Get the Most From Your Riding Lessons


Deciding how you learn best is key to gaining the most out of your riding lessons
Photo by Lesley Ward

People have different learning styles, some learn best by performing a task over and over, some with visual input (looking at an example), while others do well with spoken instruction.

  Notice what approach gives YOU the best chance of retaining and understanding new information, then choose an instructor whose lessons emphasize that approach.

You can often double the value of your lesson dollars if you watch riders similar to your age and experience take a lesson, so:

  Plan time in your schedule to take your paid riding lesson, then allocate additional time to audit the lesson of riders similar to yourself (age and skill level), or watch someone who is a slightly better rider take a lesson on a school horse you have previously ridden. This is especially helpful if you’ve had difficulty getting the horse to perform in a way you would have liked. Check with your instructor for advice on whom to observe.

The mind is a powerful tool which is often underused when we are learning to ride, because riding is considered a physical activity by most. Take advantage of your mind power:

  Watch good riders videos, shows, training arena, et cetera.  Don’t try to dissect what they are doing, just let the “picture” imprint itself in your memory. When you are mounted, take a deep breath and “soak” yourself with the memory of that perfect picture. Don’t compare yourself to the picturerather, breathe and just ride your horse as if you were the rider in the remembered image. Trust the power of your mind to help train your body without you interfering by trying to keep a constant check on all the little details.

Further Reading
Getting Started with Horses: Lesson Programs
Evaluating Your Instructor

Donna Snyder-Smith is a long time equestrian arts instructor, author and journalist. She has won the American Riding Instructor Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and gives national clinics featuring her “American System” which emphasizes the importance of understanding and utilizing correct biomechanical principals in the training of both rider and horse.


  1. The article was great in my opinion. As a young rider(13) i am moving up to a different jumping class and these tips i am sure will come in very useful.

  2. Ironically I already do all of these!!!! And I completley agree. WEe have to constantly be thinking in the arena and so it’s important. I ALWAYS soak in images of riders into my memory and try to pretend that I’m that rider, or that I am really good. Just create the image in your mind that you are riding wonderfully and are in perfect harmony with your horse. It really boosts up your confidence!!!

  3. These tips are so true! I train with my cousin in higher level riding (note I say “higher” and I use that term loosely. My horse and I are in intermediate equitation patterns at the moment) but I teach beginner lessons. I tell my students to go home and watch The Man From Snowy River and keep Jim in mind.
    Position helps, but you gotta have guts too.


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