The Art Of Craptastic

Just as there are people who work diligently and with singular purpose toward the goal of mastery in their profession, so there are also those with equal determination to suck at what they do for a living.  Let’s take for example the riding instructor, who sits in one spot for the duration of the lesson often times in some remote corner of the arena.  Never before have I seen so many sit down riding instructors as I have since moving to California.  And these are not people new to the profession, but rather nationally successful people in their discipline of choice.  Winners in the show ring with the wall of ribbons, awards and medals to prove it.

I inherently know that all those prizes don’t mean diddly squat in the scheme of things, but your average riding customer clearly does not since these instructors always seem to have a full lesson schedule with more waiting in the wings to receive this particular brand of teaching.  I can’t decide if it’s laziness  or boredom that keeps them planted on their derrieres.  Maybe it’s something else?

Here’s a recent article that’s making the rounds on the Internet that discusses why America is producing a large quantity of mediocre instructors.  http://theridinginstructor.net/75/top-3-reasons-why-america-producing-so-many-mediocre-instructors/  I’m not sure these are my top three reasons, but I won’t argue the validity or truth of the reasons presented.  For argument sake let’s just go with them.  Now that the top three reasons have been identified and discussed – what now?

At this point I am reminded of how a big company works, or the Government.  Meeting announced.  Problem dissected.  Potential catalysts discussed at length.   Good meeting all, let’s go for lunch.  Six months later another meeting is called. 

‘How are we doing on that matter we discussed at out last meeting, George?’ 

‘Well, sir, we’ve confirmed that those were indeed the top three reasons.’

‘Excellent! Excellent!’

‘We’re thinking of putting together a small team to further analyze the situation.’

‘Good!  Good!  What’s for lunch?’

I can’t realistically do a thing about the current state of American instructorship.  It’s beyond my means, capabilities and willpower.  What I can do, though, is warn off people who might become potential clients.  So following is a list of warning signs that you might be entering a Craptastic Instructor Zone:

1) As previously mentioned, unless the instructor is confined to a wheelchair or body cast there’s no good reason for them to be sitting or standing still during the lesson.  One of the greatest tools an instructor uses at his or her disposal is their eyes.  They are constantly adjusting their position to see horse and rider from different perspectives to be able to pick up on nuances.

2) Students that have been students ‘forever’.  Except for the very odd exception, a good instructor will teach a student all that they know and then move the student on.  No one instructor knows everything.  There are great athlete and coach combinations, but very few that stick it out together for a whole career.  There’s a reason for that.  While familiarity with one another can have its advantages, it can also have its disadvantages.  I’ve seen many cases of instructors purposely (and sometimes inadvertently) making their students dependant on them.  Beware the instructor with a long list of ‘forever’ students, especially if they’re still working on how to halt the horse without throwing out the anchor after all those years.

3) A smorgasbord of ‘new’ students.  This might simply indicate the instructor is new to the region having moved there recently.  That’s easily found out.  But for an instructor who’s been around long enough to have established themselves, big turn over in the student ranks can indicate big issues like that particular coffee shop in town on the corner, run by the Ogre, that always has the ‘Help Wanted’ sign in their window.

4) Disproportionate amount of ‘accidents’.  Riders falling off, horses running off, tack breaking, weekly ambulance or vet visits etc…  While all of these things happen from time to time, an instructor whose students and horses are plagued by accidents and injuries is the proverbial flashing red neon sign.

5) Unhappy participants.   If rider and horse aren’t happy in the lesson and no attempt is being made to rectified that, walk away unless you like being miserable and paying for that privilege.

6) Avoid the instructor who puts students on lame or drugged horses and especially if they a) don’t recognize the horse is lame, b) don’t care that the horse is lame, or c) carry the needle in their back pocket.

7) You’ve all seen – and heard – the hockey (soccer/baseball/football etc…) parent.  Well, they also come in the form of riding instructors.  You’ll see them at shows all uptight, making their students nervous, ‘coaching’ (read yelling at) their students, and otherwise displaying uninstructor-like behaviors.  Again, unless you like to pay for that type of treatment – pass.

8) Too much sugar is fluff.  That’s right, a cotton candy instructor is just another form of a dependency maker, unless you’re five years old.  Teaching requires balance.  You’ll never progress as a rider unless you are challenged, occasionally pushed, and corrected.  If all you ever hear is how awesome you’re doing, rest assured you aren’t actually that awesome.  Unless you’re five.  In which case, you are definitely going to be a gold medalist in the Olympics.

9) Either an instructor that never schools their school or client’s horses, or the instructor that has to get on every horse before a student rides at a show, or in a lesson.

10) If students regularly ask questions that don’t get answered directly, the answers don’t make sense, no clarification is offered when a student is confused, or answers always leave the student unsatisfied, then the instructor is wanting in the communication, and likely knowledge, departments.  Maybe try another language?

11) Displaying and talking about credentials everywhere, all the time, is either one super insecure instructor or one that knows they don’t know anything of value and needs to cover it up.  By the same token, a complete lack of credentials or history and continued avoidance of the topic when asked is a red flag.  Everyone has their own tolerance level for papered or show ring credentials.  Be more impressed with the person in front of you and what comes out of their mouth than the certificates and ribbons hanging in the office.  Feel super confident when both match.

It can be a trying endeavor to find a good riding instructor, but the profession is no different than any other.  If you need a mechanic for your car you don’t just run your finger down the Yellow Pages, pick a garage at random and hope for the best.  You talk to friends and family.  You call the BBB.  You look on Yelp for reviews.  You call and talk to someone at the business.  You maybe do a drive-by in your Mother’s car.  Then you make an informed decision.

Go watch an instructor give some lessons, not just one.  Talk to students, current and former.  Have a close look at the lesson horses.  Interrogate the instructor, asking some of the tougher questions not just how much per hour.  Nobody should feel so desperate for instruction as to settle for mediocrity.  And if people stop settling for mediocrity, it’ll cease to exist.  It’s a simple case of supply and demand.

Always remember; it takes more time, energy and resources to unlearn bad lessons than to learn them right the first time around.

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60 thoughts on “The Art Of Craptastic

  1. Well, I’m a Californian, and I think part of the problem of crappy service is that we have such a large population, there is always another customer. It is really hard to find anyone, in any profession, that even pretends to care about the job they do.

      • Yea, I’m sure that is true. But your example of riding teacher that actually sits during a lesson is so typical of just the average person that works around here – kind of makes my point!

