Why don't riding schools teach people how to ride...

dressager

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Had a conversation yesterday with someone who soley rides at a riding school and she couldn't understand the GP dressage to music as she couldn't see the rider's aids (a common non-horsey person comment and I was surprised that she said this). She was very much along the lines of "but I can't see them kicking" to which I explained about subtle aids, the seat, back and core muscles etc to which she was really confused, and still said "but don't you still have to squeeze hard with your thighs?"

WHY don't riding schools teach people that riding is about doing the minimum? Or are there any that do? I understand beginners need to start on a safe, fairly unresponsive horse until they can control their body movements, but even the more experienced riders seem to kick kick all the time. These people then buy their own horses and it carries on, then later on may have to completely re-train years of this over riding. I have been there! A nagging leg is a very difficult habit to break. I have even seen a GP rider corrected about this in a lesson with Jean Bemelmans.

Just a thought. I just feel sorry for the school horses, and the riders who ride them are obviously keen to improve so why is there this riding school mentality of kick on or pull the reins :confused:
 

somethingorother

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In my experience it is because a lot of instructors may be good riders but can't explain how. And that's the most important part of teaching others.

Although the first 15 years of my learning to ride were much as you said above, and the instructors couldn't ride for toffee either.

The good teachers get better money freelance though.
 

FionaMc

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I don't think this is true at all. It may be a long time since I've been in a riding school, but I spent my first 6 years riding in lessons (largely on my own pony) 3 times a week and I think they turned me out a much better, more effective and tidier rider than my friends who had been taught to ride by parents etc.

I am now on full livery in a yard that is also a riding school and everything I've seen of their lessons is fantastic and have no reservations about asking the instructors there to find me a sharer from their student base.

There are better and worse riding schools, but I don't think it's fair to tar them all with the same brush.
 

CrazyMare

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I think there is a fear in riding schools of being held responsible for any and all tiny accidents.

When I was a child (and I'm only 22 now) I was allowed to bomb around on RS ponies, frequently riding without bridles or saddles. We were also taught alot of stable management.

I remember being threatened with the lunge whip 'if you keep nagging that poor pony!'.

RS can't do the same things any more, so I feel that people (adults & kids) reach a level, and can't progress any further until they have their own horse and find a GOOD instructor - and we know how hard that is!!!!!!

I know when I ride on my yard (having had my girl for 10 years) I have been asked 'why does she look so easy' or 'how hard do you have to pull to keep her head there?'
 

MissSBird

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To be honest, I think it is probably more to do with the money than anything else. How many horses, honestly, do you know that will respond to the more subtle aids? In my experience it tends to be horses that have been broken and schooled to a relatively high standard. How many riding schools out there can actually afford these types of horses? And then, how many have time to regularly and consistently school the horses outside of lesson time? I think a lack of horse power is probably the main reason that most riding schools seem to have this approach, coupled with a lack of time to school the horses regularly.

Also, most of these riders will only be riding once a week for an hour. I think it would be difficult to maintain core muscles to a sufficient standard on such little time in the saddle. At least for me anyway, I struggle despite the fact I ride 5 or so times a week!
 

Thelwell_Girl

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Not *all* riding schools are like this! I unfortunately don't have my own horse, so I ride at a lovely yard. At my RS there is everything from bombproof little fuzzy shetlands for 4yr olds to learn on, right up to more sensitive, responsive TBs and WBs who can, along with experienced instructors, teach a rider the finer aspects and subtleties of riding.

We're also allowed to ride bareback and bridless (under supervision), and love to do so!
 

dressager

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Somethingorother that's a really good point... you have to be good to survive as a freelance instructor as so much goes on reputation.

Personally I think ANY horse can be made to be responsive to the aids, it has nothing to do with the cost or quality of the horse. My horse was as lazy as anything when I got him but he goes off the slightest leg aid, and if he doesn't he gets a definite reminder! If people were taught this philosophy of quick reactions and perhaps were guided to some decent books by the old masters before they even got on a horse, it might help everyone, especially the horse!

