• Maddy Brown

How to Get The Most Out of Group Lessons

Group lessons are a staple of nearly every riding program, from beginners to college riding and beyond. Personally, I start all of my beginners out in private lessons in order to build strong foundations, then move them to groups once they have a solid grasp of steering and trotting. From then on, unless working on a specific horse or rider issue, I try to offer mostly group lessons. Riding in groups offers a variety of opportunities and positives, such as camaraderie, learning from your peers, and the ability for your horse to take a rest between goes. I see a lot of people have misconceptions about group lessons, though, so I’m here with a handful of dos and don’ts to make sure you get the most out of your rides!

Photo by A-Patterson Photography

DON’T show up late...

Being late for any lesson is rude and a big no-no (sometimes you can’t help it, and this we know!), but being late to a group lesson is an especially large faux pas. When you’re late to your group, you hold up everyone in the lesson! If your trainer starts without you, you also add frustration to the trainer as she tries to catch you up to the rest of the group without sacrificing your horse and your education.

DO be punctual and ready to work!

Punctuality is a major respect point! Showing up on time with a clean, properly turned out horse and a ready-to-work mentality is the best way to stay in your trainer’s good graces right off the bat. Keep in mind your lesson time and be sure to allow yourself enough time to get ready and get to the ring on time.

DON’T space out when it’s not your turn...

This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves, but also one of the things I see happen the most in group lessons. Riders tune out when it’s not their turn to go, thinking what’s going on doesn’t have anything to do with them. Grab a sip of water, catch your breath, but the lesson is still going on even when you’re not the one doing the exercise.

DO learn from watching your peers!

You can learn just as much from watching others as you can from actually riding the course yourself! Stay present while your peers are going and watch what they do. What works? What doesn’t? You can learn so much just by watching!

DON’T chat while your trainer is coaching another rider...

Okay, topping the spacing out on my list of pet peeves is this one, chatting while another rider is going! Not only is it distracting, it’s rude to your trainer and causes you to miss out on valuable information. Watching your peers is important, and so is listening to what your trainer tells them!

DO listen to all feedback, directed at you or not!

It’s not unlikely that multiple riders in a group lesson make the same mistake. More often than not, this happens because the second person to make the mistake wasn’t paying attention when the first person did it. Listen to everything your trainer says in your lesson, whether it’s to you or your friend! Say there are three riders in your lesson. If you listen while your trainer is teaching the other two, you can learn three times as much in your lesson than you can if you only listen to what she says to you!

DON’T make it a competition...

Riders, especially competitive ones, have a tendency to do a lot of comparing. A big danger of group lessons is a competition mentality. Her against me. Was she better than me? Who was the star today? Is her horse nicer than mine? STOP. IT. Making group lessons into a competition is a terrible, ugly business to get into. This is not a you versus me situation. This is an opportunity to learn together as friends!

DO enjoy each other’s successes as part of the process!

Ups and downs are part of learning. If it’s all ups, you’re probably not learning anything new. You have to fail in order to succeed! Instead of comparing yourself to your peers, look at the lessons objectively and consider what you all learned and how you’re improving. Pick your friends up when they need it, and they’ll do the same for you. This isn’t a competition, you can save that stress for the horse shows. Enjoy the opportunity to learn with your friends!

DON’T get nervous about riding in front of a group...

It can be a little intimidating to ride in front of other people, especially when you’re learning something new. No one likes to make mistakes with an audience! However, riding in front of people is a necessity in the competitive side of this sport, and what better time to practice and get comfortable with that idea than at home?

DO use it to boost your confidence for riding with an audience, such as a show!

At horse shows, you’ll have lots of people watching you. Practicing in front of a small “crowd” helps to get you comfortable and confident with that idea, rather than always being alone and then being thrust into the public eye at a show! You’ll learn that successes are great with an audience, and mistakes are rarely anywhere near as catastrophic as they might seem.

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