        • Yes, that aspect – the sitting down during a lesson – is not something I’d seen a whole lot of previously. I mean if old Walter Zettl can walk around and be active in an all day clinic giving several lessons, and Arthur Kottas does the same thing, I’d think some fly-by-night instructor could get off his/her butt for an hour lesson as well.

  2. The simple fact is that when kids/adults first go into lessons they don’t know what is good or bad because unlike a sport like tennis, running, swimming, ect they isn’t a baseline knowledge about riding in the general population. For example, I know zero about running but I do know if a coach told me that running in jeans is better than sports pants I’d be concerned. Horses on the other hand ther exists not even that basic, basic level of knowledge, thus why non-horsefolk still call will call a pony a baby horse.

    I think this simply falls back to the need for a higher level of quality and education in the horse world. We need to expect a higher standard of riding/horsemanship and do more to educate people about our sport instead of being so standoffish. There is no reason why more professionals don’t involve themselves with schools and other programs. You don’t have to bring a horse if liability is your concern- bring yourself and some interesting facts. Get involved. Just doing those things helps influence a higher standard in the community itself.

    Our horse community is great example of how easy it is to get involved with a poor trainer- because frankly, in the hunter/jumper community we have a pretty 50/50 split between good and bad. We have one particular trainer that has a crap ton of forever students, schools client horses constantly, loves to talk about how great she is, and yet she has few actual credentials and is more than happy to use quick fixes and borderline abusive training techniques. Because we have such a small community and no one gets out there to educate anymore her training is not only accepted but glorified. Did I mention her students also lack a great deal of basic knowledge? They rely on others to do a lot and then go out in the community and continue to spread misinformation and incorrect/half-ass riding.

    In contrast we have another training who has good qualifications, proof to back it up, a solid training program, and steady horsemanship. She doesn’t take the easy way with training, her horses are trained and sound, and she has a barn that is full of people who are able to explain why they do what they do and how it helps the horse (or doesn’t). Often students come in from that other trainer and find out, shockingly, that horseback riding isn’t just prancing around on a pre-schooled pony and looking pretty. They have to groom, they have to school, ect. You get the point and, also no shockingly, they leave.

    What does that say about horsemanship overall? These kids/teenagers are the future of horseback riding and yet they never received the more basic of horsemanship education. It is was never there in the start and they don’t want it once they are somewhat successful in the ring (or wherever). This doesn’t even touch the ever rising number of backyard trainers popping up through the country and ruining both horses and young riders. I’ve been with those trainers and it’s a hard trap to get out of- kids look up to there trainers as a source of correct knowledge (oh, look we’re back to the lack of a foundation and education again) and the cycle begins again when those kids go out.

    In the end it all ties back to the ‘now, now, now,’ problem we have. No one wants to take the time to learn anymore, not when they have devices and grooms to do it for them. Why train when a bit can do it? Why groom when you can hire someone do it? Teach them from the start or you’re just going to produce more of these lack luster trainers in the future.

    /rantover.

  3. I agree with Grace – too many people out there want to BE a good rider – not to BECOME a good rider and there’s a big difference. They are not willing to spend the time – they will opt for the pre-schooled horses, the quick fixes, the pat on the head etc which feeds the mill of ‘coaches’ willing to give them just that. And back yard trainers? I have been asked repeatedly to teach people to ride and I could easily take their money because I ride and train regularly – I know the drill. But knowing how to ride and knowing how to teach are not the same thing at all.
    Riders, particularly beginners, need to demand good coaching – but first you have to know what good coaching is. Also, from what I’ve seen, a lot of the really good instructors don’t want to work with beginners – and probably beginners think what the top coaches charge is too pricey – there’s a lot of angles to this.
    Another clue that a coach is a good one, in my opinion, is that he/she regularly goes to lessons and/or clinics also. No one knows everything – and keeping up to date and fresh in approach is another plus appreciate in my own coach.

    • In my experience, there are also more people who really don’t like feedback/critique during a riding lesson, just validation or just simple platitudes. I’m trying to learn dressage on a green horse, and my trainer gives me a constant stream of feedback on my body position, on the horse’s body and energy level and on the finer details of the patterns (riding into the corners, riding true circles, etc.) quite a few of the riders i started with move to someone different because they don’t like the contstant stream of talk. I’m a type A personality and i like working on perfection, but many riders are looking for just a stress free ride after a long day at the office, and i think trainers are happy to comply..

      • A couple of points:

        Students are not immune to being craptastic. They have responsibility in a lesson format as well. Being receptive to input and preparing themselves just for starters. A rider looking to unwind can do so in a riding lesson, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the horse.

        Horses are not designed to carry weight on their backs. That’s a fact and one that you shouldn’t ever forget.

        Riders can alleviate much of the physical, mental and emotional stress of the horse by being the best rider they can be and continuing to try to improve.

        I get the ‘I just wanna have some fun’ argument. However, having fun at the expense of the horse is unacceptable, imo. There is a way to have fun AND still be conscience of yourself.

        I would actually put it out there, that the better a rider you become the more fun the ride becomes simply because the horse will move better, be better balanced, perform better, be more comfortable carrying the ride, be more receptive to the rider’s aids and wishes, etc…

        • I think those riders taking lessons who just want to work in a stress-free, less pressured environment ARE thinking of their horses – other wise they wouldn’t be taking lessons at all – they’d be schlepping around on their own. The reason I take as many lessons as I do – three a week- is because I know I am crooked (in part due to previous injury) and I often can’t feel it. Since I am not showing these days I find it hard sometimes to justify the expense – I do ride trail on my own as well so it isn’t just to get on my horse. It’s because I want to be fair to him and I’m sure there are plenty of other ‘low achievers’ who do it for the same reason. If that’s what you want and your coach complies, it doesn’t mean you are being inconsiderate to your horse or that your coach is crappy.

          • That’s why I said – and I quote myself – “There is a way to have fun AND still be conscience of yourself.” for those riders who aren’t interested in upper level stuff or competition.

            I’ve said nothing contrary and think people are choosing to read half the words so that they can be offended by their choices. I’ve talked of balance the entire time and Chestnut Mare even commented on the seeming contradiction of so many points because balance is required.

            Heck, I haven’t even said that people needed to take regular lessons to do right by their horses.

        • i’m in violent agreement with everything you’ve said. i was just trying to highlight one of the factors i think makes some trainers less hands on. not that it’s right, just that it can become a driving economic factor in aquiring/keeping students.

