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Find A Great Instructor to be your Mentor
Your mentor will be invaluable to you in times when your students
present challenges to you. An effective system of teaching riding
is also a component great instructors have developed. If you have
not had the opportunity to ride with a great teacher, watch videos
of great teachers and try to learn their method and read books on
teaching methods. Attend teaching conferences, clinics, university
courses, and join a teaching association, such as the American
Riding Instructor’s Association (ARIA).  
The longevity of your relationship with your students and the
development of your teaching ability and skill swings back into your
teaching philosophy. Do you want to become a “great” teacher
and have a long-term relationship with your students or do you
want to make as much money as you can, without caring about
your attrition rate, and move on to the next students and repeat
the process? This is a personal decision; there are no rights or
wrongs. I have had students whose children have come to me
when they needed help. I like the longevity approach, because it
is what is fulflling to me.  
Author’s Note: I give in-depth teaching clinics and work one-on-one with riding
teachers and trainers, as well as give in-depth workshops and talks at association/
group meetings and consult on teaching for interscholastic and collegiate schools.   
Sports Psychology
By Ann S. Reilly, Ph. D.
Great riding instructors know that teaching riding is an art
form which includes knowledge of all aspects of horses -- how
horses move and behave, effective equitation, instructional
teaching skills, creativity and intuition, an understanding of the
psychological principles of learning and an understanding of the
psychological make up of each student they teach.
Instructors who show real genius intuitively listen to their
instincts when teaching, and become immersed in the “zone.”
They can see, hear, and feel what each student needs to hear at
each moment to help them ride more effectively. They can also
intuitively read each rider’s mental state, and effectively motivate
and teach confdence each day so they get the best performance
out of each rider, every day, in lessons or competition.
Teaching Philosophy
Having a teaching philosophy is like having a personal quest
and a road map. Your philosophy does not have to be complicated.
For example, my teaching philosophy is: each student is capable
of learning and performing well. I give more than one hundred
percent of myself in helping each student become the best they
can be. Teaching will be challenging at times, but I will strive to
keep learning fun and simple. Most importantly, I will NEVER put
limits on a student or tell them they will never be able to achieve
their goals and dreams.
Believe In Your Students
Great teachers know and believe in their students’ goals as
much as the students do. This is also where genius comes in --
keep believing especially when every indication is that a student
won’t achieve his or her goals. A teacher’s job is to help students
fnd a way to overcome obstacles to their progress. And when this
happens, the thrill of achievement will engulf your heart and soul.  
Biggest Mistake Teachers Make
Many teachers, especially young teachers, make the mistake
of taking the attitude that they “know it all.” Huge Mistake! Great
instructors know this and look for solutions to the challenges.
Show your students you believe in them. Instead of blaming your
students when they complain their horse does not feel right, or
condemn them when they are trying and can’t get a skill, fnd the
solution. Get on the horse in order to feel the horse, encourage
them when they are scared, and fnd another way to teach the skill
when your students don’t “get it.” When I don’t have an answer,
I honestly tell my student “I don’t know the answer this moment,
but I will fnd out the answer as fast as possible.” This approach
will retain your student population. This honesty builds a working
relationship with your students that is quite effective.
According to the winning football coach Lou Holtz, who is
famous for developing championship teams from scratch, there
are three things a student wants from a teacher or coach:
They want to know:
1. That the teacher likes them.
2. That the teacher cares about them.
3. And that they can trust their teacher.
Ann S. Reilly, Ph.D. is a sport psychologist and author of
“A Sport Psychology Workbook for Riders,” available from Questions for Ms. Reilly’s column can be
addressed to
What Makes a Great
Riding Instructor?