1)We don’t know if your stirrups are even either.
Now look if they are totally wonky with more than a hole in the difference of course we know but if you are doing the ‘are my stirrups even’ bum shuffle while listing your saddle from side to side like a drunk on a boat then no, we don’t know if stirrup A is 0.25cm shorter or longer than stirrup B! Plus if you have insisted on turning in eleventy million times in one session to ponder this great life mystery, at that point we don’t care.
I have a fool proof cure for the stirrup conundrum that hasn’t failed me yet. Turn in and halt. Ensure saddle sits correctly and centred on the horse (get off and fix if it isn’t). Remove feet from stirrups. Bring each knee up as high as you can and then your legs out as far as you can and repeat. Now that you are sat in the middle of the saddle, without wiggling or shuffling just put your feet into the stirrups and you will know which is longer. Fix that one and away you go. Your welcome.
2) We love people who bring us tea
In Ireland unless we are blessed enough to have a roof (I don’t, so if you do sorry but I hate you), riding instructors spend a lot of time out in the cold, the wet and the windy weather. Bringing a hot cup of tea to an instructor moored for hours in a baltic arena is a life line. You will be instantly in our good books – bonus points for supplying a biscuit on the side.
3) Size isn’t everything
Having a fixation about the height of a fence is a dangerous philosophy. The truth is if you set up a single fence in a straight line and gradually raise it anyone bar the really incompetent can reach a decent height. The truth is this leads to cases of “1.20 syndrome” where people then go around telling everyone they know “I can jump 1.20”. There is a great difference between jumping one fence in a straight line and jumping a course competently. Many exercises are based around technicality and the essence of the lesson is around improving the ability to successfully ride different lines and distances – not just about height. Obviously if you are in the competition sphere we will know this and we will tailor lessons to suit and to maximise your ability to perform at your level. Being able to jump a one ten oxer in a straight line is not an advantage when you are competing at 90cm and looking for clear rounds.
4) Let the horse stand and poo
We completely understand the philosophy of “he can move and poo” but when you have to painstakingly pick up every particle of poo in an arena its soul destroying to have to follow a mile long trail of poo nuggets while shrieking at others not to ride through it!
5) We can’t work miracles
If you have smart goals it’s a pleasure to help you work towards them. On the flip side if you are struggling at the lower levels but trying to turn yourself or your horse into Olympians overnight we simply can’t make that happen.
6) We love making you smile
Honestly this is why we do the job. We love to see smiling clients, we love when you set and achieve goals. We love getting the test that you enjoyed your lesson or had an amazing day out competing. Sometimes we have a bad day ourselves but when we are teaching we forget about our problems and focus on you instead and we love when we both go home smiling.
7) We know how cold it is.
Understandably being Irish we are morally obligated to talk about the weather as the first topic of all and any conversations. We understand that. However sometimes riders insist on reminding us that it is very cold or wet while they are riding. Trust us – it is much colder when you are on the ground not riding which is why if you see us hopping from foot to foot or doing jumping jacks we are not lame or insane – just trying to warm up. It is also why most riding instructors look like a failed model from the Aldi or Lidl ski wear department.
8) We are awful at taking our own advice
It is easy to be on the ground giving book perfect advice on aids and techniques and preaching about the danger of bad riding or horse habits. It’s much harder to put it into practice. You know that, we know that. This is why whilst we can calmly tell you to sit up and ride forward confidently through a dramatic spook and to sit up, squeeze your leg and wait for a fence you will find us on our own horse battling the same issues and trying to work out the answer. It is also why we ourselves get lessons!
9) Fill the silence!
Sometimes being a riding instructor is like being a cheer leader. It’s a dark, wet evening and clients have driven to the yard from work. The riding instructor bounds into the arena like an excited Labrador who has just caught a ball shouting loud chants about leg and riding forward desperate to bring an element of positivity to the evening and to fire up participants. Sometimes it takes an enormous amount of energy on our part to inspire the use of leg and the interest in exercises. Please talk back to us otherwise we feel like a clown at a kids party who isn’t funny and who has burst all her balloons trying to make a dog.
10) We are not a reality tv show.
We love when you stay to watch friends, family and your children. We love when you clap and shout encouragement. We love positive and constructive feedback.
We don’t love backseat instructors. If you would like to teach one of the clients in the lesson its best to head off and do so in your own time as it is really hard for that client to grasp what we are on about if you are shouting conflicting advice from the side lines. If you genuinely don’t know which end of the horse eats and what a saddle is it is really best to stick to cheering on rather than advising.
We don’t like being filmed the whole time. By all means take a photo of your child or relative on board and enjoying themselves or a snap them over a jump but being filmed for an hour without being asked for consent first is daunting and makes us self-conscious. We are not a performing animal or a Kardashian.
11) We really appreciate you being on time
If we haven’t said it lately – thank you! Riding instructors often work long hours in the evening and at weekends so a punctual client is the difference between getting home at reasonable hour to relax or getting home late and having no time to ourselves. We often have to book lessons back to back so punctual clients let us make the best use of our time.
12) We need you to relax and enjoy learning
Often clients get concerned and worried about things outside of themselves – what someone else is doing or achieving, what level others are at versus them, where they rank in a class, what others have. Everyone learns at their own pace and its natural to go through learning curves as you improve anything. Focusing on your own learning and progress is far more beneficial than looking at what someone else is doing. Plus, by engaging in your own journey you will enjoy it more and after all thats why you are doing it!
13) We love determination and committment
I have some clients who I look forward to teaching. Why? its simple – I don’t have to bring all the positive energy – they also bring their own. They want to learn and are committed to achieving goals. I can speak honestly to them without having to pause and check each phrase is 100% politically correct / unlikely to cause offense / carefully phrased to remove any negative slant because they want and value an honest opinion. I can tell them what needs work and improvement without generating an offense or a complaint. I can push them to work through a problem and repeat things with invested physical and mental effort without having to listen to excuses. They see and understand the small but very valuable gains and achievements earned through hard work that will all add up to achieving larger goals. They go off and practice their homework and come back with experience from doing so. As instructors we can only teach, it is the clients who chose to learn that will come out on top.
14) We are not just doing this for the money
All teaching is a form of vocation. Only the insane would choose to work with both animals and children outdoors for money. We do this because we have a passion for it.
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