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Becoming Your Own Instructor (Going it on Your Own)?

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  • Becoming Your Own Instructor (Going it on Your Own)?

    My fantastic, awesome parents that I have been so lucky they have helped financially support my riding have recently told me that in September they will no longer be able to help me support it anymore. Obviously this had to come some time haha, and I'm really lucky it lasted till now, but it's still gonna be hard. I don't make a ton of money and it's gonna be super tight to be able to afford it.
    So obviously my horse's living situations are going to have to change. He's gonna have to become a pasture pony (which I don't mind except I am now terrified as he was kicked in the leg by a horse when I had him out to pasture for some rest as I was really busy in december and fractured his leg. He has fully recovered and is back to jumping and everything now).
    We will be having to move facilities as pasture board where he currently is is too expensive for me. I have found a barn about 10 mins up the road, with board I should be able to scrape up (gonna try to find a way to come up with a couple extra hundred bucks a month to soften the blow, he's insured in case of medical issues, and if absolute worst came to shove my parents would step in to help).
    This barn allows me to jump without a trainer which is something I was really hoping for as I will only be able to lesson as I can afford. I hoping for it to be able to be once every 2 weeks but we'll see, so this means I will probably be jumping once or twice a week on my own. Nearly every other barn I have been at does not allow jumping on your own, and I've usually had 2-3 lessons a week. Not that I have not ever jumped on my own, I have, but rarely and more just for fun than actual 'TRAINING'.
    My boy is my current 1.20m horse (hopefully 1.30m this year though his leg fracture, and the fact I won't show much due to saving up money has/will set us back a bit) so A. It's not like I don't have experience and knowledge, but also B. I bought him as a greenie and his first time doing 1.20m shows was also my first time doing 1.20m so we are learning together, not like me having an old schoolmaster that knows it's job, which makes it a bit harder. (he's also a tricky unorthodox thing haha)
    Anyone here (who's not a trainer/pro) going it on their own? Any tips or advice? Books/videos you like? How have you found your training to progress? A lot slower than with a trainer? Or have you found doing it on your own has really forced yourself to experiment and really learn and train? Any other thoughts?

  • #2
    Originally posted by ElisLove View Post
    Any tips or advice? Books/videos you like? How have you found your training to progress? A lot slower than with a trainer? Or have you found doing it on your own has really forced yourself to experiment and really learn and train? Any other thoughts?
    A little of each and a lot of both!

    I honestly haven't had a regular trainer for any length of time since my eq. days (40 years ago), and even then, he was an oldskool type who didn't go to the shows - the famous quote was: "Why the [bleepity BLEEP] would I wanna watch YOU ride?" After that came a slew of self-trained OTTB and catch-riding where sometimes an owner might pay for a clinic or whatever. It did slow me down, b/c there weren't the resources back then that there are now.

    The fact that you realize there IS an upside to working alone, and that you see what it is - "experiment and really learn and train" - suggests to me you will be very successful in taking this approach. If you're the kind of person who learns a great deal by watching, there is a wealth of video available. Also - the best free clinics can be found in the schooling rings at the shows.

    The hardest things are going to be avoiding bad habits and pushing yourself to improve. When you're working alone it is all too easy to NOT take those stirrups off your saddle for 2 hours of mind-numbing flatwork. Do it anyway. As to bad habits, get people to video you as much as humanly possible, then judge yourself in the vid. You'll figure out what you need to work on.

    Be mercilessly self-critical, figure out a schedule of what you need to work on each week, and stick to it unless something comes up that needs more work. But don't forget to add in some "relax and enjoy your horse" time! There's nothing wrong w/ rewarding yourself and your horse with a lazy, amiable hack the day after No Stirrups Day.

    Good luck and have fun!
    "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


    • #3
      I would just jump the times you are able to take lessons.

      I am a pro and I don't like to jump without someone knowledgeable around to set jumps or quickly put a pole back in the cups. I have also ridden mainly in programs where there were a 'pair' of trainers, and one would ALWAYS be watching and setting jumps for the other. Getting on and off is for the birds. Also, as GM says, *perfect* practice makes perfect.

      So, most of the time my horse goes around as a dressage horse, which is what he is currently focusing on. If we go trailer to a hunter trainer to jump around though, the jumps are right there like he's been doing it all along. He jumps 5-6 times a year and still lopes around 3'+ with great form and clean changes.

