What Kind of Education do You Look For? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 12:54 AM Thread Starter
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Hi all,

I've mentioned here before that my 10-year goal is to be teaching lessons, with an ultimate goal to operate my own boarding and lesson facility. I have many ideas for different programs I would like to construct for the patrons of my barn, from various clinic types, a show team, and practical horsemanship to horse training theory put into practice. Just, in general, a very educational and supportive place.

I, obviously, have a *lot* to learn. I haven't been riding since 2 years of age, am nowhere near qualified to teach a riding lesson, and, in my teen years, was removed from all confidence thanks to an instructor I had. Hence a 10 year goal.

With this being said, I have an idea that I might want to pursue further education beyond horses. But, where to go is the question.

I'm considering a split between psychology - not only good for understanding people, but basic thought processes and training techniques as well. Or, teaching. Obviously, I wouldn't be pursuing a teaching degree for the expected use. But, given that riding lessons are another form of education (and the types of clinics and classes I'd like to hold), I was wondering if that kind of background wouldn't be beneficial? Also considering a business degree.

There is also the fact that horse riding is a physical sport, and, in theory, instructors could be considered "personal trainers." So was thinking about building up a knowledge base of how to teach physical education, getting CPR training, and various related skills. The muscles you need to ride with can be built out of the saddle, and after sustaining an injury from riding that could have been prevented with proper warm up, I believe this is very important to acknowledge!

In terms of the horsey education, I am looking into lessons in my area and intend to find someone who also trains horses to study under.

My question to you all is, when looking for instructors, do you also look for formal education? Or would you rather hope for a good teacher and prefer the longer period of time spent in saddle?

Last edited by CountingCrew; 07-10-2020 at 01:01 AM.
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post #2 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 05:27 AM
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It would depend on what kind of clients you would be hoping to get I think.

As a beginner rider with no competition goals I wasnt looking for anyone with formal education. When I wanted to start taking lessons as an adult after a long break I just wanted an understanding teacher, who wouldnt mind my slow progress and understood that I was there to have fun, not to stress myself with more and more work.

If I wanted to be seriously competetive then I think that formal education of my instructor would be important to me ( along with their own competition success and success of their students).

But it may also depend on the area where you live / want to work in. My area is full of kids that will ride horses for a few years and then they grow up and leave horses behind. So the formal education isnt as important here.
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post #3 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 08:00 AM
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I highly recommend staying away from getting a teaching degree unless you also have any interest at all in classroom teaching. Assuming you are in the US, all BA programs require pretty full-time student teaching at a school. And, if you ever needed to fall back on that degree, the education system is an absolute mess right now. My husband just blissfully escaped after teaching for 10 years (it was his passion - he loves helping students learn) after being burned constantly by administrators that have never been in front of a classroom. EXTREMELY overworked and underpaid. This just isn't a road to go down lightly...

Psychology could be interesting! Again, if you're interested in the subject matter. And I know some people might say Business. I myself cannot imagine going through all of those dull classes (I took one as an elective), but it's a "practical" degree. Business with different concentrations could also be more interesting - like small business ownership?

Thinking a little bit outside of the box - Communications was one of my majors. It's kind of a cross between English/Marketing/Journalism and something like that could help form a foundation of skills to market and organize a business. (A lot of that requires creative thinking and good communication skills!)

I think your PhysEd idea would be better filled by one-off classes or certificate programs than a whole degree.

And I agree that I'm not sure that you actually need a degree - just to be extremely comfortable with horse management, training (or plan to have a very good on-site trainer you pay), and good people skills. But if you want one to either fall back on or just to do some learning, those are my thoughts.
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post #4 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 09:54 AM
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How about physical therapy? There are always jobs in the medical field. Business degrees are also helpful.

You won't make a lot of money as a riding instructor or horse trainer unless you've built up a rep. (Or come up with some kind of gimmick like half the empty-hat horse gurus out there). And there's tons of serious competition by folks who've lived and breathed horses all their lives.

Look at the fields that have high employment. You need to make a living. And if you plan to have your own training facility, you'll need capital.

As far as what kind of education I'd look for in a trainer: experience.
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post #5 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 10:26 AM
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Look for a degree that will allow you to work full time doing something else. Not horses. If you want to teach competitive riding, you'll need a competitive track record. Which suggests an independent income would help. If you just want to teach general riding...how you deal with horses and clients as you SLOWLY get some will be far more important than a degree. Which means an independent income will help because it is very hard for an instructor like that to make much $$$.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #6 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 11:59 AM
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I think it's great that you're considering all of these options. I would have thought that teaching would be a good idea, but not so much after @IRideaHippogriff 's post.

