Now this is an interesting topic to debate. How important is it to either ride your clients horse to help you teach, or for your instructor to ride your horse to help you learn.
Recently I was asked to hop on during a lesson because my client was struggling with right canter. As soon as I’d sat on it became apparent that the horse was loading his left shoulder (more on that another say) which I couldn’t tell when watching the horse, which meant that it was harder for me to get them to ride a correct right canter transition.
It opened my eyes a bit to the fact that horses don’t always look how they feel. Which I knew deep down already – how often do you eye up a horse to ride, get on, then wish you could get off again?!
So from an instructors perspective, sitting on can give you a feel for how the horse learns or his reactive they are to aids or position, which can help you adapt your method of teaching slightly so that it is most beneficial to the pair you are teaching.
Sometimes if you’re trying to teach a new movement it can be difficult to discover whether the rider is misunderstanding, or if the horse is. So an instructor sitting on will ensure that the horse learns the movement and aids, and then the rider can learn what they are feeling for and refine the movement.
The same goes for if the pair are struggling to overcome a problem; separating them and correcting the horse and then correcting the rider on a different horse can cause the problem to disappear as the cycle is broken.
From the client’s point of view watching your instructor ride can have two effects – positive or negative.
On the positive side, seeing your horse behave, work nicely, or work to a higher level, can inspire you to improve – “yes he can leg yield: I just need to practice”. Or it can boost your confidence. If you’ve lost your nerve then watching your horse repeat the exercise without being cheeky or rude can give you the confidence to try it again.
Visual learners benefit from seeing a movement ridden, which will help them learn how to ride it when back on board.
Flipping over to the negative elements, the rider can think “I’m rubbish, she’s clearly capable of working properly, I’m holding her back. I give up.” But they should remember that the instructor has a vast range of experience so is more likely to find the buttons.
- I personally think it is a fine balance, and up to the instructor to judge the client, their way of learning, and the horse, as to whether getting in the saddle is of benefit. I see my job as teaching people to work with, and get the best out of their horse as well as themselves, so I much prefer trying to get them to ride correctly and improve themselves with me on the ground to guide them so that they can reproduce it on their own. However, it can be so insightful to feel what the rider feels and can cause me to change my tack slightly.
But where does everyone else stand? Do you like watching your instructor school your horse? Or does it make you despondent?