      • I think this is very much an area where things have to be kept in balance. Even the just for fun, recreational rider should be trying to improve. I agree with Mercedes, that’s only fair to the horse. But the level of critique, the degree to which the coach pushes the student, the pace of improvement, that has to be tweaked to the individual. A good coach will help the “just for fun” students improve in a low-key, low-stress way. That lesson will look a lot different from a serious, type-A rider’s lesson, but they can both be good lessons.

  4. A couple of comments resonate with me. I have students,{I actually have a level three national coaching degree}, not many as it takes a certain type of student to put up with my demands. I tell every one that my main concern is the horse. { You have no idea how many of my students get upset with that remark}. I examine each horse as it comes for lessons. I am very hands on with the horse and give the horse lots of treats when it completes a grid of jumps. All horses know me as the treat lady and all horses know that when I throw my hand up in the air they come to a stop. I am very vocal to the horse when it goes well. They notice. I don’t rattle on to the rider instead I am checking terrain, raking and remeasuring , resetting jumps and examining lines and also tack. My main concern is the hands, so sometimes I make my lessons bit less. I also take pics a lot of my students riding I also post pics on FB it takes a strong person to allow their pics on FB ( I make sure just to post the nice pics) but still people sometimes have issues. I tell tell them that if you can handle FB you can handle being at a show and dealing with the judges decisions. I insist that after every lesson the horse has alfalfa and fresh water. Students dont usually bring extra feed so it is part of the lesson program I provide. Each horse has a full flake of alfalfa after each lesson and I make the students wait that 15 min till horse consumes the food. We work the horses hard when they come here, sometimes this is hard for me to endure as I hate working a horse that foams especially in the hind quarters, it shows that the electolytes are not working good in the horses system so chances are the horse is not in shape for the lesson. But if I protect the horse I loose students as they feel I am not working them enough. My main criteria is the hands but as soon as I get a marginal success rate with the hands they are after me to develop their seat. As a coach their seat is not paramount to me at first because if I can educate their hands, the horse then jumps better and more confidently and then the rider has the angles closed by the way the horse jumps. Students are not willing to wait for that moment , (it takes at least 10 lessons} they want to tie down the mount, force the neck set by rigid hands and have the coach teach the rider to manuver the horse using the short cut methods one can utilize by the riders seat and riders back. coachs and instructors have learnt to make a living giving and taking the fine lines. A student is also savvy to the buisness world as they too must make a living and they pressure the coaches big time. Most of my students are women that make more money than I do and usually are the top women in executive positions where the make cruicial decisons in buisness life so their attitude is that they pay the coach and they make the demands because they pay for this service. Bottom line is that it is a slippery slope, takes a lot to be a coach and instructor now adays. I have a facilty that I built specifically to teach a horse but students don’t always realize that when you pay for the lesson you are also paying for the privialiage to work at the facility. Anyway that is my rant as a coach. As you can tell by the above I don’t have a lot of students.

    • I admit I disagree with some points of your position. I agree that the horse is paramount, and that is one of the points the article and Mercedes made, and most really great teachers make, they are there to help humans, but only because it makes life better for the horse, and the horse is paramount. I agree that some horses aren’t fit up enough for a whole hour of hard work, and neither are their riders in many cases.

      I disagree that hands are paramount over seat, no seat, no ability to control one’s hands, use them independently and correctly. Fixing them in the mane or pushed against the withers solves nothing. There is a reason the Spanish Riding School puts new students training to become riders at the school through about 2 years of lunge line lessons, to develop the seat so the hands aren’t flailing. One can’t be put off for the other, bad hands do negatively impact the horse’s way of going so that the rider is deprived of a loose back that provides a place to sit. That is one of the great challenges of learning to ride correctly, one must conquer multiple moving parts at once. If you are talking remedial lessons for holes in the training of riders who are already competing and have reached a high level of performance, then it would make sense to address the weakest points of that rider, be it hands, seat, or mental understanding of what they need to be doing so the horse can do his job. The rider, as well as the horse, has to be balanced and be able to move body parts independently, the rider uses his whole body to ride the whole horse.

      Further, my horses diets are set up for what each horse needs, alfalfa is high in calcium, and requires adjustments for young horses and especially insulin resistant horses. It also is too high in protein for mature horses, for most horses that isn’t a problem, but it is both inefficient and bad for racing animals and endurance animals as they can overheat from the heat produced to convert protein to energy. Some horses get very gassy on alfalfa and gassy is never good in a horse.

      If I may ask, what country are you in, there a couple of places that have level three coaching?

      • As regards alfalfa for insulin resistant and metabolic horses: its not the protein but the water soluble carbohydrates (WSCs) like sugar which are the problem. Alfalfa is low in WSCs and therefore a good choice for these horses. The protein does have to be considered of course and not overdone. My old IR guy does well on a 50/50 alfalfa /hay mix. Also, the calcium in the alfalfa is a good antacid – my Thoroughbred has a much happier digestive tract since I added a flake a day of alfalfa to his regime. I think alfalfa gets a bad rap although I definatly disagree with 100% alfalfa if you can possibly avoid it. I do realize in some parts of the country that’s all that’s available.

        • there is much ongoing research into the effect of calcium inhibiting the absorption of magnesium and leading to IR and bouts of laminitis. Alfalfa and some grass hays, as well as some grains, are high in calcium and can make a tendency to IR worse without supplementing magnesium. Most issues with any feed is not protein or sugar content alone, but the combination of minerals in it that may block absorption or proper metabolism of other important minerals. But let me make my point in a different way so as to avoid an irrelevant argument over alfalfa hay.

          No riding instructor that sees my horse once a week or so is going to dictate what is fed to my horse. The horse’s entire diet should be managed by the person(s) responsible for the horse’s day to day management, that person who is aware of all of the feeds, hays, supplements in that diet, who has balanced that diet appropriately based on knowledge of the horse, that knows the medical history of the horse and past issues with feed tolerances, etc. If an instructor notices a lack of thriftiness, poor hoof quality, poor coat quality, other clinical signs of mineral/vitamin imbalances, etc., the instructor should address the proper management of diet as a whole, not add a flake of hay. Further, if one wants to argue one flake is too little to upset the diet, than it is too little to do any good for the diet.

