Sylvia hasn’t stopped thinking about horses since she was a child. Now in her forties, in need of some self-care to balance the demands of parenting, she indulges her dream by signing up for one weekly lesson.
She’d like to learn enough to ride safely at the walk and trot, she thinks. But she wants to learn it right – no shortcuts. Little does she know that ten years later she’ll be jumping cross-country, passionately studying dressage, and the proud owner of a handsome palomino.
Ethan has spent the past couple of years watching his big sister ride horses, first at weekly lessons, then at Saturday shows and summer day camps. Now that she’s cantering around and jumping, he thinks it looks pretty fun!
One leadline birthday party later, he’s signed up for beginner lessons and can’t WAIT to start jumping on his own. After all, if his sister can do it, it can’t be that hard.
No matter their age, their previous experience with horses, or their aspirations, these students are the foundation of a riding school. They are our future lessees, boarders, campers and competitors – the clients we hope we’ll serve for years to come.
And no pressure, but if we’re the ones introducing them to the horse world, it’s our job to get them off on the right hoof!
For this reason, we’ve got a lot of written objectives for Red Level students, like developing a balanced position and learning to put on a bridle. But there are also a few important unwritten goals. These are the ideals that we think of as we teach new students and plan our camp curriculum:
1. We want them to become part of the barn family
We want our Red Level students to see a future with us. We want them invested in the program, making friends, and bonding with the school horses. The more they feel included and connected, the more reasons they have to keep coming back.
The best way to do this? Get them involved! As soon as students understand how to behave safely around horses, invite them to barn parties. Ask them to ring crew at your in-house competitions. Let them come shadow one of your regular, trustworthy barn helpers during a working student day.
Even if they have only committed to a few lessons, make them feel welcomed with open arms.
2. We want them unplugged and immersed
At the risk of sounding old, kids these days – and adults! – get a LOT of screen time.
Not all of it is bad, necessarily. But in a world of increasing urbanization, we instructors provide an experience that is increasingly hard to come by.
Our students get out in the elements and learn to coexist with nature. They get dirt under their fingernails. And they learn to connect – not to a screen name, but with a living, breathing creature with needs of its own.
Horses ask us to be fully present in the world around us. We hope our students learn how much of a gift this is!
3. We want them to realize how much there is to learn
Riders and owners can have the best intentions in the world, but when they don’t know what they don’t know, the horses pay the price.
We see people create lame, sour, unhappy horses all too often – not through ill intent, or even thoughtlessness, but through ignorance.
If our Red Level students only take away one important concept, we hope they remember that when things go wrong with horses, it’s usually our fault.
We owe it to our horses to learn as much as we can… and to be patient and realistic with ourselves in the meantime. Learning to become a great horseman can take a lifetime!
4. We want them to see the big picture
There’s a lot more to riding than just hopping on a horse and getting them from Point A to Point B. We hope our Red Level students grow to appreciate the time spent with their horses on the ground as well as in the saddle.
We hope they get it – that learning to care for the horse is just as important as learning to stay on its back.
We particularly hope they see that good horsemanship is not limited to one discipline or one training philosophy. We hope they learn to ask questions and evaluate information – skills they will use for the rest of their life, and not just at the barn!
5. We want them to have FUN and ask for more!
Red Level is all about introducing basic skills and building a foundation. But that doesn’t mean it has to be boring!
Red Level students can ride bareback at the walk and play mounted games. They can be challenged by equitation patterns, ground pole “jumping” courses, and obstacle courses. They can go on leadline hacks, learn introductory groundwork, and enjoy the camaraderie of group lessons.
We want to keep our student’s brains engaged while they develop new motor skills. We want them to be able to answer parents definitively when asked, “So what did you learn today?”
We want them gaining confidence and forming partnerships.
We want them EXCITED to dive into Yellow Level skills and learn more about what the horse world has to offer!
It all starts here
Teaching beginner lessons is as challenging as it is rewarding.
It’s also one of the most important jobs in the equine industry.
Riding instructors open the door for future generations of equestrians. We encourage our students to interact with horses in a way that is confident, competent and compassionate. We create experiences that are safe as well as positive. We provide a foundation of skill that allows our students to progress.
And as business owners, we hope to build a relationship that keeps our students coming back!