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Newbie - Instructor Issues

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    Newbie - Instructor Issues

    Hi - I'm mostly a lurker on this board as I'm pretty new to horses. I'm in my 40s and started taking riding lessons last September; I had only been on a horse a handful of times (trail rides and such). My mother-in-law (who's been riding English for 40+ years) encouraged me and is looking forward to riding with me once COVID slows down (if it does). I started with a teacher in September and she had me on an English saddle from the get-go (though she is more of a Western person herself). I've been going to her an average of 1-2 times a week since then (minus a two month hiatus during local lockdowns during March/April.
    I'd say progress has been slow: she is very exacting on body posture and hand position (which I can appreciate), but sometimes I feel she can be a bit...how do I put it? Too nit-picky. In the last month or so, she has gotten frustrated with my progress it seems. She has also relegated me to a Western saddle, telling me that she doesn't think I'm "ready" for the English yet (despite using it for months). The reason I want to learn English is because that is what my MIL uses exclusively and we plan on moving closer to her place soon and I would probably be riding with her frequently. Also once she slows down, my husband and I stand to "inherit" a lot of English tack.
    I've only put on a Western saddle a handful of times, but my teacher got angry with me and accused me of not paying close enough attention when I was trying to remember the trick to lacing through the latigo on a Western saddle last week. I was tired and I was really trying; I haven't paid her literally thousands of dollars to not be taking this seriously. I thought it was somewhat unfair of her to make that assumption.
    My MIL thinks my teacher is taking things way too slow (she said, "You haven't even tried to canter yet?") and recommended a friend of hers who lives in our area. I took a lesson with this woman last week and we got along great. I actually got to ride on a hill instead of an arena for a change. She also thinks I should be doing English (because that's what I want to learn) and working on posting ASAP.
    Ultimately, I do think my current instructor is very good at what she does. But, lately, my confidence is taking a nose-dive as I feel like I must totally suck as a rider (especially since I'm only at the trot stage).

    Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to get some educated thoughts on this from other riders/instructors. Thanks.

    And no, I don't have my own horse yet; both teachers suggest that having my own horse (or getting a lease) would be beneficial, but I can't do that at the moment.

    #2
    Sometimes riders and instructors don’t get along. No harm done. Move on to someone who makes you feel confident

    Comment


      #3
      It sounds like you need a new instructor. If you want to ride English, then that’s what you should be learning; you don’t need to be “ready” to sit in an English saddle. Every rider progresses at a different rate, but I would expect after almost a year of lessons, you should be comfortable posting and cantering. Owning a horse is probably premature, as the horse that is suited to you now (as a beginner rider) is likely a horse that you may outgrow in a year or two. Focus right now on finding an instructor who can help you become proficient in your discipline of choice, and don’t worry about not owning or leasing. Riding a variety of horses is one of the best ways to learn.

      It can be difficult, as a new rider, to gauge the skill and proficiency of your instructor. I would recommend shopping around a little, and reaching out to the local horse community for recommendations- tack shops, pony clubs, and Facebook groups are some places you could start.

      Comment


        #4
        I think finding a different instructor might make you happier so why not do it.

        What I do not find weird is that a good instructor that teaches beginners is taking things slow and is exacting about position. I actually think that is a good thing. I prefer an instructor that has their beginners get it right before moving them along. With the amount of riding you have done I do not find it weird that you have not cantered yet.

        Comment


          #5
          I only started riding seriously as an adult. First and foremost, an instructor should do all she can to not communicate her frustrations to the student (unless the student is unsafe or intentionally defiant). Losing your temper at a student because they struggle to put on a Western saddle they haven't used more than a few times in their riding life shouldn't provoke anger.

          Secondly, the idea that people who are struggling need to learn Western riding before English is odd. Or sounds like an eccentric position of this specific instructor. How does she think people learn riding in the United Kingdom? It really sounds more like she put you in a Western saddle for her benefit, since that's what she's more accustomed to riding in and teaching students in.

          I don't find it strange you haven't cantered yet, since I think when that's taught varies perhaps more than any other skill I know of in riding instruction. I'd actually be a bit more concerned about the fact your instructors are pressuring you to purchase or lease a horse when you're still perfecting your posting trot.

