Everyone has been taught by instructors and trainers that they really rate and also had lessons and tuition from people who haven’t helped them at all. If you are thinking about training as a riding instructor or are looking for an instructor or trainer, what kind of qualities should you be looking for?
Patience – riding is all about repetition and about getting things wrong so an instructor needs to be endlessly patient. Some people find that they can be very patient when they teach even though they may be impatient in other areas of their life
Experience – experience and competition record are a big attraction for many pupils but just because someone has ridden at a top level doesn’t mean they can convey the message to their pupils. The best type of experience to look for is a trainer who has a good bank of regular pupils who come back time and again
Communication skills – it doesn’t matter how much knowledge an instructor has or how good a rider they are, they need to be able to teach what’s in front of them and convey a relevant message clearly to their pupil. It’s not just about passing on information but being able to structure the message in a way that is appropriate, systematic and accessible
Availability – not the first quality that might spring to mind but having someone there when you need them can be very important. Many high level competition riders will teach out of their competitive season to supplement their income but you may find that they are not available for several months of the year because they are busy with their own horses
Most people go word of mouth when they are looking for a teacher or they use instructors who come to their yard or people they have come across in riding club or pony club.
Some instructors develop a cult-like following but works for one person may not work for another; riding the right trainer is a uniquely personal thing.
An instructor needs to be able to work with you to fulfil your aims and ambitions whether they are modest or ambitious; good instructors can teach any level because they teach what’s in front of them.
Some instructors will get on and have a feel or demonstrate something, others prefer not to. Some people think that if the instructor is not prepared to get on and show them how it is done then they are not really worth their salt, other people don’t want anyone else riding their horse – it really is a matter of personal preference.
There are two main routes with exam systems and training offered by the British Horse Society (BHS) and the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS). You don’t have to work in a riding school but many instructors found it a good place to start building experience and it can be hard to get work as a new instructor freelance if you don’t have an established track record, easier if you are competition rider with a string of successful results.
The sporting disciplines, British Dressage (BD), British Eventing (BE) and British Show jumping (BS) all offer their own coaching schemes but these tend to be aimed at rider members who are competing at a particular level.
You don’t have to be qualified to teach but what you must have is freelance insurance cover if you are teaching outside the auspices of a riding school or the pony club otherwise if someone has an accident, you could be held liable for injury without any financial protection. Some competition riders teach to supplement their income and have a large following pupils based purely on their competition record and experience. Freelance insurance cover is available to all.
Some instructors will specialise in a sporting discipline – perhaps this is something they do with their own horses and their competition involvement feeds into their teaching – or they might specialise in novice or nervous riders or children.
It can be helpful to join the coaching scheme for the equestrian sport that you want to specialise in.
Teaching horse care can be an important part of being a riding instructor and many freelance teachers run courses on the ground that deal with all aspects of stable management. This can be particularly lucrative for freelancers and popular with riders and students training for exams or horse owners who just want to improve their equestrian knowledge.
Producing online theory courses which students can use for home study is another option and YouTube tutorials for practical tasks like plaiting and clipping can really increase an instructor’s portfolio of work.
If you are an aspiring instructor then it can be difficult to get enough teaching practice. Teaching in the riding school is one thing but teaching riders on their own horses is quite another.
Starting in a riding school is a good way to build up experience and usually opens doors to people with their own horses – the riding school may have a livery yard attached or parents with their own horses at home may bring their children for lessons. Most instructors get work by word of mouth so there is something of a snowball effect; if you are a good teacher then you will never be short of clients.
The Riding for the Disabled have their own coaching scheme to deal with the unique needs of people with mental and physical impairments, this also includes carriage driving. You can find out more on their website. If you don’t want to teach the riders and drivers then you can still get involved as a volunteer and many people are inspired to take up teaching via this route.