Finding the right riding coach is important if you wish to advance your riding, regardless of discipline and whether you compete or not. Riders now have access to so many more coaches via virtual lessons, we are no longer restricted to those in our immediate area. It’s important for both you and your horse’s development to find a coach that supports you and can help you achieve your riding and training goals, but it isn’t always easy to find the right “fit”. Here are a few considerations that may help you in selecting a coach.
Depending on your current riding level, it may not necessarily be important to find a coach that competes in the same discipline that interests you. Beginner riders would do well to find a coach that can establish good fundamentals in general riding and horsemanship before being concerned about specific discipline. More advanced riders may consider several coaches with specialized skill sets. Staying open minded to learning from coaches of other disciplines will also benefit you, and you may very well find that many good coaches have similar principles.
Teaching is certainly a skill, just because someone may be a good rider does not necessarily mean they can teach, and conversely someone with an excellent eye for detail may not be a champion rider. Don’t discount a coach just because they may not be out competing themselves. If the coach does ride, take the opportunity to watch them. Does their riding match their philosophy? Do they inspire you when you watch them?
Try to watch the coach give a lesson and take note of current students. Are these riders successful? Are they advancing with their horses or are they simply continuing to ride at the same level year in and year out? Does the rider appear to be enjoying the lesson? How does the coach interact with them? Observation can tell you a great deal.
How does the coach speak to their students? Do they use language you understand? Are they able to adjust their language or do they simply use the same words and get louder and louder in the hope the rider figures it out, it happens! Do you like the way the coach speaks to the student during a lesson? Are they open to being asked questions, so the rider truly understand the “why’s” as much as the “how’s”. What is the general feeling at the facility where you might lesson? It’s important to trust your gut!
What is the trainer’s philosophy and do you identify with it. Does their riding and coaching style support their philosophy? A good coach will want their students to be able to apply the principles they learn whilst riding on their own. Be wary of the coach that gets offended by students taking lessons from other coaches – no one knows everything. A good coach will want their students to advance. If that means the student outgrows that coach, they should be pleased to know they have played a significant role in the development of a successful rider.
Not every coach will suit every rider, no one should be upset by this, it’s just the way it is. It is important to have a good relationship with your coach, they are a major part of you riding support “team”!
Jenni Fugate is a team member of The Equine Expert LLC, a multi-discipline equine expert witness and consulting firm offering legal expert witness and consulting services in court cases, legal matters, appraisals, and business affairs. Jenni is an expert in Arabians, Teaching, Dressage and Biomechanics. She is a native of Australia and has been working with horses since she was a child, she studied at Melbourne University and graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Equine). She now lives in Utah on her farm where she trains and teaches. For more information on Jenni visit www.theequineexpert.com or you may contact Jenni at Jenni@theequineexpert.com. The opinions expressed are those of Jenni as an expert equestrian.