To Lesson or Not to Lesson?
That should not even be a question!
I’ve met many people who are fascinated by horses enough to want to ‘get’ their own horse. Often, acquaintances or people I’ve met will ask me my opinion about buying a horse – where do they start?
I run through all the typical questions with them: Why do you want a horse? Are you aware of all the aspects of horse ownership? Have you budgeted for all the upkeep costs (and we go through the breakdown – the initial purchase price of the horse is dwarfed when compared to maintenance costs, never mind emergency vet bills should they happen). Why wouldn’t you want to lease a horse, part-board or take weekly (multiple?) lessons first, to see if you really are interested in all the associated responsibilities in the long run?
And then, after all these questions are articulated and clearly answered, I hit them with my final question: Are you willing to take lessons (yes, on your own horse!) long-term?
At times, this can become a contentious issue. Many people are not committed to taking lessons, especially if they are themselves, or know of, long-term horse owners. The argument: “Well, so-and-so has had horses forever and never took lessons. They learned from their horse, and they’re doing just fine!”
The world of lessons opens up a range of experiences that are not possible to achieve on your own:
- technical know-how (this should go without saying – you can’t possibly “know” how to do something if you’ve never been officially taught it in the first place!)
- help in resolving problem behaviour or finding the source of issues – riding or horsekeeping
- exchange of ideas and information (from a person who presumably knows something you deem valuable to hear from)
- goal setting advice from someone other than yourself (where are you now? what should be your next step?)
- encouragement when you need it, and a “push” when you equally need that
I watch with wonder when some people get on and ride their horses with nary a lesson in years, while on the other hand, I see the “top riders” of our sport working tirelessly with their mentors/trainers even though they are at the peak of performance and technical ability. Of course we are not all heading for the Olympics, nor are we riding in that sort of capacity. But certainly some input can be useful for everyone at some point in time.
As for the final question: How do you know if you’ve found the right instructor?
The answer to that one is easy – just listen to your horse!