Advice about lesson barns - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 21 Old 11-20-2017, 09:38 AM
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@paintedpastures , the Rider levels in Canada also cover Western disciplines. And while I'm not trying to say that a good coach needs to be certified, I can attest to the fact that we went through a total of 6 coaches before we found one that actually helped my daughter improve her riding. And along the way, I can tell you we met some real loonies. Some that didn't care about my daughter's progress because she wasn't showing and kept cancelling lessons or not having any horses for my daughter to ride that day, some that had (ahem) "unconventional" ideas about riding and horsemanship, and some that pushed my daughter too hard, or just told her everything was great and she had nothing to improve upon (um, yeah no). At least when a coach is certified, there is a standard applied.

And I hear you about struggling to find someone local. My daughter's coach is an hour away. We do weekly lessons, and in the summer, we bring our own horse (I have to rent a trailer, and it's an all-day thing) so she can get ready for shows. I also ride, but don't show, and this coach is perfectly fine with that. She gives me just as much attention as she does to her students who win ribbons at the Royal. Everyone gets the same treatment from her, no matter what their rider goals may be. I'm not interested in doing rider levels, but I encourage my daughter to do them because a) they're a great motivator for kids (they get a badge and a certificate), b) she started very young so may become a coach herself some day and might as well work her way through the certification program, and c) we have our own horses, but she doesn't want to learn barn management from her mother - sometimes, kids are far keener to learn from someone they admire than a nagging mom. With the rider levels, I know she is getting a well-rounded training program.

@mgarzon , yes, you have to be certified to do the testing. It's unfortunate that your daughter can't be tested by her current coach. Is there the option of a certified coach coming in to do the testing? My daughter's coach is the only one in our general area who can do it, and travels to other barns to do the testing on other students. She has completed all the English and Western levels, and has successfully competed herself at the national level, as well as training other competitive riders. We're very lucky to have her!

I will add that sometimes when she's overbooked, my daughter's coach will ask one of her advanced adult students to take over the lesson for her. My daughter was coached by this person a couple of times and while she doesn't have the breadth of knowledge our certified coach has, she does have new ideas. My daughter was very happy that she has picked up new strategies from this younger coach. Sometimes even the best can run out of ideas when dealing with a challenging horse. However, this younger coach also takes more risks, and my daughter has fallen off more often with her than she ever did with our regular coach. Nothing serious, thankfully, and my daughter is advanced enough to handle it now, but I would not have liked it if she was a beginner. Then again, they wouldn't have put her on this specific horse if she had been a beginner I guess. My point is that switching it up can be a good thing too, as long as you are maintaining some kind of standard and that the coaches aren't working against each other.
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post #12 of 21 Old 11-20-2017, 09:53 AM
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I'm not sure exactly what your certification in Canada covers; but I know of a couple of "riding instructors" that have some sort of certification and it is a joke. They take some sort of online course then take a test and then they are certified. I don't know exactly what they are certified to do though, because the two I know of rarely ride and never above a trot.

Here most people ride their own horses unless very beginning riders who go to a general lesson barn. A lot of home schooled kids seem to show up at those places because they can be there during the day.

Of course it may be different in highly populated areas, but we are very rural.

We do have Pony Club for kids and some places have 4H groups for horse education. Both of those organizations teach the kiddos how to feed and take care of horses too. I don't know that the instructors have any sort of certification though. Don't remember that being mentioned while my kids were in pony club, but they might have.

There is also the PATH certification, don't really know much about that. A friend of mine who was a BM for a hippotherapy program had to have her PATH certification, but not sure what all is involved with that.

Maybe that is why people watch the equine gurus on TV and buy their DVDs on horse training...
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post #13 of 21 Old 11-20-2017, 03:21 PM
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I think people need to try out a few barns and see what they think and figure out what they want from a barn.