  5. yes these lessons are for holes in their current education. They are already competing. Most horses get alfalfa, some get beet pulp. We use both these items for the high level of calcium. A flake of alfalfa once a week does not impact their daily diet to a serious degree. IMO. The benifits far out weigh the risks.IMO . No one I know now a days is willing to spend their money on lessons where they are on the lunge line for a period of time. I tried that actually and set up a 2 month program to address that and lost the 3 students that I felt would benifit from this exercize. Students, especially if they are already competing are not willing to go back to the basics to address their weaknesses to that extent. Yes I am from the West Coast and took my training at the University of Victoria.There is more obviously to the lessons, as we work on a strict program of grids etc where each lesson builds from the last one, I just took out and talked about some parts that I teach that were vastly different to what others in my area are teaching. Every one in my area teaches more or less the same way. If the hands are too heavy the horse is put in a standing martingale the hands are parked on the neck and the instructor teaches them to use their seat more effectively to drive the horse forward I find that this is not an effective way to teach the horse and most have battled ulcers throughout their careers. Most students came to me in standing or running martingales because the horses fought the riders over a jumping course. Any way just my observations and experiences. I found it is hard to get students to follow another path to get to the same outcome. Very few people are comfortable with change. One has to be very open minded and progress has to be documented to show the student . We all talk about how the riders in this era are not as prepared as they should be but few are willing to change how to teach a different way and few are willing to follow the instructor that teaches differently regardless of the certification they in fact hold. The only exception would be an olympic or international rider that teaches as well as competes. We don’t have many of these types of coachs in our area.The ones that I know of are usually 3 to 6 times the price so they are just for the elite type rider that has the money to afford the coach. JMO of course based on my experiences.

    • OK pawly, I was about to call BS on you, because (I don’t know what a full flake of alfalfa looks like to you) but if a horse ate one of my “full flakes” of alfalfa in 15 minutes, you would have a problem.

      But what you have said about following a different path to horsemanship resonates with me.

    • One of these days, pawly, you’ll have to clarify for us what it is about using the seat that you reject: is it seat in general, the driving seat, or specifically driving into a resistant hand?

  6. Few places in the US have lunge line lessons because no one has trained horses, so the problem is self perpetuating, coaches don’t have the horses, the students’ horses aren’t suitable, and students nor coaches learn the benefits, and it is lost to US horsemanship. You can buy information, but not physical skill for yourself. These must be lousy students who don’t realize the only way to gain physical expertise is hours of practice in the basics. Brains alone can’t ride a horse. And a great horse can’t accomplish much with a lousy rider on it.

  7. I longe my students on my school horses. Every time this is discussed I see the comment that no one has horses trained for lessons on the longe. It makes me curious as I am not aware of a difference in the training of horses on the longe for lesson purposes. Either they are trained to longe, or they are not. Is it that most horses are not trained to longe properly *at all* these days?

    • You are a statistical anomaly and you know it. 🙂

      Was just out longeing my rehab horse this morning and had to share the arena with a young girl, her obstinate Paint mare, and her instructor. The instructor was teaching the young girl how to control her horse on the ground and longe it. Big fat joke…the whole thing. If I wasn’t a guest…

      A few minutes later the girl got on her horse to begin her riding lesson. As I opened the arena gate and began leaving, her horse charged toward us and tried to leave with us. The whole time the instructor was sitting in the arena corner, sipping coffee on the mounting block. The young girl was terrified, the horse serious about leaving and my rehab horse in her longeing cavesson was looking at me wondering what she might do to get another piece of carrot from me.

      And because I’m evil, I deliberately did my cool out walk around that arena.

      • agreed, way too many riding instructors these days don’t have horses trained to longe correctly or have never carried a rider while being lunged. Most is not all, and I admit to living in the armpit of the horseworld. I can tell you, I never had an instructor that had a longe horse. One instructor was a German Bereiter, but didn’t maintain a stable here in the US, you just rode your own horse. He did try to teach me to longe my horse, but I didn’t have enough time to learn thoroughly before he transferred to another state.

        Further, many western instructors don’t lunge at all as traditional dressage or jumpers would know it. So that is a whole different kettle of fish to what Mercedes was probably originally addressing.

    • This puzzles me too, because I learned to ride on school horses on a lunge line, and that’s how I taught beginners. I also get refresher lunge lesson on my horse every now and then, and she certainly doesn’t have any special training in how to lunge for lessons, she has simply been trained to lunge as a basic skill that (I thought) most broke horses have. That said, I think the “ride only on the lunge with no reins or stirrups for months/years before you become a real rider” approach is out of favour. But lunging still has a big place in every lesson barn I’ve ridden or worked at, and I really don’t think I’m a special snowflake.

      • I have to agree, I don’t think they really are the uncommon, at least in H/J or dressage training- two of the three barns I’ve been a student at do lunge lessons either as part of the general teachings or as a “special” treat. I’ve spent several lessons on the lunge myself and I’ve done lunging with all three of the horses I’ve leased in the past. I personally love lunging and lunge lessons are my favorites to do.

  8. I enjoy how some of Mercedes’ points are contraditory – too many new students is bad, too many old students is bad; too much credentials is bad, but not enough credentials is also bad – but yet I can’t really disagree (except maybe on the “forever” students part – some of us adult amateur types progress slowly enough that it’s really hard to outgrow a trainer, and we like a comfortable routine). There’s a lot of Goldilocks “just righting” in finding a good coach.

    My thoughts, first of all, when picking good instructors is that there are differences between instructors for beginners and instructors for advanced riders. As Grace pointed out, it’s a huge problem that brand-new beginners don’t have enough background knowlege to evaluate a good coach. That’s a huge risk with a sport with such a significant safety aspect. (As compared to something like say, soccer or softball or golf – if I sign my kid up to a team with a clueless coach, maybe she won’t become a star athlete but she’s a lot less likely to be injured than with a clueless riding instructor).

    My criteria for a good riding instructor for beginners: Recommended by those you know who ride. Certified and insured. Barn clean and in good repair. Healthy sound horses, to the extent that a newbie can evaluate this (ie no jutting ribs, no open sores, no obvious limping). Horses do not do excessive back to back lessons. Tack is in good repair (old is okay; falling apart is not). The riding area is fully enclosed, level and footing ok, relatively free of distractions. The place has safety rules, at a minimum that everyone rides in boots and helmets, bonus points for clear rules about things like catching horses, feeding horses, entering stalls. Low ratio of kids to instructors. Instructors are alert, articulate, hands-on, closely supervising. Lessons start and end generally on time. Lessons include a warm-up and cool-down. Lessons include how to groom and tack up, at a minimum; ideally some other basic horse care. Ideally, the barn has some extra learning opportunities above and beyond regular lessons: clinics, camps, schooling shows.