      So just wait for the times you can have someone knowledgeable help you. Even my very excellent trainers always jumped with an eye on the ground.
      The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
      Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
      The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


      • #4
        i am in the same situation as you and have been for a couple years now. the most important thing to remember is to always stay on top of what you are doing. don't let any of your rides get sloppy.constantly assess yourself, on the flat and over fences. always ask...what can i do to improve that? if your horse has a rail, stop and figure out why.

        get someone to video you/take photos of you flatting and over fences. sit down after or even during your ride and break down everything you can think of.

        ideally, in this situation you know enough to accurately assess yourself, and if you have had good training in the past you should be able to reason through why a jump did or did not work out for you, and how you can fix it.

        i also think it is important to recognize the POSITIVES of what you are doing, what is working, etc.

        best of luck...it is harder doing things on your own, but hard work will get you far


        • #5
          Due to tight finances, I have also struck out on my own. I, too have a horse that is on the greener side and we are moving up together. In my experience, it really does force you to become more resourceful as a rider and develop a better feel.

          Because my horse is still on the greener side and I still have competitive goals (albeit lesser goals), I usually always have something I am working on. As long as you are able to stay disciplined and do your homework between lessons, you should do just fine. Knowing your limits is also important. If you and your horse are green, weak, or inexperienced in something, save that part of your training for when you work with your trainer. I think it really helps me appreciate and make the most of my lessons.

          I also want to second meupatdoes. I don't jump unless I have a grounds person. I am very lucky that I have one that can not only help me set jumps, but who can also help me understand what I am feeling. I try to take a weekly lesson where I do most of my at height jumping. If I can't get to that lesson, or there is something that I want to work on between lessons, I will jump at home, but I usually only do a few jumps and keep them at about 2'6", a height that is big enough to jump, but comfortable enough for both my horse and I that we don't get into trouble.

          As far as progress ... well my horse and I are definitely in the slow lane due to a number of circumstances. But I don't think it has to slow your progress down if you are able to keep you and your horse disciplined at home and make the most of your lessons when you can get them.


          • #6
            Good advice here. I am on my own with my two boys and I only see my trainer every few weeks- he either comes to me or I trailer out to him. He gives me an immense amount of homework to do in between, which is key to making this work. Because I don't lesson every week but have an older greenie and a baby, if I did not jump outside of lessons we would never get anywhere. I have been without a trainer on hand like this, off and on, for a few years now so I am comfortable with it, but it did take me a while.

            I came from a solid program with a trainer always on the grounds, and had to figure out how to push myself. What Carolinagirl says is really important- you need to be disciplined. So have your trainer give you really good homework to do, and if you feel comfortable with it absolutely jump on your own. My barn is actually two different, fairly large operations that share riding facilities, so there is usually someone on the grounds in case I get forked, but again- if I only jumped in lessons I would never get to practice!

            As I said, my trainer gives me exercises, flat and jumping, to work on. So I do a lot of jumper dressage, I do caveletti work, gymnastics, singles, lines, and courses- just like in a lesson. Then I see him and we figure out if I've been doing a good job with my two and either review or go on to something else.

            One thing I have found really helpful is to have eyes on the ground (and for setting jumps- I'm short and my horses are not and getting up and down, up and down to set fences SUCKS!) that you trust, at least semi-regularly. My BFF and I help each other out- we lesson together and our barns are close enough that we can go over and watch each other ride, or even ride together. This provides a good check if I am doing my homework properly, and is good motivation to work hard.

            It did take me a while to get used to doing it this way, but I feel pretty good about what I can accomplish alone, and being able to show my trainer how all three of us (me and my two geldings) have improved over time is very satisfying! Good luck and enjoy your independence!
            You can take a line and say it isn't straight- but that won't change its shape. Jets to Brazil


            • #7
              You might want to post this over on the Eventing board--they are famously "do it yourself" in nature and would have lots to add. I third the idea of at least having another living human around when you jump "alone", keeping it fairly simple and straightforward, wearing your phone on you, and using your lessons as a basis for homework. Your trainer should be able to give you lessons to work on at home, alone.
              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


              • #8
                I am in a similiar boat. I COULD afford weekly lessons, but I feel my money is better spent on my house and paying things off.
                However, I do take 3-4 lessons or clinics from excellent coaches throughout the year, I prefer to learn myself.