          Find an instructor who specializes in your discipline, who has experience teaching adults, who preferably has a few decent school horses, and who is detailed in her instruction but has a sense of humor.
          Check out the latest Fortune's Fool novel, Courage to the Sticking Place!

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Impractical Horsewoman View Post

            Find an instructor who specializes in your discipline, who has experience teaching adults, who preferably has a few decent school horses, and who is detailed in her instruction but has a sense of humor.
            This. And I find the idea that you can't learn to ride from the beginning in an English saddle utterly bizarre.
            In my opinion the horse world would stand to benefit if students remembered that they are paying to learn and instructors are paid to teach. In other words, your relationship with the trainer needs to be mutually beneficial and the trainer is not a god nor marriage partner. If it doesn't work, it is okay to look for another trainer. In fact, just as riding as many horses as possible makes one a better rider, working with multiple trainers also does.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
              I think finding a different instructor might make you happier so why not do it.

              What I do not find weird is that a good instructor that teaches beginners is taking things slow and is exacting about position. I actually think that is a good thing. I prefer an instructor that has their beginners get it right before moving them along. With the amount of riding you have done I do not find it weird that you have not cantered yet.
              There is slow, and then there is slow!

              The OP has been riding for 8 months at 2 rides per week - (4week x 2 = 8 rides/month x 8 = 64 lessons/hours) 64 hours is plenty enough to be able to canter a little and get a correct posting trot.

              There’s a limit in perfection a beginner can do - you certainly shouldn’t wait to be Charlotte Dujardin, Michael Jung or Eric Lamaze at the walk and trot before cantering!

              The position is something to work on along the way.

              The trainers I’ve seen waiting sooooo long with their students weren’t very good actually and their students usually never get past the beginner stage.

              I was cantering at my 3rd-4th lesson! and jumping by the end of my first 10 lessons session card!
              On a very nice lesson horse with a great beginner trainer. I was 10yrs old - adults may take longer to adjust of course.

              I’ve taught adult beginners and it’s not that uncommon to have them try cantering after a month of lessons. On the lunge, in a small ring, on straight lines...
              ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

              Originally posted by LauraKY
              I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.

              Comment


                #8
                Pshaaawww! On the notion of "being ready" for English tack.
                I started riding at 8yo in English (Huntseat) tack.
                60+yrs later, still prefer it.
                I have tried Western & found for some reason the angle of the stirrups torques my knees uncomfortably - so when, on the rare occasion I am given Western tack, I ride without stirrups.

                A friend whose SO collected Morgans (owned 16 at one time, boarded with 2 different trainers at 2 different barns = Collector) was told by the Snooty Ladies at one of those barns that, as a Novice, she needed to ride in a Western saddle.
                I put her on my TB bareback on the longe & had her cantering in minutes - she had a great natural seat.
                Told her to be certain to tell the Snooties what she had done

                Sorry - not sorry - to ramble, but agree you need Trainer #2.
                As long as she does not pressure you to buy a horse.
                THAT would send me looking elsewhere.
                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

                Comment


                  #9
                  Find a new instructor. I know some people are put in a Western saddle initially mostly because there is more to grab if they start to lose their balance between the horn and high pommel. Once you have ridden in an English saddle for a while, though, there shouldn't be a reason to switch unless you want to try it or you are falling off every other lesson.

                  Almost a year of riding, you should have/could have cantered by now unless you are falling off/almost falling off every lesson.

                  Some instructors just do not do well with certain types of people - older beginners can be one of those types. Adults that have never ridden, especially ones that did not have a highly athletic life previously, It's different for kids that are beginners for many reasons. They generally haven't developed fears that adults often have. They are also generally more elastic.

                  This one may be more used to teaching kids who's elasticity, and confidence means . Try the suggested instructor and see how that one works.

                  Even though I've been riding for 30 years, I still find some instructors are good but not for me. One I recall seemed annoyed because she would give me instruction then seem a bit annoyed that I didn't fix the issue 100% from then on - well, lady, you are trying to get me to fix a bad habit of who knows how many years, you gotta remind me a bunch before it starts getting fixed. For me, she seemed nice but probably just used to dealing with the younger crowd that corrects the issue right away because it isn't an ingrained habit.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Riding is an activity that is supposed to be fun, sociable, something to do with family so go straight back to trainer #2 where you can have fun while learning.

