When it comes to riding, there is always more to learn. Despite becoming a coach several years ago, I still take lessons to improve my own riding. However, after so many years of being a student, becoming a coach really opened my eyes to some of the things that I was doing as a student to slow my progress.

This sport involves a great deal of time, effort and money – we all want to get as much as possible from it. So from one “forever” student to another, here are some tips to help you get the most from your riding experience!

1. Be punctual

Arriving at the barn late or dawdling while tacking up puts you behind for your lesson. This not only shortens your lesson time and affects the plan your coach made, but if you are in a group lesson it affects everyone else as well. Get to the barn in plenty of time to catch, groom, tack up, and warm up your horse before your lesson is set to start. It sounds simple, but so many people let this one slide!

2. Be attentive

While lessons are meant to be fun, they aren’t the time to be socializing with your friends or coach. You can do that in the barn before or after your lesson. Keep your mind in the ring and you will get much more out of your lesson and your horse – they know when you are distracted!

3. Ask questions

A good student will have questions, and a good coach will welcome them and be willing to provide answers. If there is anything that you are unsure of, don’t hesitate to ask so that you can better understand the exercise and what your coach is looking for.

4. Do your homework

Practice makes perfect! Use your schooling rides in between lessons to work on the exercises you learned in your lessons. Don’t be afraid to ask your coach for homework on whatever you should be focusing. If you only really “work” during your lessons, your progress won’t be what it could be.

5. Explore

The best riders out there watch and learn from everyone they can. Ask your coach for recommendations on which clinics to attend, books to read, videos to watch, and who to observe in the warm-up ring at horse shows.

6. Smile!

A good attitude is important. While this sport definitely has its ups and downs, it is also supposed to be fun! No matter what is going on in your life outside the barn, try to leave it at the gate when you go for your lesson – you’ll ride better and be happier, and your horse and coach will thank you.

7. Be respectful

Last but not least, be respectful and kind when dealing with and talking about your coach and other students or competitors. The horse world is small and full of gossip. Stay focused on yourself and your horse, contribute to a positive atmosphere at the barn and shows, and surround yourself with other good, fun people. You’ll go far and have a great time. Happy riding!