The first time I teach a student, I like to talk with them to understand their background and past experiences. In the US, anybody anywhere can hang a sign on their door and say that they are an instructor. Because of this, many people have been taught in many different ways. So I like to know where my new student is coming from.
Then I like to watch them warm up their horse for a few minutes. This gives me a quick overview of both the student and horse and gives me a starting point for the lesson. I always take into consideration that the pair is at a new facility and the nerve-wracking experience of riding in front of someone new.
From there I like to talk with the student about how their warm up went, what they are feeling, what their horse if feeling, his mood and attitude that day, and so on. I like to TALK. I keep in mind when I’m teaching that sometimes I need to explain an issue or topic in several different ways in order for the student to fully understand my point. I am constantly looking for feedback; not the kind where the student just repeats back what they have been told, but where they put what I have said into their own words. By doing so, this ensures that they know how, why, when, etc., we do something.
By talking with the rider about their experience, expectations, and goals, I can better assess both the horse and rider as individuals. I can also assess them as a team: their ability to communicate, to respond to one another, as well as each of their physical abilities and limits, their age, and experience.
I love questions; they show me the student is interested in looking to “eat up” all that they can about the subject. They also show me the student is THINKING, which is one of the most difficult things I find for a student to do. So many people today tend to want to do everything “perfect” or to please their trainer, that although they hang on ever word a trainer has said, they are unable to deal with an unexpected “situation” without the trainer’s help. I WANT my students to be able to assess a situation, and then understand how to fix it and move forward, without the “incident” destroying the entire ride.
Many people ask how I can teach both children and adults, as they are VERY different in their learning styles. Most trainers I know prefer to teach one group or the other. I love the challenge of teaching both. Kids tend to want to know how to do something right now, to fix the problem immediately, which is good, but does not allow them to understand how every aid we use is connected. Adults on the other hand, tend to love theory, they want to know why, why, why, but then find it very difficult to “put it all together.” So the challenge for me as the instructor, is to keep both kids and adults “happy” with the information I am giving them, but to also get them to put all their thoughts and questions on hold, while they listen to me explain the “whole” picture.
The only way for this to work, which is true in any sort of relationship, is for there to be TRUST. If a student does not trust their trainer, they are wasting their time, money and effort. I want every ride, no matter how: mentally or physically challenging, difficult for the rider and/or horse, to be a positive learning experience. I want horse and rider to come away happy. I know some days we all have good and bad days. I am human too. My goal for every student is to take them as far as they would like to achieve.