FAQs – Horse Rider and Equitation Training
Valley Ridge Farms Answers Your
Most Frequently Asked Questions
I DON’T SEEM TO BE GETTING ANYWHERE – WHY IS THAT?
“Americans are always looking for easy solutions: ‘Ten non-threatening lessons to Nirvana in thirty days’.” That is a quotation from a man who made his name in the manufacturing world by pointing out that it is much easier and cheaper to do something right the first time than to have to try to fix it later. Refinishing a table is a good example. First you have to strip off the old finish, and then you sand it down (usually several times) before you can put on the first coat of finish. During that period of preparation, the table doesn’t look like much, and while the sanding is going on, seemingly forever, very little improvement is obvious to the naked eye. However, without that long and tedious preparation, the finished table will never look quite right, and will probably not stand up to any real test.
Learning to ride is very much the same. In the beginning, you just have to do the same thing over and over until you have laid down a solid foundation before you can get to the fun part. On a once or twice a week basis, it’s very much like watching the grass grow. If you watch it all the time, nothing seems to be happening. If you look back in three or six months, you will realize that you have learned an enormous amount in that time. You may still be doing much the same thing, but you will be doing it with greater skill and understanding. As you go on to more difficult skills, you will experience less frustration, since the foundation is there. The first six months to a year are often the most discouraging. Many adults, especially in our competitive society, find it very threatening to be out of control, but we know that if you try to establish control of the horse’s body before you learn how to handle your own, you will never learn to do either.
I REALIZE THAT THE BASICS TAKE A LONG TIME. IS THERE ANY WAY I CAN SPEED UP THE PROCESS?
The best way to make progress is to spend as much time with and around the horses as possible. It is not necessary so much to ride more, although that of course is always helpful, as it is to develop a clear idea of what you are trying to do. Watching other riders and other lessons, and thinking of how you would do it, asking the instructor for ground exercises, reading, and watching videos* are all ways to improve your riding.
*Be sure to check with the instructor, as some videos will do you more harm than good!
YOU MAKE AN AWFULLY BIG DEAL ABOUT SAFETY (BUT NOTHING MUCH EVER SEEMS TO GO WRONG). WHY IS THAT?
WE MAKE AN AWFULLY BIG DEAL ABOUT SAFETY BECAUSE THE SAFETY OF OUR STUDENTS, STAFF, AND HORSES ARE OF PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE.
WHO SHOULD I TALK TO IF I HAVE A PROBLEM?
If any student, boarder, or parent has a grievance, it should be referred directly to Michele for a quick and correct solution. The management cannot be expected to correct any problems if everyone talks among themselves.
WHEN WILL I (OR MY CHILD) BE ABLE TO ______?
This is probably the most frequently asked question. The blank represents anything from riding in the saddle to galloping in the field. As you read in the original flier we gave you, we emphasize, in order of importance: safety, non-abuse of the horse, and fun. We will not allow a rider to try something on a horse for which the instructor feels the rider is insufficiently prepared. If the rider tries something too difficult, the rider’s body will tense up in its efforts to cope. This tension makes the rider more likely to fall, and more likely to get hurt if a fall occurs. The tension also transmits to the horse, making the horse more likely to do something irregular, thus creating greater likelihood of falls.
Even if the rider doesn’t get scared, and does not fall, activities performed on the horse with a severe degree of ineptitude by the rider are very bad for the horse in a number of ways. First, the usual result of poor riding is that the rider’s weight swings wildly about and bangs on the horse’s back, both of which are painful to the horse, even when the rider is fairly small. In severe or prolonged cases, the horse can suffer physical damage, which may lay him up, or at least shorten his working life. We are proud of the fact that many of our school horses are in their healthy late teens.
Bad riding also makes the horse fearful of that activity, so that succeeding riders will have difficulty in getting him to perform the movement until he has forgotten the incident or been re-schooled.
I FEEL THAT I (OR MY CHILD) CAN DO MORE THAN THE CLASS IS DOING. WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND?
It is necessary for each rider to build a firm foundation, especially in the basic position work, before trying faster or more difficult activities. Each person progresses at a slightly different pace, so it may happen that one rider feels ready to go on before the others in the class have reached that stage. If this occurs, feel free to discuss it with the instructor (if she has free time) after the lesson or over the phone. You can also discuss it with Michele, who is in charge of the teaching program. It may be that the instructor sees weaknesses that the rider is not fully aware of, and feels that these weaknesses must be dealt with. A half-hour private lesson to work on the difficulty may be the answer. It may be that the other riders in the lesson are nearly ready to go on, and the instructor feels that it won’t hurt the rider who is ready to work at the lesser level for an extra lesson or two.
A possibility that may occasionally arise, particularly in the case of a child who is several years older than the others in the lesson, or an adult who has a background of greater experience, is that the rider should be moved on to a different lesson more suited to the rider’s skill level. If the instructor agrees that the rider should be moved on, we will make every effort to find a suitable lesson. Sometimes this simply is not possible right away and can occur if lessons are full or there doesn’t happen to be a lesson working at the right level with riders of the right age. If this is the case, we may be able to keep up the challenge and feeling of progress by assigning a more difficult horse, or it may be possible to take some extra half-hour private lessons to bring the rider up to the skill levels of the available lesson.
In any case, if you are not satisfied with the progress being made, please discuss it with us. It is very frustrating to us as teachers when somebody becomes dissatisfied and leaves without ever telling us why.
I THINK THAT I (MY CHILD) MIGHT DO BETTER WITH ANOTHER INSTRUCTOR. WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND?
Sometimes the reasons for dissatisfaction may be more difficult to discuss. You may not like your instructor, or perhaps others in your class are not congenial. We do try to put people into groups and with instructors that they will like, but sometimes we guess wrong. Also, sometimes the instructor that you would like doesn’t work on the day you ride, or has a full schedule. Again, please talk to us about it. Very often, by spending some time really discussing what you like and don’t like will help the instructor to work with you better. Instructors know perfectly well when a pupil is not having a good time and would much prefer to solve the problem if at all possible.
I THINK MAYBE I SHOULD GO OUT AND BUY MY OWN ______. SHOULD I?
Maybe you should, and maybe you shouldn’t. Whether you’re thinking of buying a crop or a horse, or anything in between, TALK TO THE INSTRUCTOR FIRST. It’s very easy to get caught up spending money on exactly the wrong piece of equipment, and even if it is possible to return, it’s annoying. Either the instructor or Michele will be able to advise you on what, when, whether, and how much. The only special equipment we insist on for all riders is a good hard hat with a harness. Please buy the safest one you can afford – you only get one head per lifetime!