                I learn best by doing, not seeing or hearing. I use the lessons I do take as corrections, but for me... a coach can tell me what I am doing and tell me to correct it and I will repeat it but, if I don't understand I cannot correct little issues that pop up later. I would have to go back to that coach for help.

                I use COTH as a resource, I purchased several books like Systematic Jumping, 101 Jumping Excercises and The Complete Guide to Hunt Seat (LOVE, Love, Love).
                I want to personally understand how and why things work. Then I customize them to myself and my horse. It was tricky at first but I truly believe that my riding abilities and horsemanship it all the better because of it.

                Overall to me.... relying on lessons is like knowing A+B= something... but learning and applying is like A+B=C.

                Good Luck. All the power to you. I really give credit to those that do this.
                You are no longer just a rider, but you are a horseman!


                • #9
                  See this thread that I posted a few months ago, asking a similar question: http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/sh...rienced-riders

                  COTHers gave me fantastic advice that has really improved the way I view my riding and training time. I will say that I take the instruction I do get these days much more seriously as lessons are few and far between so I am very careful to arrange for video, take notes, etc.

                  I've also lucked out in that one of the women I ride with at a very casual pasture boarding facility, while a beginner herself, really has a fantastic natural eye and we've developed a nice back and forth sort of relationship where we can each ask the other to keep an eye on certain aspects of each other's ride (for example: my young pony's straightness - does she notice any changes in my position that appear to by helping or hindering his straightness?). It is not the same as a lesson and certainly we don't always come up with the right solutions for each other, but it does provide a starting point.

                  I've also been using Facebook to stay in touch with similarly going it alone or much more experienced friends who happen to be in different parts of the country than I am to exchange photos, videos, etc. and check in with training/progress that way.

                  I find that my progress is slower, but that my understanding of what I am doing and why I am doing it in terms of training and conditioning my horse is becoming more thorough, simply because it has to be in this situation.

                  Best of luck to you! While my progress to outside eyes may be slower, I feel that I'm becoming more of a horseman and more importantly will be much better equipped to soak up all the information I can next time I am in a situation where I can receive consistent and frequent training.

                  Perhaps its time for a "Going it on your own" clique for all us 20 somethings who are trying to hang on in the horse world on a budget while we sort the rest of our lives out!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by RiderInTheRain View Post
                    Perhaps its time for a "Going it on your own" clique for all us 20 somethings who are trying to hang on in the horse world on a budget while we sort the rest of our lives out!
                    *nodds* I agree with this


                    • #11
                      Perhaps its time for a "Going it on your own" clique for all us 20 somethings who are trying to hang on in the horse world on a budget while we sort the rest of our lives out!
                      Sign me up!

                      My guy is coming back off of an injury and I've pretty much had him on my own since last July. I've taken two 20-minute flat lessons in that space; I want to get him a little fitter before I trailer him out for a proper lesson, which is hard to accomplish in the riding space I have available. For me the keys are to be disciplined and to be thinking constantly about "what am I feeling in the horse's body/what am I feeling in my body" to be aware of issues popping up. I go to horse shows and watch people who are better than I am, and use Youtube for the same thing. What are they doing? Do their horses do things my horse does? How do they fix it?

                      This business of setting your own jumps is for the birds, though.
                      "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

                      Amy's Stuff - Rustic chic and country linens and decor
                      Support my mom! She's gotta finance her retirement horse somehow.


                      • #12
                        First I'd take it slow if your horse is coming back off an injury - better to be patient and progress slowly and give that plenty of time to heal. I think there are some good books/DVD's out there one is that Linda Allen's 101 Jumping exercises. If you can't afford to go to shows, go w/o horse to watch - the year+ my horse was coming back from an injury I learned tons from being an observer (of course telling my body what I learned - different story LOL)


                        • #13
                          RiderInTheRain, can I ad this to my sig line? It is perfect...

                          I have had three lessons in the past seven months. Partly due to finances, partly due to my trainer's annual month long trip back to his home country, partly due to someone laming my horse (GRRRRRRR) and partly due to my horse getting a virus and trying to die (last weekend... so scary).