    For more advanced riders… I no longer care about certified, I can decide for myself if the instructors knows what they’re talking about. I want: success by the instructor in my discipline of choice, at a higher level than what I aspire to myself. I want to see the person ride and think, wow, I want to ride like that. I’m okay with this being historic for people who are older/injured; I’m suspicious of instructors who want to coach competitive riders but do not compete themselves with reasons such as “lack of money” or “lack of good horse”. I want to see success by the instructor’s students; again, I want to look at the more advanced students and think, I want to ride like that. I want the horses in her program to be sound, sane, and healthy. Can ride my horse better than I can when needed (again, exception for the older/injured), but doesn’t insist that they must school my horse for me every time. Encourages riding with other instructors and facilitates those opportunities (clinics, guest instructors). Respects my budget and commitment level. Lessons are constructive with a balance of encouragement and criticism. I have full attention during the time I am paying for.

    • “I can’t really disagree (except maybe on the “forever” students part – some of us adult amateur types progress slowly enough that it’s really hard to outgrow a trainer, and we like a comfortable routine).” – thank you for this, ChestnutMare. It’s the only real quibble I had, as well.

      • Me too – I haven’t much inclination to show, I want to keep improving, and as long as my coach keeps challenging me I will stick with her. It’s been 8 years now and I do go to clinics to audit and to ride so I can expand my awareness of ‘what’s out there’. When I first started with this coach she asked me ‘what are your goals?’ and I told her ‘to ride well’. We have revisited that periodically and it has not changed for me. But what’s important to me – to ride better – may not be what someone else wants. If they just like the experience of working their horse and the security an camaraderie of the barn, then that’s OK too – it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the coach.

      • Yeah, I think it was just worth teasing out some more nuance. From the outside, you could probably look at me, still farting around the 3′ adult amateur division year after year, and say “why doesn’t she progress, what’s wrong with her coach”. But it’s not my coach’s fault that I keep missing lessons for work crises and aging parents’ health scares and I’d hate to think of someone judging her as craptastic because I haven’t moved on. But if you’re an ambitious rider looking to make your way to the top, then sure, you don’t want to ride with trainer if all her students are stuck in the same rut.

        • Certainly I’m not suggesting that based on that one factor that an instructor is craptastic. That’s why I provided a whole list of things.

          But let me ask you this: Are all your instructor’s clients just like you? His/her entire client list is made up of people such as yourself, with the same goal/s, the same life schedule, the same outcome?

          I would ask that people be reasonable and use some common sense. I provided a list of some of the things that might identify an instructor to stay away. If your situation is the exception or in any way out of the ordinary, then by all means assume I wasn’t aiming any part of my silly blog article at you or your instructor.

          The fact remains and the point I was making is that there are plenty of instructors out there who stall progress and make students dependent on them so they can have an easy pay day, and do it for YEARS.

          • Yes, that’s what I said above, it would be a bad thing if an instructor’s entire clientele was stuck in a rut and you are a rider who wants to go places. My instructor has a small group of adult amateurs who’ve been with her for years and aren’t going anywhere, but the young people go onwards and upwards. A very talented teenager recently graduated to training with an Olympic rider, who complimented my coach on having given this girl a good start to her career. I fully expect to see her on Team Canada in the next few years and am looking forward to being able to tell people that we used to ride together.

  9. yes the alfalfa flakes are small, I try to teach the importance of putting some calcium into the horse before and after they ride. One of the reasons I also have special treats that the horse gets when they are being worked. I feel strongly that it is important to have some fibre containing calcium so that it helps prevent any stomach acid from splashing further up the stomach walls where the lining is more suseptible to ulcerating. You might ask why do I become so picky about this and how does it relate to teaching? I find it a good management tool. Horses when they come here are trailered in and some are not the best at trailering or loading. I find that when they finish their lessons and are properly walked out and watered that if we can provide some quiet time where they can munch some food before they get trailered again can do wonders for the horse that is stressed from leaving their homes. It is funny too that the ones that are forced into the trailer with lunglines and ropes are also the ones that come in martingales and other devices. So when I have a horse come to the farm as soon as they drive into the property my goal is to have that horse as relaxed and confident as possible. I want their experience here to be a positive one. I also don’t have the horses warm up in the rings. I get them to use our quarter mile gallop trail. They have a set warm up routinee where I observe how the horse navigates the hills and ground poles during walk trot and canter, then the more advanced do hand gallop. I can check for any lameness issues and confidence issues before we begin the lesson. The horses are trained for three day eventing and CTR. I think Mercedes knows that I speak the truth, as I hope she has seen some of the pictures that I have posted elsewhere showing all of this. So my point is that I teach what I preach yet I am the only one I know of that has this type of program avaliable. I feel all coaches should be promoting a similar lesson structure. I usually only get the students that have serious issues that other coach’s have had no luck with. I also have a facility that has an eventing course set up as well as a dressage ring and a stadium course ,various round pens , and other rings. Some take lessons here just for that and not for my coaching ability. I also keep a journal of each students progress because it becomes part of the yearly coaching program that is taught at the level three program. Yet I know of no other coach or rider for that matter that documents their progress by keeping a work journal. So again it goes back to doing your homework, constantly assessing the horse, working hard at keeping the horse comfortable and confident and pain free and a specific program built on conditioning and peaking the horse for competition. Does anyone in their area have such a coach? Does your coach take photographs and video as part of the lesson program and documents in a journal the team progress. Does your coach sit down and plan when you will peak and plateau based on the rate of weekly progress? IMO these are things that should be addressed when we teach horses and their partners. Coach’s from other sports such as figure skating, track and field etc, do this and yet we are so much more vulnerable having two athletes to teach at one time that it is mind boggling to me that we don’t do this with our sport. I use to be a hurdler and competed for a number of years at the national level and was always put on a program for my fitness level , including medical check ups and my competitve level. Yet as coachs we do no such thing with horses sports. So that is my rant for the month.

    • the acid is going to splash if the horse moves above a walk, it is reducing the overall acidity that counts, and reducing calories from carbohydrates in the total diet. And one flake is a bandaid on a near mortal wound. The entire management of the horse needs to be addressed, too little foraging time, too many grains, not enough turnout. You try to address other stressors in your teaching style, better riding, no tie downs, martingales, etc., and that is good. But again, one flake of hay one day out of a mismanaged horse’s life isn’t going to fix the problem. It may make you feel better that you did something, but this is an issue that people need to address head on in performance horses and breeding establishments. Unnatural lifestyles without grazing times, adequate forage, with inadequate training for the horses to cope with stressors not just training for performance skills, leads to GERDS and other ills. The equivalent of an antacid tablet isn’t the answer.