                    I've had never-sat-on-a-horse-before riders cantering on a lunge in their first lesson because usually canter is easier to feel than a trot.
                    "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Please, go straight to instructor #2. Unless she does something that makes you feel unsafe, of course. But I think #1 is the one undermining your confidence and making you feel unsafe. You should be competent at posting the trot by now, and probably should have cantered a time or two, as well.
                      "She is not fragile like a flower. She is fragile like a bomb."

                      Comment

                        Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by Equisis View Post
                        Owning a horse is probably premature, as the horse that is suited to you now (as a beginner rider) is likely a horse that you may outgrow in a year or two.
                        Fair point. All of my horse friends have told me that, while a beginner-friendly horse seems ideal, I'd probably want a horse with a bit more get-up-and-go as I progressed.

                        Thanks for all the input. I think changing instructors would be good for me. One thing that instructor #2 did at our first lesson was take a video of my posting and showed me my position and how I was doing almost a double-bounce when I put my butt back on the saddle. My current instructor would not let my husband take even short video of me in the arena so I could see how I was riding, yet she hasn't taken any video of me herself. She has a "no video" policy; I mean, I get you might not want your whole lesson out on the web, but taking snippets is forbidden? Is that typical?

                        I want my riding lessons to be fun again, so I think #2 would be better. Pro: she is $30 an hour cheaper. Con: she is further away (but I think I can deal with that).

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I find there aren't many instructors that specialize in adult beginners. When I taught, this is kind of what I zoned in on and I had no shortage of clients who just wanted to learn to ride properly so they could enjoy riding and feel safe.
                          There's no shame in finding an instructor that better suits your needs. Riding is hard but it should also be fun

                          Oh and your video question- I have worked with some of the top dressage trainers in US and Europe- never had one say no video, so yeah, that part would be a red flag to me
                          No mourners, no funerals

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by DisraeliEars View Post
                            Ultimately, I do think my current instructor is very good at what she does.
                            I'm not sure you should be so confident. If she was "very good" at teaching you how to ride, you would be doing more than just walking around an arena.

                            It is true that some people are just not great riders, and never will be, but after 8 months - you should be feeling like you're making progress. And I agree with the poster above that beginner riders should not be perfecting things at the walk before they can move on.

                            Definitely take some lessons with the new instructor and see how you like it. You don't *owe* the current instructor anything. You've paid her.

                            And the "no video policy?" That's BS. Move on.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by DisraeliEars View Post

                              Fair point. All of my horse friends have told me that, while a beginner-friendly horse seems ideal, I'd probably want a horse with a bit more get-up-and-go as I progressed.

                              Thanks for all the input. I think changing instructors would be good for me. One thing that instructor #2 did at our first lesson was take a video of my posting and showed me my position and how I was doing almost a double-bounce when I put my butt back on the saddle. My current instructor would not let my husband take even short video of me in the arena so I could see how I was riding, yet she hasn't taken any video of me herself. She has a "no video" policy; I mean, I get you might not want your whole lesson out on the web, but taking snippets is forbidden? Is that typical?

                              I want my riding lessons to be fun again, so I think #2 would be better. Pro: she is $30 an hour cheaper. Con: she is further away (but I think I can deal with that).
                              Not allowing someone to video your lessons is absolutely not typical. That would be a huge red flag to me. Go with instructor #2.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                This scenario reminds me of a place my young niece started off riding at - year of lessons and were barely trotting. There is a happy medium between progressing too fast and not progressing at all and kudos to you for wanting to get things moving along some. I don't fault the one trainer for taking time to make sure position and hands are correct. once you have a strong seat, balance and your hands are correct (not yanking on horses head/mouth) it's easier to progress. What I do fault her for is that it sounds like she's belittling and criticizing the OP which is no way to improve skill or confidence.

                                As others have mentioned sometimes a person just doesn't mesh with a trainer, and there are some trainers that really embrace teaching new riders and others who seem to just not have the patience for it, those who just aren't that skilled at teaching - not matter what the level, and then the ones that you can't believe you found and have taught more in a few lessons.

