A Teacher's Observation...

A Teacher’s Observation

Renee Swanepoel N Dip Equine Studies SANEF Level 1 Instructor  

I have a little confession to make… I had a riding lesson. And I really enjoyed it! 

Now don’t get me wrong. In my pursuit of riding excellence I have had many an hour of work without stirrups, lunge lessons, I still have monthly lessons with my wonderful Dressage trainer, but I am talking about a good old-fashioned riding school group lesson. Hopping onto a long suffering and slightly work worn beast and having a good old romp around with a group of other folks.  The kind of lesson I still teach regularly. 

While seemingly unimportant and not very grand in the major scale of things it really got me thinking. One of my very dear friends is giving up teaching after 16 years and we sat discussing the reasons and the thinking behind her decision. “I just don’t enjoy it anymore. I cannot think up another exercise for anyone to do and I just cannot bear another hour in the sun shouting ‘heels down, chin up’ and watching people go round and round endlessly without getting anywhere!” she told me with a grimace. The sausage factory syndrome – endless hours of churning out ride after ride and pretending to be very interested in everyone when in fact all you can think about is how really nice a martini would be under a tree at that point! You only need to survey any group of riding school ponies on any given Saturday morning. Half of them look like they are asleep and the other half look like they wish they were dead! If you look a little closer sometimes, though, you will notice something else. Happy, giggling 5 year olds with bags of carrots and curry combs in hand. Teenagers who would otherwise be in a Mall doing who knows what, happily hanging out with each other, drinking fruit juice and talking about the latest trends in Showjumping training. Adults who dreamt of owning their own ponies as youngsters but never had the chance and can finally live out their dreams of riding and being around horses and savour every moment.  

Whilst riding around on my weather beaten but very sweet riding school horse, being put over fences and told to look up and ride circles and all the other things that I would easily be standing in the middle of the arena shouting away, it suddenly dawned on me how wonderful it was to be on the pupil end of the deal. I had honestly never realised how much fun it was. I suddenly realised why so many people keep coming back week after week for their horsey fix!

Sometimes as instructors we lose sight of the enjoyment we are gifting other people. Sure, it is a hard job and we very often never get thanked for standing out in all weathers trying to help riders become better and have fun. There are people that we love seeing week after week, and let’s face it, there are some people that we cringe over when we see them coming, but at the end of the day never forget that we are giving people something they can never get anywhere else and they love it so much that they keep coming back for more!  We also often get stuck on the competitive riders with their own horse that we forget that there is an entire community of passionate horse-lovers that will never compete or be able to own their own horses but they are just as passionate about their weekly riding lessons!

Coming up with new ideas can be tough, especially after years of teaching. I often see how my fellow instructors, and even myself, get caught up in the factory of pushing out lesson after lesson. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of reading, a bit of Googling and you can come up with fresh new ideas that will be exactly what everyone needs to discover how much fun riding can be. Sometimes we get caught up in the world of competition and performance and we forget that there is fun to be had.

I would like to urge all my fellow instructors out there – never underestimate how much people enjoy coming to your lessons and even though from where we stand things can be tough, never forget that the joy of sitting on a horse is something that should never be taken for granted by anyone!
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