What Makes A Good Riding Instructor?

Heels down!!!   Head up!!!  Soft hands!!!!   Toes forward!!!   No, no, NO — MAKE him do what you want, don’t just ASK!!!

This is what you’re hearing and trying to make sense of . . . but meanwhile you’re just going in circles on some horse you don’t know and trying to hang on for dear life!

If you’re a horse lover and a rider, I’m sure this sounds all too familiar. And frankly, it’s the reason I’ve stayed away from formal riding training most of  my life. The militant approach so many instructors seem to take has always felt out of sync with the human-horse bond to me.

Hopefully this technique is a thing of the past. Like those old-school piano teachers who would rap you on the knuckles if you held your hands wrong (my poor mom had to endure this when she was a child …….).

But I digress.

If you’ve read my blog for long, you know I’ve been struggling to come back from a fall two years ago and so have been unable to ride consistently or comfortably during that time.

About three months ago I heard about a therapeutic riding instructor in my area and decided to try her out. I already had a great physical therapist, massage therapist, and other good healers on my team, so why not add a good riding instructor to the mix? I really had nothing to lose, and I knew if I didn’t like her . . . well .  . .that would be that.

Imagine my surprise when a young, tall, wisp o’the willow blonde who looked about 15 arrived at my place one Sunday in September, a toddler in tow, and announced that she was my new riding instructor! And did I mention beautiful? (I hope she didn’t notice that my jaw was on the ground.)

Here's Christina & daughter Mesa, so . . . well, you get the picture.

Christina immediately impressed me with her winning smile, her soft spoken demeanor, and her matter-of-fact but loving management of her 16-month-old daughter, who was obviously an appendage no matter what the activity. Her credentials are stunning: not only a related college degree and certification as a therapeutic riding instructor, but 10 years of experience including managing a therapeutic riding program for the disabled, along with years and years of her own horsemanship experience before that. And she’s so young she could be my daughter . . . well maybe even my granddaughter! Egads!

But the proof is in the pudding, right? After thoroughly reviewing my “case” and taking a careful look at my off-kilter back, up I went. Once again, for the first time in months. Maybe this time would be a charm.

Christina & Mesa, carefully and lovingly directing my re-entry into riding.

Christina immediately identified a few things I could do with my posture in the saddle that would ease my back and help me slowly re-accommodate myself to regular riding.  One of these was to shorten my stirrups so much that I looked like an old woman in a rocking chair — but wow, does that take pressure off the lower back. (And now, two months later, I’m proud to say, my stirrups are back down where they should be.)

Me, in that first lesson, feeling mighty awkward and stiff!

There was no yelling. No “correcting.” Just gentle suggesting, praising, encouraging, laughing . . . and above all, cautioning — not to do more than “felt good” on any given day, which at first would turn out to be only five to ten minutes at a time in the saddle.

Two years ago, before my fall, my mare Bella and I went to a group clinic given by a recognized dressage instructor in our area. Bella was the only horse there who was not from the woman’s own stable — all fairly highly trained dressage horses. And Bella could not do straight lateral (sideways) work down the fenceline. The clinician said Bella was just “putting me on,” slapped her hard on the shoulder, and the next day Bella was so lame on that leg she couldn’t put weight on it for days. Bella knew her limits, I knew she wasn’t spoofing me, and the teacher was an idiot. Enough of that! I’m sticking with Christina.

I am making great progress and feel so blessed!

********************************************************************

Check out Christina’s website, Buckaroo Balance. And if you live anywhere nearby, I’d encourage you to attend one of her clinics or indulge yourself in some private lessons. Whether you’re “disabled” or not!

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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alan Joel, Leta Worthington, Bobby Whitetail, Stephanie Yeh, Leta Worthington and others. Leta Worthington said: What Makes A Good Riding Instructor?: Heels down!!!   Head up!!!  Soft hands!!!!   Toes forward!!!   No, no, NO — … http://bit.ly/adIedt […]

  2. 2

    WOW! Thank you SO much! What a HUGE compliment!! 🙂 I’m going to re-post this EVERYWHERE!!! I am SO proud!

    And proud of you too Leta! You are now riding a half an hour at a time! When 5 or 10 mins would have put you in bed for a day before! You’ve come SO far already & I’m SO looking forward to continuing to work with you & see you gain strength & comfort so that you & Bella will be riding off into our beautiful New Mexico sunsets!

  3. 3

    Robin said,

    I have taken part in several lessons and two all day clinics with Christina, the most recent yesterday. She is funny and sweet, and smart about horses and people, and has done me and my horse so much good. She always finds a way to point out just tiny little things that make a huge difference. And she gives us stuff to work on that will take months to truly master, which is great fun as it always gives us something interesting to work on. I’m so glad you found her!

    • 4

      Hi Robin,
      I heard about your clinic this past weekend, but I think maybe your group and level of riding is a little “wild child” for me at this point in my recuperation so I did not try to attend. Maybe some day …..
      We’ll have to get Christina to put all these wonderful testimonials up on her website! What a great one yours is, and yes, I love those “tiny little things” she helps us with as well as the homework. Thanks for posting!
      Leta

  4. 5

    […] If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more about Christina and what makes a good riding instructor, go HERE! […]

  5. 6

    […] If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more about Christina and what makes a good riding instructor, go HERE! […]


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