                                Personally, I found that I prefer semi-private vs private lessons - I think it's beneficial being able to watch another person ride, we give each other encouragement and confidence - and can commiserate when the lesson doesn't go quite as well as others - and that can happen from time to time.

                                I think instructor #2 is the way to go. When the overall experience is much better,the travel time can become pretty insignificant.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Definitely go with Instructor #2!

                                  Not every instructor is a good fit for every rider - and let's be honest, not every instructor is qualified to be teaching. While riding 1 or 2 times per week isn't designed to give you the core strength and muscle memory you need to progress faster (unless you're doing some core workouts and strength exercises geared for riders also), you SHOULD, after a year, know enough to be able to sit correctly, hold the reins correctly, and ride correctly at the walk and trot. Now, if fitness is an issue, that's another story entirely - to ride English, it's all about the core. I'd encourage you to start some simple core exercises to help with that, if you haven't already. Leg strengthening, too, as you'll need both when you start doing serious trot work.

                                  That said - I've seen both sides of this issue. On the one hand, I rode with an instructor who was a stickler for position, and with good reason - but she could, and did, drill you to death on one or two things per lesson, so that by the end of that 45 minutes, it felt more like 45 years and you were shocked the horse was still alive. But on the other hand, I've seen her work with riders who just weren't taking it seriously. Either they just didn't care about riding correctly, or she wasn't getting across to them WHY it was important. So I can see both sides of this. However, if you're doing your absolute best, if you're paying attention, if you're not out there goofing off (and with wanting to video yourself riding, I think you're definitely not being a goof-off!), then I think your current instructor is just not cut out for teaching you.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Welcome! I'll join the "instructor #2 sounds like a better fit" chorus (and instructor #1 sounds more like they're tearing you down instead of building you up), but a couple of other things stood out to me:

                                    Originally posted by DisraeliEars View Post
                                    I took a lesson with this woman last week and we got along great. I actually got to ride on a hill instead of an arena for a change. She also thinks I should be doing English (because that's what I want to learn) and working on posting ASAP.
                                    It doesn't bother me that you haven't been cantering yet, but "working on posting ASAP" makes it sound like you're not doing much work at the trot, either, which makes me wonder... what *are* you doing? (It's kind of a digression, but now I'm kind of curious what the typical lesson with instructor #1 looks like.)

                                    Also, though, "I actually got to ride on a hill instead of an arena for a change" makes me love instructor #2 all to pieces. There is more to life than the ring.

                                    FWIW, I drive past a whole bunch of other barns to get to a trainer I click with.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      My instructor had me start cantering on my 5th or 6th lesson. It's interesting how different instructors approaches are. Years ago I was jumping for 6 months without any issue and was progressing. Moved barns and the instructor there said no way do I have any business jumping and need to do nothing but flatwork without stirrups at my lessons, over and over, until I'm ready. Ended up going back to the original barn since I did not see any reason why I couldn't work on both!

                                      As far as the saddle goes, if you want to learn English then I would say you should stick with an English saddle unless you prefer the security of a western saddle until you are more confident.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        I would definitely look for an instructor that is a better fit than the first one. Your instructor shouldn't be frustrated with you or your progress, and if she is, she should certainly never let you know that. There is no reason to be riding in a western saddle if you want to learn English. Rate of progress varies widely from person to person, based on age, overall physical condition, fear/emotional state, and suitability of horse, among other things. What takes someone 3 months might take another 2 years. That said, most people are working on posting trot, sitting trot, jumping position, and steering at the walk within their first few weeks, with varying degrees of success.

                                        In my own education as a child, I was mostly on the lunge line doing walk/trot for 18 months or so, plenty with no reins/stirrups. I could do posting trot without stirrups and jumping position without stirrups very competently before someone considering letting me canter. I built a strong base of support that has stuck with me to this day.

                                        I'm probably more conservative than most. I hate seeing people with floppy lower legs being put in situations that they aren't prepared to handle. I'd rather see the strength and balance build to the point where I'm fairly certain it's going to go fine - even if the horse isn't 100% foot perfect - than see a rider overfaced with a situation and scared or injured as a result.

                                        Comment

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