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
I judge the horses. Do they look content? Are they healthy and in good weight? Are they manageable even when somewhat excited (turn out, windy days)?
I'll go for knowledge, experience, and a good eye for effective positions, or at least two out of three.
I am impressed when I see calm retrained OTTB's, especially those privately owned by students.
I really agree with you on this. I have a couple of older OTTBs that were in the hunter ring before I got them. Even though they have the potential of being hot in the wrong circumstance, they're great for advanced beginners as long as we keep them in an element in which they're confident. For instance, these guys have been arena horses for all their long lives, taking them on trails makes them very nervous- they're out of their element.
I also like to go into a barn and see the noses come forward as the trainer walks by, and I like to see that they don't back off if the trainer puts a hand up to pat them. It shows me the prevailing attitude in that barn
I'm still learning how to use Barnmice... I also added this discussion to the main page and there are more replies there. I guess that's not the way it works! But I'm happy for the good comments! So if you check in here be sure to the main page too!
I definitely agree my first one would be attitude!!! My instructor is positive and PASSIONATE about what she does. She obviously loves it, and that positivity and enthusiasm just translates naturally to her teaching.
My second one has to be their reaction to dangerous situations. Accidents will happen, since you're riding a 1,000 pound animal with free will and a lot of muscle. A riding instructor that is so scared for their student they start freaking out freaks ME out. I prefer an instructor that keeps their cool and tells me what I need to do in a firm, loud voice that I can hear while my horse is freaking out. A riding instructor that freaks out is teaching their student to panic in bad situations as well, breeding fear and a lack of self-confidence.
You make a very good point regarding riding instructor's who panic. Accidents happen and there seems to be a prevailing thought that rider's should be able to have careers without falling off. But falling off is part of the riding equation. If it never happens I'd wonder if a rider was ever moving out of the comfort zone and being challenged. Please don't misunderstand though, I certainly don't mean it should be a goal!
Panicking (by instructors) not only sends fear into riders, it sends horses right over the edge making the situation worse. A calm (strong) and steady voice during any emergency will not only help calm a rider it will also help get through to a mind that has shut down in its own fear. Instructors need to have safe guards and procedures in place for emergencies, such as if a rider loses control everyone else comes off the rail and stops. If a horse gets loose other riders dismount. If a student loses control, ride tot he instructor, etc. Procedures for emergency should be taught as soon as possible during the lesson progression, for example - pulley rein, emergency dismount, what to do if a horse rears, what to do with a horse that bucks, spooks, bolts etc. In other words safety needs to be taught as part of lesson structure.
Past that, if a horse repeatedly does dangerous things, an instructor has to have the fortitude and wisdom to know when it's time to recommend that the student find a new mount to partner with. Even the finest horses and riders don't always make the best combinations.