight million times, in an attempt to memorize all the things I'm supposed to keep working on... :D

Jan. 30, 2012, 03:34 PM
One word:

Yep, this.

I tape almost all of my lessons, then watch them, edit them and throw them on Youtube, then make a lesson journal on my blog. There is no escaping my bad riding! lol

Jan. 30, 2012, 03:54 PM
I use Video when I can, but it's not always an option :(

Most of my lessons are jumping, whether it's stadium or X country, so I like to work on dressage in between the lessons. And by like to work in dressage I mean grind my teeth on the drive over to the barn :lol:

Don't get me wrong, I think dressage is the most important discipline in eventing (IMO); it seems to me like the basis for all English riding (to an extent). But, on the other side of that coin, I love the rush of jumping and I just don't get that from dressage.

So far though it has made all my lessons so much better! The horses are all supple and have much better transitions than they did pre-dessage. I like to get pics and videos when I can, but really this has made me stronger physically, it's given me better balance, and I feel like it's made the horses and I better as a team. So that's my 2 cents :)

I love the idea of journaling though I might have to steal that!

Jan. 30, 2012, 04:20 PM
You all sound like great students and a pleasure to teach. Now to find a way to get through to some teenagers on how to become a better student.

Jan. 30, 2012, 05:06 PM

Seriously, I have a hard time NOT analyzing everything, so sometimes I need to "just do it". It really helps if the instructor emphasizes how things "feel". I love, too, when I can see someone else do something--Imatatio is fantastic.

Video is great, but lately I have such a bad body image I literally can't get past the "oh, crap, am I really that big?!?".

I, too, LOVE homework.

I DON'T like having six people in a clinic/lesson--I lose a lot of momentum waiting my turn, esp. if someone has a problem.

Jan. 30, 2012, 05:16 PM
Note to self: Please read for content. :winkgrin:

Sorry, JFS.

Video works well, as long as the videographer videos angles from the front, behind and both sides.

It is the rider's responsiblity to come prepared. If you have been given homework, then the rider should have worked on the assignment.

If the rider is preparing to ride in a show or event, then the rider needs to "do the time in the tack".

Jan. 30, 2012, 05:46 PM
1. Shut up.

2. Listen.

3. Be prepared by wearing the right clothes (not too hot, not too cold, not uncomfortable) and right tack for horse; being fit enough for the length and desired work; arrive in a "learning frame of mind". I don't like to tell my instructor what I want. I like them to watch me and tell me what I should be fixing.

4. Watch the end of the lesson in front of me and the beginning of the lesson after me.

5. On the trailer ride home go over everything in my mind that we did, and remember which things to work on at home that were less than perfect.

Jan. 30, 2012, 06:09 PM
I don't get to take many lessons from repeat trainers.
I just hit clinics.

I get the most by saying, look, I'm not here for you to tell me what I'm doing right. Don't sugar coat anything. I want it straight up and dirty.

And if I'm not picking up on the instruction I stop and march right up to the clnician and tell them so.

It really seems as though clinicians/trainers only put out as much as they get. So if you don't give it to them, don't expect a sore ass.

I just recently had to do this with Jimmy Wofford. If I had not done this at the start of the 2nd day I would have taken home NOTHING from his clinic.
But that is another sad story in it's own.

Jan. 30, 2012, 06:58 PM
I try to watch previous lesson . Also try to put it in context with what I already understand. I do best with instructors who keep it simple. Instructors who give lotw of direction while I am actually jumping bother me because I cqn't listen and also concentrate on what I am about to do.

Jan. 30, 2012, 07:18 PM
I am a question-asker. One of the reasons I love riding is because it's a very mental sport; you need to be able to identify what the horse is doing that needs correcting and understand the best way to fix it in that situation. Therefore, I like to understand why I'm doing things in lessons. I will usually save questions for breaks unless I'm really having difficulty understanding something.

One of the best instructors I rode with would frequently ask, "Does that make sense?" I liked it because it opened things up for a response instead of just a command. It also helped if I thought I understood what she was asking, but wasn't 100% clear. I could clarify verbally instead of just trying and failing.

I also grew up riding with an instructor who asked us to critique our own jump courses once we were finished. That way we got better at identifying things that needed fixing and how they should be addressed. Although I found other instructors got frustrated with me because I had a habit of listing off what I needed to do better next time once I finished my round (got several, "I know. And if you know too, why didn't you do it in the first place"). I still appreciated it because it enabled me to be a more independent rider.

Jan. 30, 2012, 07:32 PM

I am a visual person as well . Fortunately for me, in my sport, I can SEE everything equine and it is an interesting analysis to say the least.

I am struggling with my upper body position and having the ability to have my trainer ride behind me (or my husband) is an added plus.

Having a game plan and working up specific ideas related to my current level of competition help keep lesson focused. Keeping these ideas simple and working on one piece at a time - the baby steps sort of approach.

Making notes about what is working and what's not between lessons also helps zero focus in on problem solving.

Being verbal. I am much better about saying to my trainer, I am not getting this, or I don't understand what you are asking me to do. In otherwords not being afraid to look stupid! :lol:

Jan. 30, 2012, 07:39 PM
The biggest "leg up" I can give myself is ..........time.

Time to tack and warm up slowly. Get my head in the game and make sure I am totally focused and ready to give 110%. Secondly, make sure my horse is ready and not fresh after a few days off. Lastly, stay confident and leave my fear of failure issues at the "in gate".