                          BUT, all that said, I usually do not jump for six months during fall/winter/early spring, and focus on flatwork. My trainer gives me enough to work on at the start (I'll do like one lesson) that I know what to work on all winter. There's always something to work on, you won't get bored. What I get stuck in is, well, getting stuck and mastering something and not moving on. This is where it is nice to have an occasional set of fresh eyes. So, when I began working on extension/collection (In our barn's program, the horses do not jump much and go around like dressage horses mostly) I settled for just ok. When I took a lesson, my trainer pushed me so my horse and I achieved a higher standard of flatwork. I was like, "Oh, so my horse can have an excellent extended trot, not just a good extended trot. I didn't know she could do that."

                          Fresh eyes are good. Can you lesson once a month? Doing this during the "on" season, and then doing one lesson before the "off" season to get homework and one lesson after the "off" season to polish us up works fairly well for me.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by RiderInTheRain View Post
                            Perhaps its time for a "Going it on your own" clique for all us 20 somethings who are trying to hang on in the horse world on a budget while we sort the rest of our lives out!
                            Age discrimination! Some of us are 40 somethings, still on a budget, still sorting the rest of our lives out!

                            My biggest piece of advice for jump schools on your own (and despite being an old hag, I actually don't mind getting on and off) -- have your goal for that jump school determined in advance; have an established warmup and progression routine; plan for what you will do if it's not going well; absolutely religiously stick to your plan = quit when you accomplish your goal.

                            So if today's goal is just to warm up over a few crossrails or tiny verticals, then set up a four-stride line and finish with the out being 3'3", and the horse and you do it perfectly the first time gets to that height, and he feels great and you feel great and the sun is shining and the birds are chirping and you suddenly think, "Heck, let's go up another hole," no no no no! Goal accomplished, ride over.

                            I can ride my horses without a sharps container.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RiderInTheRain View Post

                              Perhaps its time for a "Going it on your own" clique for all us 20 somethings who are trying to hang on in the horse world on a budget while we sort the rest of our lives out!
                              Yes please!

                              I've been going it alone post high school; putting miles on OTTBs and then when I got my horse two years ago. The horse and I have been making sloooow progress and have regressed at some point. It is hard when you don't have a weekly lesson to stick to so then you don't go out for a couple days, a week, then it turns into a couple weeks because life gets in the way or it's really cold or it keeps raining when you have time off to go riding. We are finally making progress again as for a while she was just erratic so DH is about to become jump crew. I find that scheduling my riding days for the following week makes it easier for me to stick to them and just suck it up and accept the fact that I'm going to be paying Play Date to keep the tiny human for a couple of hours instead of trying to plan ride times around when DH is off.

                              101 Jumping Exercises x2. I've also read Jump With Joy by Sarah Blanchard.
                              Around here the barns have No Stirrups November which I *try* to participate in on my own.

                              Good Luck!
                              Gracious "Gracie," 2002 TB mare
                              Facebook me!

                              I have Higher Standards ...do you?


                              • #16
                                I haven't had regular lessons for about 5 years, and in that time I've brought along my OTTB from weanling babysitter to reliable 3' jumper. I was taking clinics and had a very good BO who was excellent eyes on the ground.........then I moved (with horse and dog) out to my family's cattle ranch in South Dakota. Not exactly the English riding mecca that SE PA is. I don't know when my next lesson will be!

                                I probably have progressed slower than I would have with regular instruction. At the same time, some things have started making more sense because I've had the time to figure them out. Like lead changes and using my seat in doing lateral work. In some ways I feel like I've learned more on my own than with a trainer.

                                I am naturally pretty vigilant about watching my position and the technical aspects of riding. When I can get video of myself I'm my harshest critic. I will also make myself do no-stirrup work on a regular basis. I do jump on my own, but if I were getting even a lesson per month I'd probably just save jumping for then. YouTube and books are your best friend, and sometimes there are interesting excercises in Practical Horseman and Dressage Today. Basically I try to be the best sponge I can be!

                                I honestly like not having the pressure of regular lessons, but I also don't really show. And yes, setting your own jumps sucks.......but ideally your horse keeps them up, right? except if you want to do gymnastics you just have to suck it up.
                                I love my Econo-Nag!


                                • #17
                                  I do everything myself, as I am a grad student and would rather spend my money on showing and care rather than lessons. I do try to trailer in for a clinic when I can. I won at A shows on my jumper gelding, and have another nice 1.20m jumper that I will be doing the same with. It is a little harder at shows, as sometimes the other trainers reset he warm up jumps after I set one, even though I asked : / but other than that, it is doable and you can do well!