I appreciate riding once a week doesn't help,but even top riders who ride 10 horses a day still do other forms of exercise. If someone had told me at the time that doing things like pilates would improve my riding I would have done it in a flash. I have come to these ideas relatively late in my riding career it feels after drifting through many not-so-good instructors. I think we should be more grateful towards our horses and at least help ourselves to try and help them, no?
 

Oscar162

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MissSBird has hit the nail on the head....and instructors often get frustrated at the lack of funds to buy quality horses that are level headed enough to cope with multiple jockeys.
 

dressager

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thelwell_girl that sounds like a fantastic set up. I'm sure there are good riding schools out there like yours, but from my experience they seem to be in the minority. Or perhaps its just my area??
 

Thelwell_Girl

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thelwell_girl that sounds like a fantastic set up. I'm sure there are good riding schools out there like yours, but from my experience they seem to be in the minority. Or perhaps its just my area??
I do feel quite lucky to have found my stables! I've made some lovely friends there, instructors are wonderful, hold regular in-house competitions... Also have started to jump, on Bonnie (the black pony with a star in my siggie) and met the lovely Gwen (second from left in siggie).

Can't wait for my lesson now! :)
 

ElphabaFae

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My RS school isn't like this :) From the first lesson people are taught not to kick but to squeeze, everything is well schooled and off the leg, there are horses for more experienced riders as well, I wouldn't change it for the world! :D
 

zefragile

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One of the riding schools I was at taught people about "outlines" by getting them to almost carry their hands at their knees and wiggle the hands one at a time. The horses were all swinging their heads from side to side and dragging their hind legs. There was no mention whatsoever about energy from behind.
 

dressager

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zefragile yes that's exactly the kind of thing I've seen too. Even the instructors saw with their hands! I guess because these instructors have very little outside influence/instruction themselves the bad habits just keep on going.

I'm sure there are good riding instructors out there though. The only other point is sometimes its only with hindsight you look back and realise how awful it was... at the time you just absorb it along with everyone else as its the done thing. Until you start going to other places and instructors and become exposed to a whole new way of thinking!
 

LindyLulu

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when i used to teach kids i used to tell them that the aids were top secret between them and the horse and it worked well and i managed to turn out some neat, smart little riders who went on to have their own ponies.
The major problem most riding schools have is that not all instructors bother to teach things like that and let the clients flap around aimlessly until all the horses are dead to the leg. It's usually the instructors that allow the poor horses to get like that in the first place who brand the horses as "lazy" and the clients plod along, never improving and think that is what "proper" riding should look like.
 

Benji1

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I've had a very mixed experience of riding schools, from ones that shouldn't be allowed anywhere near horses - which was pretty much were i got my battered/neglected gelding from - to ones that have fantastic staff/facilities.

I remember one place getting me to jump, for the first time there, on a fell pony (she bunny hopped rather than jumped), head collar and lead rope, bareback.

Then another place had me in a BP and correct tack
 

somethingorother

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I was taught to 'saw' with my hands to get an outline. I still have a lot of guilt about what i did to my favourite beautiful horses mouth by doing that. The poor guy. I looked after and rode him for 6/7 years doing this until i had a couple of lessons somewhere else and started readin books by sylvia loch etc. In fact, he put up with it so well that he was used to teach a lot of people about 'outlines' :(

The instructors there have been there since they first learnt to ride, and so the cycle will continue. And anyone who goes against them gets kicked off. The whole yard rides like this. And it's a big, popular yard and riding school :(

We did have one instructor for a while who taught us to ride with no reins and just our seat and legs. But he didn't last very long. He went freelance ...
 

gnubee

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I think it is a bit of a viscious circle thing.
The riding schools with the good, well schooled horses can tell you to "squeeze" with your legs to get trot; and "nudge with your outside leg" to get canter, and their horses will always respond to it. These tend to be the places with owner/instructors who take full responsibility for the day to day running of the yard, and you will rarely see anyone riding a horse that is significantly beyond their skill level. The horses will usually stay around for ever.

