Are you a good student?
I teach lessons for two reasons one is as you can guess to earn money so I can afford to buy things, the second reason is because I love watching students progress. Every time a student gets what we are working on I get this happy buzz of excitement in my brain. It doesn’t matter if we where working on something basic or complex the enjoyment I get is the same.
After a good lesson I feel elated, the student is happy, the horse feels good and life is pretty great.
I have had multiple people try to apologize for their riding level, the amount of time they can dedicate to riding, physical limitations, even that their horse is “just a _______”. I absolutely hate that anyone would think they are somehow lesser.
None of those things make a good or bad student, also all of those things (other then time constraints) I knew within the first lesson.
First about your horse, your partner and hopefully your friend. I love watching them learn to use their bodies, they feel good when they move well. Many start to know me and seem happy to see me which is the greatest complement a horse can give me. The change in muscling and a soft swinging back tells how hard we have worked and fills me with pride. Of course I like a horse who has great gaits- who doesn’t- but day to day their personalities are the most important factor for my students.
Now onto the human side of things, the youngest student I’ve taught has been three years old, my oldest have been well into their 60’s (although I don’t ask ages and I’m really terrible at judging). My teaching style is that I want my students to understand not just what to do but why, which means learning theory. Because of this I don’t teach kids very often, I’m very thankful for people who love teaching the littles. My brain just doesn’t seem well suited to them and I actually feel exhausted afterwards. Now teenagers and adults I love teaching, ask me any question, ask me to explain a concept in another way, ask me to demonstrate I am happy to do so. That is a massive part of being a great student in my book, asking questions and communicating honestly.
Every instructor I know when we talk about our students the ones we get excited by are the ones who are trying their heart out. They may be just learning to post or they may be digging deep to get over that XC jump that scares them the thing is they are trying!
One of my most dedicated students had physical limitations due to a stroke that would of stopped many people from riding, as if that wasn’t enough she took her first lesson after she had turned 60 years old! She did not grow up with horses simply watched her daughter ride for years as a supportive parent. When daughter went to college she took over her horse. Every lesson she came with a wonderful attitude having watched videos, read books, asked questions and she understands theory far beyond her current skill level. Every time I asked her to push her comfort zone a bit I would see a flash of “don’t want to” across her face and then she would say “I will try”, those three words always fill me with admiration because of how brave they are.
I encourage students to show because that gives concrete timelines to goals, plus I like the judge confirming what we are working on. But showing doesn’t make a good student.
Tack fitting horse and human well, and is in good safe condition is very important, working against your saddle is frustrating. Having a saddle that hurts your horse is even worse, but the brand, color, bling or no bling, doesn’t make a good student
Riding and driving does require physical fitness for all participants. Acknowledging that and understanding when I ask for a exercise to increase fitness to be done as homework it is because I am looking forward to the next step. There is nothing negative intended or implied, quite the opposite.
Time constraints, money constraints, horse not being 100% sound, family and work commitments, fear of getting hurt, even physical limitations due to acute or chronic conditions all come into play with horses. I teach people who have day jobs, who have family, who are not importing their next young FEI prospect next week. I am very happy with that I love working with people who want to be the best they can be for their personal goals and for their horse. I understand when I ask “what have you been doing since last lesson?” And hear “I trail rode once because I just needed a break” I change lesson plans when I hear “it’s been a hard week I need to have some fun” I understand I’ve been there too
What makes a great student is trying to give everything you can each lesson, asking questions and listening to the answers and communication so I know what you are thinking. If you can do that 75% of the time you are a excellent student