(For reasons of safety and education, Equestrian Outreach supports classic riding [Dressage] principles as the basis of any beginning instruction and or training program.)
Student Instruction (Riding Lessons) Overview
Much has been said about the marvelous relationship between humans and horses. A topic of controversy and one less discussed is the inter-discipline enmity which exists in the equestrian community. Each equestrian discipline and riding style seems to project a feeling that it is foremost, this attitude is embraced; often at the exclusion of all others. No doubt a certain amount of rivalry is inevitable and even healthy; except when it comes to student instruction. Potential equestrian students are overwhelmed in a blur of lobbying from contrasting equestrian groups each with appealing rationales. The level of confusion caused is both understandable and dangerous. The primary focus of this web site is to provide an objective source of fundamental equestrian related information with an emphasis on safety for both equestrian students and the horses they love. The point of this focus is to provide clear, concise and objective information. Objective information being a critical educational element in making safe and practical equestrian lifestyle choices. (See Sympathetic or Natural Methods v Unnatural Methods” Below)
Student Instruction – Starting Off: As a potential equestrian student or the parent of one there are some questions which should be asked and answered to begin your educational process:
What is the difference between a riding instructor and a trainer? Instructors train people and Trainers train horses. Note - It is very important to make sure that your instructor is qualified and do not assume that if someone is a qualified trainer that they are also a qualified instructor.
Should I Take Riding Lessons? In spite of our love for horses and the apparent love they return, every year people are injured, crippled and sometimes die as a result of equine related accidents. A qualified riding instructor will able to teach you how to safely interact and communicate with horses. (See additional information below)
What is a riding discipline and riding style? A riding discipline is a specific riding form. Arguably there are two distinct riding disciplines English and Western. Within these two riding disciplines are “Riding Styles”; such as classic riding (Dressage) in the English Riding Discipline and its counterpart in the Western Riding Discipline; Reining.
(Click here for additional information about riding disciplines and riding styles)
If I do take lessons which riding discipline is best for me? On this point most equestrians seem to agree. Regardless of the riding discipline and style you choose, classic riding (Dressage) is the original and best equestrian instructional system and should be the proper foundation instruction for of all equestrians regardless of the riding disciplines and styles.
Sympathetic or Natural Methods Classic (classic riding (Dressage)) vs Unnatural Methods
Classic riding instruction often referred to as classic riding (Dressage) was developed over 2,000 years ago as a result of the study of equine behaviors; those of horses in general and those behaviors’ between horses. classic riding (Dressage) uses the tools (aids) learned from those early observations to teach humans how to interact and communicate with horses using modified behaviors referred to as aids or riding aids. An example of the use of ‘aids’; is the rider’s use of leg pressure which elicits a natural or innate response to a request that the horse perform a specific task. Prior to this humans (and even to this day) used methods, some bordering on barbarism to modify the horses natural behavior. Often referred to as “quick fixes” (unlike classic riding (Dressage) which employs methods that are natural to the horse) these methods in effect force the will and needs of humans in an unnatural way. These unnatural methods create behaviors that benefit the human to the detriment of the horse. Today there are many instructors and trainers who promote practices which incorporate words like “natural and centered riding” among others. The simple fact is that the effective parts of these practices are simply traditional classic riding (Dressage) methods with another name. A simple, practical and widely accepted rule of fact in the equestrian community is that there is no single system which is more effective with the interrelationship between humans and horses than classic riding (Dressage) and classic riding (Dressage) should be the foundation training for all disciplines and styles. (Click here for more information about classic riding (Dressage))
Do I need a qualified riding instructor? The simple answer is yes. Currently there are no regulatory requirements to protect the equestrian community. Although there many capable student riding instructors, there is no way short of “word of mouth” to protect equestrians from the equally large number who are not qualified. Until we are able to develop protective regulation you must be careful in your choices.
Where can I find a qualified riding instructor? Research, knowledge and patience are your allies. Visiting web sites, attending local shows and watching instructors interact with students. Noting how well the students do in competition. Interviewing instructors at shows (when they are not busy). Talking to fellow equestrians all add to you knowledge about suitable riding instructors. (Click here for a list of Trainers, Riding Instructors and Riding Facilities)
What equipment should I bring to my riding lesson? What the correct type of riding equipment is, as with other elements of equestrianism vary between disciplines as do the opinions about the need for equipment. Since the function of this basic equipment is to protect the student, it our recommendation to a potential equestrian student to be wary of riding instructors who do not require at least this fundamental type of equipment. The accepted basic equipment needed is as follows:
If I take basic classic riding (Dressage) instruction what will I learn? While schooling or training is the physical and mental education of the horse; the purpose of student instruction is to educate the rider on how to safely and effectively communicate with the horse. Properly administered, student instruction promotes a safe and productive interaction between horse and rider through knowledge, observation, ever increasing skill and athleticism and effective communication through the use of aids. Details as follows:
Levels of Student Instruction
There are three classifications of control to describe the educational stages of a classic rider's education, they are:
Elementary Level: The elementary level involves teaching the student a basic understanding of equine basics such as anatomy, communication signals, on the ground (ground work) as well as while backed (on the horse).
Elementary level ground work objectives:
Elementary level backed (while on the horse) work objectives (Usually while on a lead line): Emphasis is placed on teaching fundamental control skills. The rider's goal is to ride on loose or semi-loose reins, teaching the horse to respond to the elementary control techniques described below.
This level will promote the stabilization of the student this is referred to as “developing a good leg and seat” and requires balance and an understanding of posture, leg and foot placement (sounds simple but is a vital equestrian skill) moving the horse forward, while remaining balanced even while changing the horses gait. Doing all of these things while remaining mentally and physically relaxed. The elementary level is used by beginning riders while developing their positions and by intermediate and advanced riders when schooling or re-training horses. The elementary control techniques are characterized by:
Intermediate Level: Having worked through the "stabilization" process, the rider is mentally and physically ready to sharpen their skills at engaging the horse to modify its performance.
The horse’s performance is encouraged by the rider's ability to create impulse and connect the horse's movement through use of contact. Emphasis is placed on a cooperative effort between horse and rider. At this level, the student ability to understand and employ the use of aids in increased. The intermediate control techniques are characterized by:
Advanced Level: The primary emphasis at this level is to achieve the highest quality performance from horse and rider. The advanced rider's goal is to assess the horse's mental and physical capabilities and to develop appropriate schooling techniques that will strengthen performance. At this stage of schooling, the rider allows the horse to become confident in his work, athletic, and willing to perform to the best of its ability. This level is characterized by: