When to Remove a Student from His Horse in Riding Lessons

While removing a student from his horse might not be an ideal scenario, it is sometimes necessary. Riding instructors must protect themselves, their clients and their employees, which sometimes means making difficult decisions.

There are three situations in which you should remove a student from his horse in riding lessons:

Dangerous behavior
Refusal to follow orders
Ill/injured animal

That’s the criteria. If you are teaching a riding lesson where one is true, it’s time to remove the student from his horse.

Dangerous Behavior

I taught a riding lesson once where a student purposefully tried to run his horse into another horse in the arena. I’ve seen lessons where a student drops his reins or takes off at a canter without warning, or attempts to jump an obstacle without permission. All grounds for automatic removal.

Your horse business will not survive if you allow dangerous behavior to continue. Your students must respect you enough to stay safe when working with horses, and if they don’t they lose the privilege of riding. Period.

Refusal to Follow Orders

Even if a student is not being overtly dangerous in a riding lesson, his refusal to follow the orders you give should result in removal. You conduct riding lessons a certain way for a reason—to keep everyone safe—and a student who disrespects your commands should not be tolerated.

I have a three-strikes rule for this situation in my riding lessons (unless the behavior becomes dangerous, in which Strike Three happens right away). Set a zero-tolerance party for failing to follow rules and you’ll have a much more orderly riding lesson program.

Ill or Injured Animal

Let’s say a horse comes up lame in the middle of a riding lesson. Or what if you notice that a horse seems dehydrated. When this happens, it is best to remove the student from his horse immediately.

If possible, you can set up another horse for the student to ride, thereby saving the lesson. If you can’t, you can offer a make-up so the student doesn’t miss out. Whatever the case, respond to an ill or injured horse immediately.

Behavioral Removal

In every situation except the last, it is important to make it clear that removing a student from his horse is a punishment. It should be uncomfortable for the student so that it discourages repeats in the future.

Some riding instructors make their students sit outside the arena and watch the rest of the class, while others send disrespectful students to the barn to muck stalls or clean tack. Whatever the case, send a message when things get out of hand in riding lessons.

One caveat:

Make sure that students (and their parents) know the rules before you remove a student from his horse. This is extremely important because the student (or his parent) is paying for the riding lesson, and will therefore be upset when he gets nothing in return for his money.

Give every student a copy of the rules, and make sure to talk to parents after a riding lesson where a student was removed. Tell them what went wrong and exactly how you handle it so there are no misunderstandings. Communication, you guys. It makes the horse business go ’round.

What’s Your Story?

This web site is all about developing a solid horse business and letting it take off. It’s about finding your passion, your reason for living, and making money with your skills. It’s about solving problems and improving solutions, and preventing catastrophe.

I love helping an individual launch a successful horse business. I don’t do this because it makes me rich or because it makes me famous—it does neither. I do it because my story has led me here.

The other day, I was considering my future and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I’ve got a lot on my plate, and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work in front of me. Not only do I write articles for this web site and consult with horse business owners, but I’m also hard at work on my first novel, and occasionally I take freelance writing jobs.

I consider shutting down Riding Instructor University on a weekly basis, mostly because I feel guilty for indulging two passions. I love to work with horses and horse people, but I love writing more—and rarely is there enough time in my schedule for both. I compromise often.

But it would be wrong to close the doors of RIU and move on to other things. It would be wrong to deny other people the knowledge that I have amassed over the years, and it would be wrong to close the valve that allows me to stay connected with the horse community.

When I was seventeen I sustained a terrible injury that completely changed the course of my life. Not only did I break my ankle in several places, but the doctors discovered that I broke my ankle because of osteoporosis. Then, a year or so later, I cracked a couple vertebrae in my back.

I take medication for osteoporosis, but another fall from a horse could render me completely immobile. Therefore, riding and competing are out of the running in terms of career choices. I taught for a long time, and now I do this.