Then there are the other places. They tend to start off with cheap horses, and make them worse. The horses are steady, but generally unresponsive, and all but the most experienced people are going to need very obvious aids to get them doing what they want to do, becuase the horses *are* unresponsive to subtle aids. Kids are told to kick, and they kick. The horse becomes unresponsive to kicks, and suddenly all riders on the horse need spurs. So you have riding schools where beginners are given a whip/spurs to ride X, because X needs spurs. At no point does anyone consider whether it is appropriate for beginners to be using that tool on the animal, or even educate the beginner that you don't pony club kick in spurs. Best case scenario X gets dead to the spurs. Worst case X becomes dangerous and is turned away for a few weeks in an attempt to reset the horse. The laid back but generally safe horses will be kept around, but the ones with much spark are moved on as being too dangerous. The cycle is then complete, because they are not left with any horses that will respond to a subtle aid.
I think this second type of school is normally caused by having an owner who isn't particularly hands on with the business. There won't be one person who is sufficiently in charge to identify and deal with problems before they get out of hand. Either through ignorance on the part of the owner, or lack of concern on the part of staff as the horses aren't their investment, no effort will be put into considering ways to improve the horses.

I have experienced the two in almost equal proportions in the many riding schools I have tried in the UK.
 

Lexie81

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I had a few lessons at a local RS while between horses a few years agao. There was one horse there that was vauguely schooled and i got him every single lesson, he was also quite sharp and spooky and once the instructor let slip that i was the only pupil who rode him, rest of the time it was the instructors...used to get on my nerves only getting the same horse every week, and i was glad when i bought my next horse and left. I then took my little girl there for some lessons but was really disapointed that she was only ever taught by the very young 16/17 year old girls and was often not taught how i felt was right, e.g putting her feet through the leathers instead of irons to save altering the stirrups?! They didnt realise i was horsey and knew it was wrong....thankfully i then convinced hubby to buy her a pony and she has a great PC instructor at home now. Having said all this, the horses was 100% loved and cared for and in good condition, tack fitted well, yard immaculate etc......it's a shame they werent quite so meticulous about their teaching methods!
 

Pearlsasinger

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My horse is off work atm so I have had a couple of lessons at a local RS (recommended by my RI). I was exhausted last week with an aching back because the cob I rode did not respond to the aids I would use on my own horse and instead I was instructed to 'kick, kick'. Not sure I will be going back.
 

Chestnuttymare

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the only one around here has the ponies going round nose to tail in the indoor school, kids being told to kick on, people in the middle of the school waving crops to get the ponies moving. It is horrible. They also have total beginners with one person running beside the pony and another at the side to make sure the rider stays on and then going over jumps.
This place is bHS approved.
Because of the insurance fees rocketing, so many closed down, this one has a waiting list for people wanting lessons too.
A wee girl came to ride my wee minty with a view to riding him a few times a week when my son was doing other things. She had been going there for about 4 years and didn't know how to groom, put a head collar on or tack up. she had been going to the week long courses during the holiday. Her riding was appalling, she looked like she had never sat on a pony. Damned shame and damned waste of money.
 

blueneonrainbow

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Its all very well for those with the money to buy horses and ride at home but for many people, riding schools are the only opportunity people get to ride or be around horses and there are some very good ones out there as Im sure there are very bad. but if the people in the riding school dont have time to school the horses regularly then they become less responsive and beginners cant necessarily get the best out of them with subtle aids - probably why these horses are in a riding school in the first place. another excellent point made above about the physical strength needed build up the muscles used for riding and the only way you can build those effectively is by riding more frequently than once a week. so those with their own horses should consider those who werent fortunate enough to have their own pony when they were younger took what they could get from their one hour a week lesson and were thankful for it, whether they were taught to kick, or whether they were taught to use their core muscles etc etc.
 

spookypony

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I'm sure there have aways been good and bad riding schools around!

