Finding a Good Coach

This article was featured on in my column, but I feel it’s content is important enough to share it here as well.

Go to for more articles on horsemanship.

You’re on the quest to find a good trainer. Or, maybe you already have a trainer, but are not sure if they are teaching good horsemanship and safety.

Regardless of your riding discipline, age, and ability, your confidence and success and those of your horse depend on a reliable and knowledgeable coach. Here are some aspects of a good trainer that I find important and that I look for when taking lessons.

A Good Trainer should:

-Teach horsemanship basics: day-to-day handling, problem solving, and confidence with horses.

-Teach a balanced seat and focuses on being in balance on a horse

-Focus on safety. Pairs appropriate level of horse to rider

-Provide safe school horses for riders to learn on

-Keep riders from advancing until their basics are solid. For example, teaching walk trot and canter before jumping, etc.

-Teach riders emergency techniques. For example, emergency dismount, how to stop a bolting horse, etc.

-Supervise keenly and always keeps riders in awareness.

-Take an interest in the development of their horses and students; isn’t just killing time to make a buck.

-Allow parents or friends to watch lessons, allows clients to watch training sessions.

-Teach in a way the student can understand, or seeks to find ways to demonstrate.

-Be interested in your horse’s well being and your safety

-Teach your horse to become more safe and dependable over time.

-Teach a rider to be more effective, clear, and to understand their horse better.

** A good trainer doesn’t have to have all the answers or know everything. That just isn’t possible. But an honest teacher will answer the best they can, say they don’t know, or say they will see what they can find out.

** Keep in mind, many trainers are very busy. Talk to your trainer to see if an appointment is required to come watch or ask questions. Be considerate of their time and know that your horse or child is not their only priority. But do expect them to be completely focused when they are riding your horse or teaching your child.

Clients should:

– Watch training sessions or lessons.

– Listen intently in lessons and understand that safety relies on paying attention and carrying out instructions.

– Ask questions, speak up when he doesn’t understand, or speak up when they feel unsafe.

– Spend time reading and learning on his own time

– Take initiative

– Make any health or physical problems crystal clear, so their instructor can keep them safe.

– Communicate wants, needs, and goals clearly

– Take part in horse’s life and development. Come to farrier and vet appointments as possible.

– Stay in decent shape so they can follow trainer’s directives and stay safe on a horse. Read more about Rider Weight.

Some additional notes:

Some trainers are not teachers. Some teachers are not riders. And some trainers are not good communicators. None of this means they are bad at what they do. But if you are not getting what you need out of their work, you may need to have a conversation and be clear about what you need. Take your time and do your research to find the professional that fits your needs the best.

It is up to the client to be sure they are getting what they are paying for. If you feel you are not getting any of these things, it doesn’t mean you have to bail immediately or that your teacher is not doing a good job. But consider sharing your thoughts or asking more questions.

Red Flags & Warning Signs that It May Be Time to Move On:

– Your trainer is dishonest to you, or to other clients.

– Your instructor refuses to allow you to watch training sessions or lessons.

– After several clear conversations, your needs are not being met.

– You are being repeatedly put in unsafe situations without adequate instruction or help.

– Your trainer continually gossips or bad mouths other clients or their horses (They probably do this about you as well. It’s not professional.)

-Your instructor talks on cell phone during lessons or rides.

By keeping these key points in mind when choosing a professional, you’ll help ensure your safety, your horse’s well being, and will help make riding what it should be: an educational and enjoyable endeavor.

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