I started this discussion on the Riding Instructor group and then I saw this discussion forum, so I'm posting it here, too. Here's the question...

If you had to choose 1 or 2 things that are the most important to you when you pick an instructor to ride with , what would they be? Knowledge, name, awards, certification, experience......?

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I guess it's OK if I go first........
I have 2 things that are important to me (although I can think of lots)- 1 is attitude. When I was younger I rode with some fairly nasty instructors. I just flat out won't ride with someone who yells and screams. I figure instructors who "lose it" do that because they have hit the end of their knowledge bank and they have to resort to being ferocious.

The 2nd one is related- I won't choose an instructor who likes to make jokes at my expense or who likes to belittle the students. I want a positive attitude in an atmosphere that I feel like my person will be protected from unnecessary ridicule. After all, some of the things we try to do are hard and there's a real chance of failure. If I'm going to "put myself out there" I want to know that I'll be safe when I'm vulnerable.

Those are two of my personal criteria. My criteria is a little different when I'm hiring an instructor for my program
1) An instructor should know when to push you.
To some extent I disagree with the first criteria, at least for me. I need someone who is really going to push me, and sometimes I've been yelled at by an instructor when I knew I deserved it, like times when I let myself be a "passenger". A good instructor should know what his students are capable of, and insist that they put their all into the lesson and really improve--after all, that's what they're paying for. I can ride my horse for pleasure anytime, but when it's lesson time I really want to focus on being correct and precise. Of course, it's another thing entirely when an instructor takes out his or her frustrations on "green" riders who may not know better--that's inappropriate. I was lucky enough to have an instructor who knew when to really get after a student who wasn't listening, or was being lazy, but who also knew his students' goals and limitations. Some of his students were showing on the A circuit, and some were adults just going back to riding. These two groups ride with different goals, and his teaching style reflected it.

2) An instructor HAS to have the know-how and experience.
Might be a no-brainer, but I've seen too many instructors who aren't certified but think that just because they've been riding a long time, that they know everything. A plus is when your instructor still successfully shows their own horses, because then they know what judges want in the show ring.
Your points are really good and I think you hit on a point that makes a huge difference when choosing an instructor and that's "goals"!
Positive attitude and communication and deep depth of knowledge of topic
I too had the instructor who screamed at me (he was also my employer at the time) and this guy had an Olympic gold medal. I will no longer accept this.
I knew a dressage instructor who rode for Canada at the 1976 Olympics. She had a positive attitude, had a deep depth of knowlege but couldn't teach to save her life. She got out of teaching. She was an excellent rider/trainer though.
My current coach comes to Canada twice a year. He is one of the best coach/rider/trainer I know of. I watched him teach a class of two girls riding their small ponies (one a shetland and the other a welsh). By the end of the lesson both had done counter canter and leg yielding. He was able to tell them exactly and simply how to do these movements that they had never done before.
Sic2 I love it when some one has the guts to say what needs to be said! Kudos to you. Almost everything you mention has to do with integrity. I think I'd take integrity over certification, at least for the next 30 years. When that time comes I think we'll have lost some great horsemen and women who may not ever go through certification and then the system will be firmly in place
Good point Queenrider- just because a person can ride doesn't mean they have a gift for teaching. Often they can't communicate what they do because they do it by instinct as opposed to theory. And there are people who are such gifted teachers that their teaching surpasses their riding ability. They are th communicators who can open a student's eyes. Your point is an important one to consider
I would say that legal certifications are not the biggest thing on my list..I mean the Riding instructor, I have now didn't need to show me any paperwork (I do know she is certified now as we have been together for 3 years as student and teacher)..I walked into her room/barn/office, and she had over 100 trophies from AQHA (which unlike the dressage trophies do mean alot) from her being my age (a bit younger so around 14), to her age now (40-45), winning horse trailers ect ect, and the fact that she wasn't scared to show me her work..I mean my first lesson I rode on a horse she trained herself (won lots with it in its prime) and I got to use one of her many WP saddles she had won. She did the job well too, fitting all the discriptions you have all mentioned.
I was terrified to even trot, but now I have been showing for 2 years, and now to the point were my parents are thinking about taking me out of the country to show on a horse I never thought I would be qualified to ride let alone purchase a horse that expensive..she (my RI)has literally helped/made my dreams come true.
I wonder if he's related to the guy that sent the curb bit back to HS because the shank's bent....
Hi A Sassy Temptation,
In a type of riding that doesn't certify, looking at awards can tell you someone might be worth a try. It sounds like your RI "delivered the goods" for you- so maybe you're saying the proof is in the results?
The RI is certified. Western Pleasure aswell as many other western events can be certified through the AEF (as I will eventually plan to get my instructors level 1 in it). By all means she delivered the goods. But I would rather see living proof (whether its seeing the horses, seeing her/his clientel, and her winnings [if they mean anything]) My second RI had no experience with cerifications but I liked her, she showed me alot about Chris Irwin and ground work I had never thought about, but I REALLY wanted to show, so after I learned as much as I could I went to my present RI (whom is too busy for beginners), and been there ever since.

I think PROOF IS in the RESULTS, if a RI cannot walk the walk, and talk the talk she/he shouldn't be teaching that specific thing. If I cannot get my horse to lift its shoulder,/pick up the correct lead/ect ect I would expect the RI to show me on another horse, or on my own (which my RI will do without question). I just got my first "finished" show horse with so many more "buttons" to push I find it more difficult then riding my first show horse, my Ri helps position my aid, so I can "click" into the idea..extremely helpfull. First Lesson I had on the new horse, she was on my horse to show me what I am looking for, and then put me back on to show me how to feel for it.
You make an excellent point. Showing is one of the proofs and so is getting on a horse an demonstrating to students. And sometimes seeing is more educational than hearing. Can you tell us more about the AEF? I'm not familiar with it and those initials bring up a bunch of non horse organizations(like economic groups) when I search for it online, so I couldn't learn anything about it.

I have a general hypothetical question for you. Would you take lessons from someone who is old and could no longer get on and demonstrate?
AEF, Alberta Equestrain Federation. Is based for MANY insurences and Albertan events. There is Western Instructors level 1 and 2, then coaching levels, and then after all those levels are passed their is mentor (who teaches the western levels to be able to qualify for the other lower levels), this is the same for both english, vaulting, and driving coaches. Their is a test (kind of like getting a drivers test), in order to pass each level, then once your past a certain amount of levels you can apply for your RI level 1 and so on..This obvious helps for insurance purposes. They also support the sport horse license for 3 day eventing, and can purchase horse mortality/tack/training/medical (both for rider and equine) insurance from Capri (AEF Advertises for them).

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