    • Pawly, my coach does some of this. Especially the use of regular video shoots. But keep in mind, a really goal-oriented, progress-focused approach isn’t for everyone. Your program sounds like it would be too much pressure for a rider like myself. I ride for fun. I want to get better, I like going to horse shows, but riding is still mostly for fun and outlet for stresses from other areas of my life. I can’t imagine trying to track my progress weekly, it would just be depressing. I have plenty of weeks where it feels like an achievement just that I made it to the barn and sat on my horse, who cares what we did. Sometimes other aspects of life are overwhelming, riding gets put on the backburner, and it’s a struggle just to maintain the skills I have, let alone make progress. The last thing I need for riding to be a source of stress because I’m not meeting my progress goal or not keeping up with my program. Your ideas sound great for a particular type of rider, but not for everyone.

  10. It is specifically driving into the non educated hand. I feel that we teach backwards here. our hands should be taught to be supple and active not resistant. We should be taught to see how our horse performs over a course without the hands restricting the horses head and specifically the neck. Obviously the seat is important but one can do more damage to the horse with harsh and cruel hands especially considering the types of bits and gags now on the market. JMO

  11. ‘As a coach their seat is not paramount to me at first because if I can educate their hands, the horse then jumps better and more confidently and then the rider has the angles closed by the way the horse jumps.’

    I didnot say I reject the seat. This is what I said about the hands. No where have I said I dismissed the seat. Just to be crystal clear.

  12. http://www.conklin.com/site/sandmarc/Ulcers.cfm a good informative site about ulcers. Yes I agree with you Chestnut mare, like I said the students I was talking about are currently active in the show circuit, and lots of info on line about the benifits of giving a horse food before and after it is worked to help prevent gastric upsets. Could copy and paste site after site for clarification. I am finding that some people do not read fully what have I written and choose to take offense ,so I will quit this conversation as it is pointless IMO.

    • I assure you, jrga, is not the least bit offended, pawly. If she were, she’d tell you. And I’m also quite sure she read your comments in their entirety and took you exactly at your words.

      Stopping the conversation at this point serves only to stop the flow of ideas and information.

    • OK, pawly, I am going to go back to calling BS on you. Yes, we are all busy, and often write things here that are not quite what we meant to say, but for your to try to lecture this crowd on your ideas about what a horse’s stomach needs is silly.

      First you write, “full flake of hay”, “lots of treats”, “15 min…consumes the feed”; then you next say “alfalfa flakes are small”. As jrga pointed out, nobody feeds my horse anything that I have not approved.

      I’m sorry that you quit the conversation. I don’t always agree, but these are really knowledgeable horse folks here. Please continue to contribute.

    • ditto to what Mercedes said, I am hard to insult, and have been on the internet a long time, ideas are hard to express, tone of voice, nuances, etc., are lost, we read in things that aren’t there, no point in getting personally offended unless and until someone directs an unmistakeable ad hominen attack.

      I am aware of ulcers, of the extremely high rate of ulcers in performance horses, management issues, etc. But my point of view is very different, ulcers are largely man made by poor management, poor in the sense of so unnatural that horses don’t do well physically or mentally, and to the extent possible, my horses are out 24/7 able to graze and move, and when up, have hay in front of them, and after I ride, mine graze grass, which generally, is better for horses than even alfalfa hay except that it can be high in sugars. But I have also spent years riding/studying, not to become a top performance rider, but to have calm, well adjusted horses that don’t have to live with the stresses that typical show barn management forces on horses, too large grain meals, too little turnout, frequently alone so they don’t get hurt frolicing, no room to move and relax their bodies and minds. Yes, if you have to treat a horse that is kept in these conditions, then you will have to use feeds to address the problems created by the management. And yes, feeding the horse after work and before trailering can address one tiny aspect your students are missing. But it doesn’t go to the root of the problem.

      I assume you speak to your students about stress in performance horses and address issues of management on the macro scale. Some people would change things if they realized how much they were hurting their horses. Those that would rather hurt their horses for a ribbon or seeing their name in a local horse show flyer as high point for the year, well, who wants to associate with those people anyway?

      If on the off chance that you really don’t care that the price for most horses in higher level competition is ulcers because of overall bad management and bad handling and bad riding, because high performance and the show ring is more important than high quality of life, than you may be okay with a few treats and a flake of alfalfa. That doesn’t sound right from what you’ve said, but then we all have to be who we are. I believe a horse can achieve high athletic performance and still be comfortable and well managed to minimize the stressors.

      Quite frankly, in the US, near major metropolitan areas, lack of land, farmers getting out of farming and land lying idle, etc., bad management at stables is more the norm, no grass, no big areas to roam, nothing at all natural about the lifestyle.

      • “I believe a horse can achieve high athletic performance and still be comfortable and well managed to minimize the stressors.”

        That’s not a belief, that’s a fact. I’ve raced horses right out of the field. Meaning, they spent the majority of their time turned out, rather than in stalls. Not only did they race better, they kept their weight better, they maintained their level of performance over longer periods of time, they stayed healthier and didn’t succumb to the ‘yearly flu’ that runs through the race industry, they stayed sounder and suffered significant less injuries – both minor and major etc…

        People (in general) don’t have a clue how to manage horses, least of all performance horses. They do what they’ve been taught and what they see. They don’t ask question, they don’t experiment, they don’t challenge, but mostly they don’t pay attention to their horses.

  13. While chatting with a friend giving a lesson to an advanced beginner, I had the misfortune of seeing another ‘instructor’ working with a student. My friend was up/down back/forth forever changing up the requirements of the lesson and critiquing everything. This student has a straight back, nice line bit to elbow most of the time and she’s learning, smiling and enjoying her riding time. Contrast to instructor number 2, barely saying a word, student riding chair seat, posting a foot out of the saddle, hands traveling with the post, half seat (could have been constipation, hard to decipher) with a collapsed right shoulder, elbows out, no body tension at all – zero core. Instructor didn’t seem to notice any of that, the lack of circles, the shouldering in or the hand gallop in lieu of canter. Totally oblivious.

    What kills me about this is that student #2 doesn’t stand a chance at having a secure seat, ever, or the ability to control and place a horse. Walk trotters in an open show would put this w/t/c rider to shame. It’s sad, really. Another poor rider with hours of ride time thinking she’s doing well. The instructor should be ashamed of herself but she’s not, I’m quite sure. And she’s an adult with plenty of length of tooth to know better.