Jan. 30, 2012, 08:02 PM
You all sound like great students and a pleasure to teach. Now to find a way to get through to some teenagers on how to become a better student.

Wait until they are not teenagers anymore.

Honestly...some people are just not good students.

But as to your question....for me, I belive in KISS (keep it simple stupid)

You can not fix everything all at once so simplify things.

At the end of the lesson, I will often ask my trainer what are the 2-3 main things that I need to work on with myself and with my horse (including a couple of exercises). I might tell her my game plan and make sure she agrees. I'm not talking about a long chat....just a couple of minutes as we cool out.

Give it a bit of structure for a teenager.

Jeannette, formerly ponygyrl
Jan. 30, 2012, 08:22 PM
Brainstorming here, this is my list so far. :)

Rider responsibilities:
Come dressed for the weather
Come prepared to learn
Stretched out
Cell phone off
Listening ears on
Willing to try

Commit to a goal - this goal may change, but you'll never get there if you don't know where there is

Attend to horse welfare above all

No whining
Something about recognizing that horsemanship/this lesson program is not about fair weather horsemanship - or if it is, it will be priced accordingly! ;)
Instructor responsibilities:
Pretty much identical, actually. :)

For group lessons, I'm sure we can add a couple items -
Watch the other riders when working one at a time
Share the ring, whether halted or in motion
Be willing to hold questions until a convenient time for the group

Does some of this help address your situation??

Jan. 30, 2012, 08:39 PM
RE: Video. I don't know if I could get over the horror of watching myself enough for it to be truly constructive. But that's just me.

Jan. 30, 2012, 09:26 PM
I want to start video taping more of the lessons that I ride in, as well as lessons that I teach. For those that use video often, what's the best way to videotape? Here's the problem, rarely (especially for the lessons that I ride in) are there extra people around that can video the lesson. My instructor and I both agree that it isn't beneficial for her to video, because it doesn't allow for good flow (I'm the same way when I teach). Any suggestions? Do you think videoing with a tripod would be beneficial since you'd only be able to get one view.

Any suggestions would be helpful.


Jan. 30, 2012, 10:20 PM
One of the most helpful things for me is to stick with a trainer that I understand and who in turn understands me and my horse. I get much more out of lessons with people who know me and my background than I do in a clinic situation.

I also can get very lost in too much analysis, and ride better by feel, so I would personally rather have some one lead me to the correct place and then say, "There! That's the feeling to look for!" instead of someone who gets too into the technical nuances of the aids. In this same vein, I get quite a bit of mileage by having my trainer sit on my horse for a bit. I get a picture in my head of what I am trying to create, then can match the feeling to that picture when I get back on.

Jan. 30, 2012, 11:59 PM
I wish some of my teenagers would just do as they were told ... not because they over analyze but because "I can't, my horse doesn't like doing that etc etc."

^^Sometimes I need to hear "I wouldn't be asking this if I didn't think you could do it. You won't get better if you don't push yourself."

I like to understand why we're doing something, how X affects the horse, why it's important, etc.

If I don't understand an explanation or a command, I SAY SO. I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out. (I once couldn't get a horse to canter and all my then-trainer said was "you're in a trot seat, you need a canter seat." I asked do you want me to lighten my seat, move my butt forward, what? She looked at me like I had three heads and kept repeating what she said before.:rolleyes: Last lesson with her.)

I learn a lot by watching other riders. For this reason, I much prefer to be in a lesson group a little above my current level (as long as I don't have to do the courses first :winkgrin:).

Jan. 31, 2012, 11:42 AM
I think a good starting place is to sit down with your students and figure out what their goals are, both long-term and short-term. That way, everyone is on the same page. I think someone who takes lessons once a week, just for fun, who doesn't ever plan on showing or owning their own horse is going to have vastly different goals than someone that is taking lessons three times a week and owns several horses. I also think that expectations about preparation level should vary based on the above.

Once goals are ironed out (I think it would be a good idea to have them in writing and have both the instructor and the student have a copy), figure out what needs to be done to reach those goals (higher level of fitness? more saddle time? etc), and go from there.

As far as basics go, Jeannette has a really good list started in her post.

Jan. 31, 2012, 07:17 PM
I have a very particular style that I like to be taught in and its very verbal. I like the trainer to ask lots of questions and for me to think about why I am doing things. For instance riding down a centre line - what are you going to do? I explain. Trainer asks why I talk about turning slightly earlier I mention falling out on the right rein she then suggests something that will work better such as a squarer turn. I then ride it.

What is interesting is that the BHS is changing all its training into this model of teaching. It is all about coaching. The big phrase is coaching the rider to teach the horse.

I hate lessons that are one way and I would never go to a lesson where I am just told things, I want to probe their knowledge and get as much as I can out of it. My lessons end up being about 30 mins riding and 30 mins talking.

I then write down the lesson to read back over. Video is fine but you need to be able to put that into feeling which is one of the hardest things to learn especially on horses.

Jan. 31, 2012, 07:20 PM
It may also depend how often/under what circumstance you are lessoning. The whole write stuff down etc. is overkill for me, but that's because I board with my trainer and often take multiple lessons in a week and can always ask for a few minutes of help if something isn't working. I think I would have a significantly different approach if I were trailering in for a lesson every 2-3 weeks or somesuch