At the one I went to as a kid in Canada, we started on a lead rein being led from another pony, in the context of a larger group lesson. We learned to canter on the longe line, without stirrups and holding our arms out horizontally to the side. We weren't allowed to pick up a rein contact until we had developed an independent seat. There was a wide variety of horses, from quiet experienced lead-rein ponies to the instructor's dressage horses. I only rode one of those a few times before the school sadly closed down, but many of the school horses were very well schooled. One particular piebald was known for both his ability to cope with relative beginners, and his ability for piaffe! However, we didn't hack out very often, and we didn't do any XC. There weren't any courses in the area, and not many places for safe hacking!

The piebald in question, during a canter lesson. I think I was 10 in this pic??



I currently go to a local RS twice a week; both to get lessons with the Spooky Pony, and to keep riding other horses, particularly with respect to jumping. The standard of teaching is very high, and there are some very capable horses in the mix. Students are carefully evaluated and placed in graded lesson groups, and those in the more advanced groups are given opportunities to learn to cope with sharper or greener horses. PLs are offered on school and private horses, and there are loan schemes and stable management courses.

Just to say that not all riding schools don't teach how to ride anymore!
 

somethingorother

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I wish i had your beautiful classical seat when i was 10 spookypony!

Then again i was about 2ft tall when i was ten lol. I consisted of a pair of rubber full length riding boots, a green duffel coat and a hat. Perched. Lol

I know there are good riding schools out there... and i wish my first 16 years of riding had been at those rather than the rubbish one i was at.

ETS: i also experienced my first true collection (pretty much piaffe) on a very well schooled but lazy riding school horse at another place. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good on a good day. On a bad day it's a waste of money.
 

Laafet

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QR - I have very mixed views on riding schools, the one I learnt in was fab. We could not afford a horse until I was 17 so from 7 until 17 I rode every week in a RS. It was one of the old school, take your reins and stirrups away places (I am 27 now BTW). And I progressed from riding the normal ponies to more difficult rides, as there was a dealers yard attached I often rode those and in our 'free ride' that we got at lunch time in return for helping at the weekend we had the naughty ponies to ride this really taught us how to become effective riders. We also were taught to fit tack, could strip down put back together any sort of bridle, basic feeding and stable care. I was one of those young teachers and it gave me so much experience, I teach freelance now on and off and ran my own reschooling yard with evil ex until we split up. I believe that my own desire to do better was the reason I am the rider I am today. I taught myself to long rein and got chummy with the instructors that competed so I got to compete myself without having a horse and rode a wide range of non-RS horses.
Through my own experiences since of livery yards - I can see that the decline of the traditional riding school that a lot of the riders that should be still learning are now able to buy horses and with little knowledge of care or riding are let loss on their own. The result is horrifying and when I was in business meant I got a steady stream of 'reschoolers' many of whom had a rider problem not a problem with themselves. Also a local BHSAI instructor that comes to my current yard is a promoter of the sawing method of riding in an 'outline' and all her students, who have been having lessons for sometime with her, hunch their shoulders, have their hands fixed in their crotch or on their knees and their horses move in shuffly gait looking thoroughly depressed. One asked me for a lesson and I stuck her on the lunge and took her reins and stirrups away amazingly horse dropped into an outline straight away and moved forwards without the need for the spurs or whip that their regular instructor demands. Sigh.
The main change in riders I have found seems to be down to the use of arenas. When I learnt it was out in massive field with three rings marked out with cones and dressage markers, you really had to learn to steer and control your horse to keep on the correct ring! Riders who have only ever ridden in an arena are totally at sea when they buy their first horse and hack out. Hence I am sad to see a lot of horses that never hack out as their owners are too terrified and unable to ride them effectively and safely out.
 

MissSBird

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Personally I think ANY horse can be made to be responsive to the aids, it has nothing to do with the cost or quality of the horse. My horse was as lazy as anything when I got him but he goes off the slightest leg aid, and if he doesn't he gets a definite reminder! If people were taught this philosophy of quick reactions and perhaps were guided to some decent books by the old masters before they even got on a horse, it might help everyone, especially the horse!