I like PT. First of all, it's a degree where you could actually get a job and make decent money. Second, we horse people are always complaining that medical professionals don't "get it" when it comes to horse riding. Seems that a lot of them are just like "well stop riding if you're getting sore." I'm sure many of us would love to have someone who understands the passion and can help us rehab or get into shape with a view to riding. If you lived in a horsey area, surely you would find yourself overwhelmed with patients. I would go out of my way to get a PT who understood riding.

My bodyworker is a PT, and she does bodywork on horses and people, in addition to running an equine-assisted physical therapy operation. Those things can really all dovetail together.

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person
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post #7 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 01:39 PM
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You've already gotten very good advice! I have to agree that I also don't look for formal education in my instructors. That being said, I do have a friend or two who have degrees in education and they are very good instructors, but Education is their full time career.

My question to you all is, when looking for instructors, do you also look for formal education? Or would you rather hope for a good teacher and prefer the longer period of time spent in saddle?
So, the answer is no and that the ability of the instructor in riding and teaching is what it comes down to. However, I do consider it a bonus if my instructor is certified as an instructor and/or coach. In Canada, we have a instructor and/or coach certification program where the instructor is tested for their teaching abilities undersaddle, unmounted and in theory. There are different levels to the certification; however, each have different requirements to even be eligible to apply for evaluation. For example, for instructor of beginners (IOB), one needs to first pass the rider level 6 Equine Canada rider/theory evaluation, be CPR certified, and pass a few more classes. You also have to shadow a certified trainer before applying. Instructors do not always go past IOB, even if capable, since it can be an expensive process though. However, I think it is always a reassurance for the client to know their instructor has been 'tried and tested' at the level their teaching.

Besides that, I've found that many who partake in working student positions under higher level riders are able to start up business more easily. So, I'd say that the biggest draw of clients to an instructor is riding experience/ability.
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post #8 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 01:58 PM
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Hmm, to answer the other part of your question. As a student, I've had many different instructors, and each had strengths and weaknesses. I know that a couple of them had accounting degrees, one had a general business degree, and one was still in school. None of this made any difference to me.

What I liked as a student was
(1) ability to explain things in different ways if I didn't understand the first one,
(2) willingness to LISTEN TO WHAT I WAS ASKING (Sorry for the all caps, but I have one instructor who hears what she wants to hear and then goes off on a lecture that's completely unrelated to what I asked),
(3) ability to get inside the horse's head (figuratively, obviously) and help me understand why it's doing what it's doing, coupled with
(4) ability to change the lesson plan if things aren't going well.

I am not sure that the teacher having had a long amount of riding time necessarily means anything. We all know that there are people who can ride all the time but never actually LEARN, and certainly never be able to TEACH. All things being equal, yes, someone who has more horse experience is better than someone who doesn't, but I'd rather have someone who understand what they are doing, even if they've only been riding a few years.

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person
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post #9 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 03:18 PM
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Physical or Occuplational therapy will be excellent areas to pursue. It can be competitive to get into programs for these degrees.

You will need some source of regular income if you want to create a teaching facility and barn.

Why don't you start taking lessons now, observing things and making notes of what you like and what you would change.
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post #10 of 16 Old 07-10-2020, 04:31 PM
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It depends on how you want to reach your goals. To be able to buy a barn to own and run lesson programs out of it would cost a lot of money. So you would need a career that would allow you to do that - are you looking for a full time career, but that also has skills relatable to running a boarding barn?

If you are just looking to teach lessons, you can do that at any barn and I'd be looking at getting lots of experience riding.

My current instructor I believe has her certification. But what matters to me most is the experience and whether or not I like the person. If I walk away from a lesson feeling frustrated and I'm not having fun, then what is the point? At the same time I want my instructor to push me out of my comfort zone when needed. I feel I have a good match with my current teacher. She answers all my questions and I have been very happy with the progress we have made.

If it were me, I would get a job in the trades (such as electric, welding, etc). These skills can have high paying opportunities as a career, but they can also be applied in your every day life. In addition, you can trade your skill for someone else's if you ever need help with something. If there is anything I have learned - having your own property (especially farm property) requires a lot of maintenance. And having the skills necessary to fix things and address problems can be very helpful. We have a small acreage and I can't even tell you how much time is spent fixing equipment or addressing maintenance issues.
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