  14. I’ve never sat/stood still during instruction nor have I had a coach who did. Some of my coaches were downright comical trying to demonstrate something while unmounted-but they were getting their point across!
    I am qualified to teach beginner/intermediate…and sometimes you have to place a kids limb where it belongs to get the kid to feel it (leg too far back, too far forward-just right), or stand at the horses head, take the reins and pretend you are the horse to show them a proper amount of “feel”. With some of the old faithful schoolies you sometimes have to clap a bit, approach their hindquarters and urge them to trot, especially with the kids who are too small to be able to give any kind of leg on a sluggish horse. Heck with the handicapped kids I’d take the bridle and trot around with the horse.
    Yeah it’s a workout lol but that’s the right way to do it IMHO 🙂

  15. My instructor sits during my lessons. She is in her late 60s and has several slipped discs in her back. She can no longer ride, but she has over 40 years of riding and training experience as well as being a USEF show steward for a few decades. I’d be a fool if I let the folding chair she brings into my lesson keep me from her wisdom and guidance. She’s a tough old bird, and she doesn’t pull any punches — her shout of “Wrong! Wrong!” is familiar to all her students, but her delight is obvious when I get things right, and her praise is quick and sincere. When she says “You had a good ride today, I’m proud of you,” at the end of my lesson, I know she means it and it’s the best feeling in the world. And when she says “Today was rough. But you’re getting better and now you know what to work on for next lesson.” I feel encouraged.

    She does forgo the chair for young beginner students, and everyone starts on the lunge line for the first few rides. And of course there are times that she’ll walk up to adjust something or to point at what she means, but for the most part, I’d say she does a completely respectable job of teaching while sitting. I truly feel I couldn’t have a better instructor.

    • Right, and why I included a caveat in that point in the article knowing full well that there are circumstances which might hinder an otherwise good instructor from standing during a lesson.

      I’m not talking about *your* instructor.

      • I know you’re not, Mercedes. I just wanted to make the point that if a student has a few choices, they shouldn’t automatically disqualify an instructor that sits for lessons. Some of them have good reason. Also, I’m proud of my instructor, and maybe I brag a bit. =)

  16. After reading all the comments, I feel like I live in Hickville, USA. The choices for quality instructors is that great where all you live that you can choose with so much criticism? You are fortunate indeed.

    I am one of the backyard child instructors without credentials. However, I have insurance, a clean farm, good lesson horses and man oh man, I have NEVER sat down during a lesson in my life! One of the reasons I like giving lessons is that it is phenomenal exercise!

    Actually I was in search myself of a decent jumping instructor a few years back and realized I would have to drive 60 minutes one way to a lesson for the ONE woman who was half way decent that taught jumping within a radius of 200 miles. After that I started teaching children beginner lessons which I simply LOVE doing. Why? I love kids and I love horses and I love putting them together. So many instructors dislike kids and it shows. I see it at every horse show. Parents want to drop off their kids and pick them up later and not deal with the whole horse “phase”. It’s a fact I have come to accept and have designed my 4H riding program around.

    Another issue you have not discussed here is cell phones. How many of you have a lesson when the instructor is texting or talking on their cell phone?

    • You bring up good points. The thing is just because the pickings are slim, doesn’t mean that one should settle for them. When you settle it sends a clear message to those offering a mediocre service that that mediocrity is acceptable and that allows them to remain in business. IMO, it’s not acceptable and I won’t settle for it. I’ll drive the hour if I have to. I’ll pay the extra money if I have to. Or guess what? I’ll do without or I’ll I do it myself and fill a market need (as it appears you have).

      Ah, yes, the cell phone permanently attached to the hand or ear. Yes, just saw that instructor yesterday. She was likely booking her next lesson, while ignoring the student she already had. This morning I came across another instructor (mid to late 20’s, 100% able bodied) this morning with her butt firmly planted on a mounting block, while her young student struggled to get her horse above a crab crawling walk…the whole time repeating the same instruction over and over and over again with absolutely no results.

  17. I can’t help thinking that there really is just a few fundamental reasons why there’s a problem “over there”:

    1. Lack of any regulation or national standard.

    If you have a situation whereby anyone can just “self proclaim” they’re an Instructor and without any validation whatsoever then you’ll be darned lucky to have good ones!

    2. You are not meant to say what you actually think and believe in America, you are to make simpering and ineffectual statements for the benefit of the feel good factor.

    3. A customer market that is undemanding. If customers are going to put up with unqualified, uninsured, sitting down, on the phone etc etc etc then that’s what they get.

    4. This stupid notion among a huge horse owning/riding population that they don’t actually need a riding instructor at all and because: they can learn with their horse, they’re always too expensive/too far/no good (blah blah blah)

    5. The fact that a HUGE part of the market ONLY makes their decision based on price. The conversation goes…. “do you do riding lessons? How much are they?” end of…..

    Hence there’s a plethora of backyard self-endorsed so-called “instructors” farting about teaching at entry level. Start wrong with one of those and when you eventually happen upon decent training, you’ll spend as long again just undoing all the rubbish you learned when you were taken for a ride.

    I happen to believe that ALL riding instructors should be qualified and have a PROVEN record of riding AND teaching which has been validated by a respected and recognised body that endorses competence. I personally think it’s a huge mistake to have riding instructors that don’t also have evidence of competence with regard to training horses.

    The notion that the lesson “is just for children or novices” so it doesn’t really matter too much, is absolutely illogical and wholly flawed. Much better to consider the background of virtually every top rider everywhere in the world. It’s a rare exception to find anything other than “started off properly and by great instructors and supported by very knowledgeable parents”

    And at this juncture I declare I am indeed a professional, qualified and experienced Riding Instructor.

    • Well don’t you just live in a fantasy world where everyone is regulated up the ass? Maybe we all need a government run written exam before we are allowed horse ownership?

      MOST horse owners I know whether they board or keep their horses on their own farm taught them selves all they need to know and have done a darn good job. Organizations like Pony Club and 4H are hugely successful and cheap in the USA and that is how most children and adults learn in a pleasant, noncompetitive environment. Our horses are happy & healthy and we ride pretty darn well for having had “unqualified” instruction or none at all. And no, we do not all ride Western.

      And if you are good with kids and can make a little giving a few kids some fun beginner lessons, then go for it! What good is a piece of paper saying you are an instructor when you have no personality, hate kids and sit down or listen to your cell phone during a lesson? No one gives a hill of beans about a piece of paper. It’s what you DO and how professional you ACT that counts. YOUR REPUTATION will make or break you. Not everyone who rides well can TEACH and not everyone who teaches well can ride any more. The horse world is small enough and the gossip severe, quick and definite in ending many a bad instructor’s career. That’s called capitalism here and I’ve seen it work and work well.