The point here is that my story led me to where I am today, just as your story led you to your destination. We all have different histories that make us who we are; my reasons for entering the horse business are entirely different from yours.

Our stories serve to unite and define us, to inform our decisions and to smack us down for our mistakes. I am as much a servant to my story as I am a choreographer.

We talk a lot about the specifics of the horse business here at RIU. I dispense advice about budgets and scheduling and stable management. But the real issue is your story and how it influences your career decisions.

Take the advice you find here and apply it to your own horse business. Disregard the irrelevant information and absorb the relevant. Remember that there is no one right answer, that each of us has to make decisions based on our experiences rather than just the numbers or the facts.

I strongly believe that the horse business is as much about heart as mind. The odds might be stacked against you and you might feel alone. Vulnerable. Helpless. Frustrated. But you can turn any hardship around by applying the very things you’ve learned from horses to the horse business.

Maybe you became a riding instructor because you did not have a strong adult influence in your life as a child, and you want to provide that security to other children. Or perhaps you train horses because you see the potential in all animals and you want to see that potential realized.

What’s your story? What have horses taught you? And where can you go from here?

The Power of Incentives in the Horse Business

Everyone enjoys a good incentive now and again. When you go to the grocery store, do you clip coupons for your favorite products? If a restaurant is offering a free drink with your meal, are you more likely to eat there than an establishment where you will have to pay two bucks for a Diet Coke?

Incentives are as good as currency in business, but they are often overlooked in the horse business. It’s like riding instructors and horse trainers think they are above the this practice. Or maybe they just don’t see how it can apply to them.

If you can harness the power of incentives in the horse business, you’ll see a corresponding uptick in income. I promise.

For example, maybe you’re a riding instructor and you’d like to teach more students. You’ve advertised in local papers, put up flyers in the tack store and spread word of mouth. But your classes still aren’t full.

Your existing students represent an untapped resource. Provide incentives for them to bring in more students, and you’ll have cut your work in half.

Tell your students that for every new rider they bring in, they get an extra lesson free. They get more riding time, you get a new customer. Tit for tat.

Or you could advertise a free lesson (or half off a lesson, whatever) to each new student who signs up for a month of classes. You’re guaranteed the future income (you can even require they pay in advance), but the student feels he’s getting a better deal.

Incentives can be used in every facet of the horse business. If you’re a farrier, for instance, you could offer free trims to new customers. If you’re a horse trainer, offer a free thirty-minute assessment ride. Try to harness incentives where all you give away for free is your time; that way, you’re not actually out money as you attempt to make money.

Brainstorm incentives with your staff and come up with unique ideas to draw in more customers. The more unique, the better.

The Number One Way to Make Students Happy in Riding Lessons

All riding lessons will not go as planned. Every student experiences a bad day every once in a while, and although this is inevitable, unhappy students may leave your horse business and go somewhere else.

To make students happy in riding lessons, you can’t set unattainable goals. If you want every lesson to be a blissful, joyful experience for all involved, you’re going to create a lot of disappointment.

Instead, you need to focus on what you can control, and that is the last ten minutes of every lesson. No matter what came before—tears, falls, battles between horses and their students, incorrect aids, whatever—you can end every lesson on a positive note and make all your students happy.

Because although they might remember the tears and the embarrassing fall and the mistakes, they will most remember what happened in those final ten minutes.

If you want to make your students happy in riding lessons, end every lesson in a positive way. Tell your students they did a great job and that they are improving every week. Then ask them to perform something you know for a fact they can do.

This might be as simple as ending a riding lesson with a brisk rising trot around the arena, followed by a long cool-out at the walk. There are very few opportunities for error in those activities, and your students will enjoy themselves. Don’t teach anything new or ask them to perform a difficult movement; give them something easy to do and let them be proud of themselves.

This is the greatest gift you can give your students in riding lessons, and it means you will build student loyalty. If your riders walk away from their lessons feeling proud and relaxed, they will always want to come back for more.

So end positively. Celebrate successes rather than rehashing failures.