When my daughter started I knew nothing about riding really other than english vs western. We wanted some place safe and convenient but besides that wanted a place my daughter could really interact with the horses, not just show up, be put on a horse, ride around a ring and then its over. I also prefer a more casual setting. Luckily the first barn we tried fit all those things. Also, I prefer private or semi private lessons instead of large group lessons which is probably what has made a difference in my daughter learning as much as she has. It is not a show barn and we are okay with that (for now at least), but obviously not for everyone. We have a friend who says they wish their daughter had started at our barn so their daughter wouldnt show since its so time and money consuming. as parents they have no interest in it.
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post #14 of 21 Old 11-20-2017, 04:03 PM
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This thread makes me giggle. We have ONE lesson barn within a 4-hour drive. One. It's 120 miles away and they have Saddleseat horses. Your next option is a 4-hour drive to an English barn.

One barn about 30 minutes away does reining/cow horse lessons, but you'd better be able to ride first and bring your own horse. They expect everyone coming to be able to handle, tack up, and ride at the walk, trot, lope, and gallop on a loose rein before they'll work with you.
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post #15 of 21 Old 11-21-2017, 08:50 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SilverMaple View Post
This thread makes me giggle. We have ONE lesson barn within a 4-hour drive. One. It's 120 miles away and they have Saddleseat horses. Your next option is a 4-hour drive to an English barn.

One barn about 30 minutes away does reining/cow horse lessons, but you'd better be able to ride first and bring your own horse. They expect everyone coming to be able to handle, tack up, and ride at the walk, trot, lope, and gallop on a loose rein before they'll work with you.
Wow SilverMaple, it sounds like your description of your location as "middle of nowhere" is spot on! That must so tough, in some ways. But the writer in me thinks it sounds very peaceful :)

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it. Goethe
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post #16 of 21 Old 11-21-2017, 08:57 AM Thread Starter
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@Arcadian artist I have to say, your coach sounds pretty amazing! I like your idea of getting an outside coach in to test my daughter for rider levels. I only worry about competitiveness between the coaches. That's the reason we've stuck to one barn for the past several years; there are a LOT of coaches in our area (the exact opposite of Silvermaple's situation) and they often don't play nice with each other. They're not keen at all on having a student go for occasional lessons elsewhere, for instance, which I've wanted to do. Clinics are an exception. But I'm going to look into having someone come do it.

This thread is super interesting, it's made me appreciate all the different situations people find themselves in re: coaching.

Oh, and @AnitaAnne , certification in Canada is a months-long course (for experienced horse people) and two days of testing. It covers everything from stable management to lesson planning to first aid (you have to be first aid certified). It's definitely not something you could do online :)
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Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it. Goethe
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post #17 of 21 Old 11-21-2017, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by mgarzon View Post
Wow SilverMaple, it sounds like your description of your location as "middle of nowhere" is spot on! That must so tough, in some ways. But the writer in me thinks it sounds very peaceful :)

We're smack bang in the middle of big-ag corn and soybeans farm country. Horses are an afterthought here. People are still of the 'if you want something do it yourself' mindset. If you want to learn to ride, you buy a horse and get on and learn by doing or you ask an experienced friend to help you learn. There are a couple of teens who think they teach riding lessons, but they basically stick you on a deadhead old horse with tack that doesn't fit and you walk circles in a round pen. Fine for the first-time rider who is six years old; not fine for anyone who actually wants to learn properly. Most kids do their learning through just riding, or watching online/dvds or through 4-H programs where there are occasionally instructors who know enough to do some teaching. But again, luck of the draw with whatever county you are in. Most people who board find a friend or acquaintance with pasture space and work up an informal agreement and put a horse there. There are very few dedicated boarding barns-- the few that are available are people who found a way to pay for their barn and arena by taking in a couple of boarders to help make ends meet or qualify for the loan since it's then a 'business'. No harm in that, and some are decent places, but if one tries to look for a full-board and lesson barn with dedicated facilities and an instructor, people will look at you like you grew three heads.
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post #18 of 21 Old 11-21-2017, 02:27 PM Thread Starter
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@SilverMaple - hopefully good for trail riding at least? That's an issue where we live, everything's getting so developed that our miles of riding trails are disappearing. It's very sad.