      Also, I have seen poor riders who have only learned on crappy western saddles pick up winning hunt seat jumping in a few lessons from excellent instructors. They weren’t ruined for life.

  18. Well who stuck a bug up your arse!

    If you’re happy with what you’ve got then just shut the fuck up and stop projecting on me. But you clearly got all offensive and defensive because something hit a nerve.

    If the cap fits then wear it.

    But you do know that you’re kidding yourself and talking out of your backside don’t you. What you’re talking about has NOTHING to do with good instruction OR good riding OR good horsemanship.

    YOU are talking about that low end market with wannabe horse folks. Of course THEY don’t care about things like due diligence, evidencing competence, qualification. THAT all costs money and takes time and effort. Hell they’re happy being taken for a ride!

    I can’t wait to see your examples of top level riders who learned from some backwater, unqualified, self-taught, self-proclaimed child lover with just a crappy western saddles. And please appreciate I didn’t ever suggest or imply I was talking about someone that just went to win some crappy little local hunt-seat jumping competition. Because frankly THAT is not impressive!

    Incidentally in my world you don’t get to pass the qualifications to be a children’s riding instructor unless and until you’ve evidenced you can relate to children and understand their learning styles and can adapt to accommodate that… And you have to be criminal record checked and have training and qualification in child safeguarding.

    And it’s funny but it’s also called capitalism here.

    As it happens in my fantasy world I do think it would be a HUGE step forward if people had to take a basic exam to own a horse.

    • Well said – the internet is awash with people on horses showing off what they (don’t) know. I’ve met many a person who brags “I’ve never had a lesson in my life” and I think to myself “Obviously”. Licensing horse ownership wouldn’t be a bad idea at all, for the sake of horses. Ignorance breeds ignorance and ‘picking up everything you know on your own’ only works if the people you are learning from know the right way. Training fork used with curb bit, hip-bones sticking out (‘he’s really fit’), star-gazing ‘he’s high-headed’ (sore back) and on it goes. You see clusters of people all doing the same stupid thing, learning from each other.
      One of my ‘favorite’ conversations with a guy on a barefoot horse who does his own trimming which he figured out ‘on his own’ (please note I am not against bare-footers – just ignoramuses)…
      “She won’t go forward,”
      “She needs shoes”
      “She’s not lame”
      “ALL FOUR FEET HURT EQUALLY”
      Rather than shoe the horse he strapped on spurs. The horse dumped him (he’d taught himself to ride too)

  19. In Canada we have a fairly rigorous testing system to get certified as an instructor with Equine Canada, the national equine sport organization: a riding test (dressage and jumping) and a written test. There is a big incentive to get certified as it cuts the coast of your instructor’s insurance in half. Equine Canada has just switched from ranking instructors as Level One, Two and Three to a more descriptive ranking: you can look it up on the website. Instructors are listed on the website under the ranking system in place when they certified, unless they have taken the steps to be re-categorized under the new system.
    There isn’t anything preventing an EC Level One instructor from teaching higher level students. To move up the certification ranks the instructor needs among other things to be competing, and to have students who are competing. So a number of good instructors may choose to stay at Level One.
    All the instructors I personally know are Level One, except for a few that have chosen not to bother with the EC certification, in a couple of cases because they have European training and never felt like jumping through the hoops of another qualification process.
    However, even among certified EC Level One instructors, there is huge variation in the quality of instruction and the competency of the instructors’ own riding, and of course in the quality of the horses in different lesson programs. There is also the fact that much riding everywhere is based on false concepts. It is not pretty when a part-time instructor tries to make her advanced beginner students ride like Anky as seen on T.V. 
    I only know a couple of instructors whose students consistently improve over time, and even there, not all the students stick it out. I’d agree with other commenters here that students can be as craptastic as their instructors, and that they tend to find each other. Partly, though, I think that students get so muddled about the basics (things like what it means for a horse to be on the forehand or collected; what it means to be light or heavy in the hand; what a three-best English canter feels like [hint: it doesn’t have 4 beats  ]; what it means to track under versus pony trot; why a horse might be balking or bucking or bolting or rearing or running out of fences; counting strides to a fence) that they can’t make any progress or problem solve on their own. Students become dependent on what the instructor is saying about what is going on in the lesson, and how the instructor is makes them feel. And bad technique makes the hands and the seat worse. So neither student nor horse really improves over time, and the student becomes defensive. Well, so does the horse. Then you need to trade up to a better horse because that one inexplicably became lame or dangerously crazy.
    I should add that most hunter/jumper competitions in my region stop at 2 foot 9; most dressage competitors don’t get past Level Two. We do have some big national/international show jumping tournaments in the summer, but only a few local people compete in those. There isn’t a well-populated intermediate level of competition, and no clear path upwards. There are, however, lots of schooling shows and small breed shows, where adults and kids can pick up ribbons for walk/trot dressage and crosspoles jumping.

    • Been there, done that program. I’ve got nothing much good to say about it, but I did do it a number of years ago and I know they’ve made a lot of changes since. So maybe it’s gotten better?

      • No idea if it is better now than in the past, or if the changes to the levels will affect the overall quality. I think they have actually lowered the entry requirements for the new first level of instructor for beginners. There is more differentiation in the higher levels, but there aren’t that many high level instructors overall. And as other posters here have said, by that point you’d be seeking out a coach based on reputation and accomplishments more than paper credentials. I do find myself wondering how some instructors passed their riding tests at all. The riding test is decentralized, so it is possible different testers have different levels of rigor. So while the presence of EC certification probably imposes some minimum standards on lesson-factory barns, it doesn’t get rid of any of the problems cited in this post with lazy or incompetent teaching, or sitting on the mounting block chatting to the moms while the 10 year old kids try and fail to kick their crippled horses into a jog trot.

        • There are other levels of certification – my coach is an Equine Canada and Horse Council member but also
          ” CHA Coaching Level 4, Standard First Aid and CPR, Equine Canada ‘S’ Senior Course Designer, Equine Canada ‘r’ judge for Hunters and Jumpers and a USEF ‘R’ Hunter/Jumper course designer. ” (taken from her list of credentials.)
          I think that this shows a commitment to doing more than getting one basic level piece of paper to say ‘I am licensed”. And no, she doesn’t spend her time perched on a mounting block of talking on her cell-phone.

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