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thanks everyone for the replies. I was talking to my dad about what I was looking at options wise on my drive today (he came with me when we went to euthanize my old retired mare today due to health issues ) and he asked me what pasture board would be at the place I was planning to go to before my parents told me they wouldn't help me anymore (I was already gonna move barns as the barn I was at was too quiet for my liking and I wanted one with more hustle and bustle) so I told him that board was this much but they also required you to be on a lesson plan (at least one a month) and that I couldn't afford to have to lesson a certain amount, I would only be able to lesson as I could afford. And so he said 'well maybe we could pay for pasture board there' haha. So now things are up in the air again!! I'm not crossing my fingers yet about that as my parents have to talk it through but even if they could help me with half the board or something I could make that work.
                                    I would still love to hear everyone's stories and tips, as like I said things are up in the air and I may still be having to go in this direction (if not now, then someday down the road) Thanks again for the replies!


                                    • #19
                                      I've been doing it on my own for a long time now (12 or 13 years? Yikes! That makes me older than I want to be!). I really went on my own for the first 4 or 5 years and definitely fell prey to some of my bad habits. My stirrups got longer and I started hunching over more than I should without having someone there to yell at me. I started doing clinics with someone I really respected (Greg Best) 5 or 6 years ago and now I ride with him 3-4 times a year (sometimes once a year, sometimes 5 or 6 times a year depending on the clinic schedule), and that's kept me where I want to be for the most part. I try to be hyper focused on my position and evenness, and ride one horse without stirrups every day (another thing that I struggled to get motivated to do for a long time without someone making me do it!).

                                      I think the hardest part for me is jumping big jumps. Because I'm on my own I usually have fences at varying heights set in my ring so I don't have to get on and off resetting jumps. So it's always a surprise when I get to a show and ALL of the fences are at height So I second having someone on hand when you jump, both for safety and ease of training! And also, a fence setter will often set bigger (and wider) fences for you than you'll set for yourself. I love having my husband as my helper (which is rare) because a) he's tall and makes a 1.50m fence look MUCH smaller than my 5'1" helper, and b) he thinks it's "cool" to make the fences big, so he'll sometimes raise them when I'm not looking which is good for me since I wouldn't ever jump bigger than 1.50m at home if it weren't for him!

                                      The other hard thing for me is trusting my own program. I don't warm up my TB at the big shows I go to most often because he struggles to go from the footing in the schooling ring to the grass GP field. I just spend a lot of time walking around on grass and then head straight into the ring. Through experimentation I figured out that he jumps best on that program, but it's psychologically very difficult to watch BNTs taking 20+ jumps before heading into the ring and having that dialogue going in my head, "If Richard Spooner feels that he needs to warm his horses up over jumps then who am I to think that I don't need to???" It's a challenge to trust in myself, and that's something I took for granted when I had a trainer.

                                      Overall it's very doable to go it alone and ride at the higher levels at the shows if you're a motivated individual. But some things that help:
                                      --having a good ground person to help you, even if it's infrequent
                                      --finding a group of other "do it yourselfers" - there are quite a few others on every show circuit, and it's fun to group together when you can
                                      --find a trainer you really trust and ride with them as often as you can afford, even if that means only once or twice a year

                                      Glad your parents may still be willing to help out. Maybe this would be a good time to start networking with the other barns in your area so that if your parents do decide to pull the plug on financial assistance you're in a position to transition easily to more of a DIY program.
                                      Flying F Sport Horses
                                      Horses in the NW


                                      • #20
                                        I've never taken a lesson or had a trainer since I started riding. I'm completely self-taught. It helps that I am a quick learner, and can pick things up pretty easily with just watching or reading something. Of course, some things are a lot trickier (especially like more advanced things - dressage, reining, etc.) to learn, but I do my best to learn what I can. Read a lot of books, watch the horse channel on TV whenever I can catch a training show on. And just listen and pay attention to what others are doing. This obviously involves some good common sense! lol But it works!

                                        If you know what your goals for you and your horse are, you should be able to at least improve on what you already know/can do, between lessoning when possible.
                                        Originally posted by katarine
                                        I don't want your prayers, tiny cow.
                                        Originally posted by Pat9
                                        When it's time for a horse to go to a new person, that person will appear. It's pony magic.