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it. Goethe
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post #19 of 21 Old 11-21-2017, 03:12 PM
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I'm on my fifth (well, fifth & sixth because I am being taught by a husband & wife team now) riding instructor. This is over the course of almost...14, 15 years maybe? I forget but a long time haha. My first riding instructor was not certified and had no real history of riding with any professionals, etc. She had just grown up with horses, her father and mother had taught lessons, etc. She was an older woman and had given lessons for most of her life. She was a good instructor but had ZERO people skills so she came across as very harsh. I have also learned down the road that some of what she taught was very incorrect in relation to what is comfortable for the horse. But she offered great variety in her lessons and I got to do a lot with her.

My second instructor I was with for only a short time because she was horrible. She ran a show barn and had very little regard for her students or her lesson horses. She only offered huge group lessons (we're talking 10-12 horses, all a mix of beginner-advanced) with just her watching so nobody got any one-on-one time with their skills. At least one person got bucked off (my mom included when she did lessons) each lesson due to the chaos and because it took so long for everyone to go through the exercises what was supposed to be an hour long lesson was really only about 10-15 minutes of actual lesson and the rest of the time you were just sitting around or walking as you waited for everyone else to complete the exercise. It was horrible, and supposedly this woman is a top ranking name in the Arabian show circuit and people pay thousands for her to train them and their horses (the only way to get a private lesson from her!).

My third instructor was a Centered Riding instructor who also graduated from Meredith Manor and rode and trained under several Olympic-level riders and regularly rode and worked with racehorses at our local racetrack. She was a GREAT instructor with GREAT people skills but unfortunately let her personal life crumble around her and it overflowed into the barn and her care of horses so after five years with her I had to move my horse due to safety concerns. But I do still think she was a great instructor and I learned a lot from her.

My fourth instructor also rode with several Olympic-level riders as well as worked with some high end horse trainers. After some things that happened at our last barn, my horse had developed some training issues and this instructor was able to help him overcome them quite easily. However, I felt that she was lacking as a riding instructor and was better suited as a horse trainer. I did learn a bit with her, but in the year or so I was with her I just didn't feel like I learned anything from her in relation to riding (although I did learn a bit in regard to horse training).

My current instructors are a husband and wife team, both from different backgrounds. The husband is a lifelong Endurance competitor who has competed all over the world. The wife is a former Dressage and Hunter Jumper rider who has ridden in some very fancy schmancy barns across the United States but gave all that up after she got tired of the drama that goes with it and now she, too, rides Endurance. Both have ridden and trained with some world class trainers and riders but neither have any sort of certification, etc. I have gotten some of the best education EVER from these two. And I found them smack dab in the middle of nowhere, randomly browsing a local Facebook group for our county. It's an hour drive to get to them (and no cell service where they're at, so literally in the middle of nowhere) but I have learned more from them in the month I have been riding with them than from all of the previous instructors I have ever had combined. I ride and learn on their Endurance horses, not your typical lesson horses. They do have two other students as well, and we all get private lessons, roughly 2-3 hours long, with both people present giving us instruction and able to see us from all angles to point out any parts we need to adjust or to praise what we are doing correctly. I have never had such fun in the saddle before!

So to summarize, in my experience, I think sometimes it is pure luck in how you find the "perfect" lesson barn and instructor(s). Their experience, certification, training style, etc. can vary greatly from person to person, and what works for your best friend may not work for you depending on your learning style. So I think it takes a lot of trial and error and testing out different instructors (and not just looking for instructors at lesson barns, but seeking out riders who may be interested in mentoring you) to find an instructor that you really mesh with. I think riders also need to understand that, eventually, they may need to "upgrade" instructors when they've outgrown their current instructor and need to move up to someone who can challenge them more with their riding, especially if they want to move up in competition. And of course, that horseback riding should be fun first and foremost and if you aren't having fun in your lessons then something is wrong!
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post #20 of 21 Old 11-21-2017, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by mgarzon View Post
@SilverMaple - hopefully good for trail riding at least? That's an issue where we live, everything's getting so developed that our miles of riding trails are disappearing. It's very sad.
Nope. Not unless you want to ride on the roads or can wait until harvest to ride in the fields on the three nice days between when the crops come out and it freezes everything solid! Every square inch is farm ground and it's flat, flat, flat. There are some hilly areas with trees and woods and rivers, but not near enough to ride in frequently. I really can't wait to move.
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