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:
Refusal to follow orders
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.
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.
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.
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.