I appreciate riding once a week doesn't help,but even top riders who ride 10 horses a day still do other forms of exercise. If someone had told me at the time that doing things like pilates would improve my riding I would have done it in a flash. I have come to these ideas relatively late in my riding career it feels after drifting through many not-so-good instructors. I think we should be more grateful towards our horses and at least help ourselves to try and help them, no?
I agree that any horse can be made to be responsive. Indeed my sisters fell pony was so dead to the leg when we got her she needed a good couple of pony club kicks to get her forward from walk to trot. She now does walk/canter off a slight leg aid.

But, this isn't a riding school scenario. This is a one/two experienced rider situation where the pony has recieved consistent firm schooling. That simply cannot happen when jockeys are changed so regularly.

As for teaching people the philosophy in theory it would be a good idea. But you can teach the theory, not the practise. Think back to when you learnt to drive. Could you react to everyday driving scenarios as quickly as you do now? No. It took a lot of thought process to simply get the car going without stalling. And that is what riding schools are dealing with; riders who are learning these thought processes. Things must be simple to start with, otherwise no one would get anywhere. As the saying goes, don't walk before you can run - these riders cannot cope with more complicated riding theory, nor can they react quickly simply because they do not yet have the experience to do so. These things need time and practise to develop.

So then you have the circle. Even though the riders improve, the horses will always have new beginngers to carry who can only work off basic push forward, pull stop ideas. So, no matter how good some riders are becoming, the horses are always having to deal with 'bad' aids. Thus it is very difficult to make them responsive to the aids.

In an ideal world, riding schools would have horses and ponies reserved for beginners, reserved for intermediates right the way through to expert level. But I don't know of one riding school with an establishment big enough to house enough horses to do this, nor the time or money to afford this.

And yes, I agree anything that can be done to help horses should be done. But lets be realistic? A beginner rider is unlikely to take extra steps to improve their riding until they get seriously into it. The vast majority of riding school clients are beginners or children who's parents may not understand the concept of off the horse exercises. Consequently the circle continues, more beginners who make more demands on the wonderful horses that carry them.

The system is not perfect, but unfortunatly for the average riding school, perfect is difficult if not impossible to afford.
 

Sayra

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Just for SS info: Peebles
Its also very hard when you are teaching (i used to teach at a local rs) if you have an unresponsive horse/pony and the rider cant get it to do anything. The place I worked at was small and only had about 10-15 horses/ponies, each of these did a maximum of 2.5 hrs a day. Yes we had some excellent ponies that you could squeeze and they would respond but you cant used them for every rider in every lesson. Therefore you end up with some people on horses that wont move with a sqeeze (for a novice and sometimes more xperienced rider) these tend to be the "safe" ponies. It is very frustrating when you are trying to teach someone how to ride properly but the horse wont react. Do you spend the wole lesson trying to get the person to get the horse to walk with a little squeeze and use of the seat and risk them not coming back cause "the lesson was rubbish, the horse wouldnt move" or tell them to give the horse a kick and then help them keep the horse going by carrying a lunge whip in the middle? The better/more responsive ponies were too flightly for many of the novice riders and they always got stuck on donkeys! that needed kicked (may I add that I and many other more experienced riders often got comments like "why does he move for you?" because we could ride the donkeys) once they were stuck on riding one of these they only wanted to ride tem as they found horses you dont need to kick too fast!

Also you get some people (very few in my experience) who want to learn to ride, most of them want to go fast/jump and cant be bothered learning the hard stuff! So you need to tailor your teaching (or risk losing your job if people dont come back cause you dont give them what they want!) to suit the customer so if you get X who wants to go fast and trot/canterj/jump round but isnt interested in learning about the finer art of riding then you have to give them a lesson that reflects that otherwise they will just leave and find a rs that will. I tired my best to teach people properly and when I see people I used to teach competing or with their own horses I feel proud but there will always be some I feel I should have taught better and insisted they learnt to ride properly but I was young and worried I wouls lose customers.

In conlusion after this very long post, I think RI do their best with the ponies and customers they get, in an ideal world i think ponies whould only be used in RS for 1-2 yrs, then this might stop them getting fed up with the job and therefore people would learn to ride on "better" animals.
 
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