5 Qualities of a Great Riding Instructor

These days everyone has an opinion on what the best method is to school a horse. No matter what the discipline, there are ‘experts’ lurking behind every corner waiting for their opportunity to give their two cents..or one hundred cents in some cases!! Yes, the equestrian industry is (unfortunately) filled with people who think they know best so when you finally make the decision to start lessons, it can be so difficult to know where to begin when trying to find the instructor that’s right for you.

I have had a lot of instructors over the years and from experience I’ve found some of the best trainers possess (at least) these five qualities.

You want to find an instructor who…

Boosts Your Confidence

I left this lesson beaming after flying this oxer

Let’s be honest, no one does lessons to come out feeling shit. Yes we all have bad days and there are times when a lesson ends and you feel so disappointed in yourself and how you rode. But if this is happening after every lesson, then I’m sorry to say, you may need to find yourself a new instructor. Your instructor is there to build your confidence and to teach you the skills you need to make you feel capable of achieving your goals. If you don’t think your instructor can do that, then you need to respectfully part ways so you can find someone who can teach you.

Challenges You

Bringing me out to jump some cross country in my first jumping lesson after my fall…

Some instructors can be a bit more cautious than others. They never risk a trip to the field in case your horse has a moment and they generally keep the jumps no higher than 80cm except for the very odd occasion when you do a ‘Chase me Charlie’ (which usually ends at an anticlimactic 90cm because no one is actually used to jumping any higher). They do the same old flatwork and then on to jumping routine. And for some, that’s absolutely perfect, they learn to expect and enjoy the same routine every week. But in my experience, if you want to start seeing progress in your horse and your riding, you need an instructor who’s going to challenge you. Someone who’s going to test you with trickier and more difficult exercises, someone who’s going to push the heights that bit higher every few weeks so you can see how good you can be. These are the instructors you want to be doing lessons with. These are the instructors that will make sure you get to where you want to go.

Tells You Like It Is

This is something that’s been discussed around the yard a bit lately. I cannot understand people who get offended when an instructor tells them they’re doing something wrong or people who blatantly ignore the advice of an instructor in a lesson because they don’t think it will work for their horse. You have chosen to pay this person to teach you, you’ve decided that this person knows more about riding horses than you do and when this person gives you their opinion, you get annoyed or offended and go running right back to the instructor who hasn’t improved your riding in years.

Definitely no sugar coating here!

Why waste the money if you’re not going to at least TRY what this new person is suggesting. Yes some instructors can be much more blunt than others but so what, they’re there to teach you. Not to blow smoke up your arse and tell you you’re brilliant. You are paying this person to improve you as a rider, at the very least get your money’s worth of knowledge out of them!

Uses Methods You Agree With

This kind of goes back to a point I made at the very start of this post – there are so many people out there who think they know best. And there are so many different methods that can be used to train a horse and a rider. Some are controversial, others are just downright cruelty, regardless you need to be sure you have confidence in your instructors training methods. If not, you need to find someone who’s methods you believe in and you can get on board with.

NB: Cruelty has no place in horsemanship and I absolutely do not condone it in any make shape or form

Know’s Their Shit And Can Actually Teach You That Shit

Sue Byrne demonstrating how NOT to ride

From time to time you may get the opportunity to have a lesson with a top international rider which can seem like an unmissable opportunity. To be fair it is quite exciting especially if that person is someone you’ve always looked up to as a professional rider. Unfortunately though it can end up that you don’t get as much from these lessons as you might have hoped for. Some top competition riders simply just don’t know how to teach and others are far too used to working with horses who know it all and just need some fine tuning. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t true for all of them, but it was my own experience and it has been a common complaint I’ve heard. The other issue with these instructors is that they generally don’t have the availability to teach you consistently so if you do find one you click with it can be hard to keep the progress. But fret not, there are plenty of highly qualified instructors out there who know their shit and are capable of actually teaching you that shit!

And there you have my five qualities to look for in a good instructor. Of course this is entirely subjective and just based off my own experiences but I don’t think I’ve gone too far wrong here. Some people yearn for a trainer that they can consider a friend but personally I wouldn’t say its an absolute requirement when it comes to finding someone who can teach you…although it is a plus because then you can rip the piss out of them like this…

Watch with sound so you can hear how happy she was with me hahaha!

What do you look for in a trainer? Let me know in the comments 🙂

Thanks for reading,


3 thoughts on “5 Qualities of a Great Riding Instructor

  1. Great post! I’ve got an amazing coach, and along with the above points, she also has this uncanny ability to distinguish between “difficult” and “dangerous”. If she tells me to stay on and work through something (bucking, running off, spinning, whatever), then I know it’s safe to do so and that I’ll come out the other side. The couple of times she’s said “you need to get off now”, she was absolutely right. Knowing that she’ll push me to my bravery limits without putting me in danger means I never have to worry.

  2. Finding the right person for you is so important. More people I think should take the time to find that person. It is what is best for the horse and the rider. ❤

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