As an instructor I don`t tend to get on my client`s horses to give a demonstration, but this week I seem to have done it rather a lot.
Sometimes it is useful for a client to see a visual demonstration, and in the riding school other riders can be used; for example teaching trot diagonals. Additionally, other riders in a group lesson can be used. When we were teenagers we used to ride as extras in the group lessons to be lead file, provide demonstrations, and generally set an example.
I prefer explanations and trial and error, trying different explanations and analogies until the client gets it. I find that once they get the right feeling I find that it`s usually enough to cement their understanding. When someone gets on your horse, and I know from experience, and successfully achieves the exercise you`ve been struggling with all lesson you feel slightly demoralised as a rider. It feels much better to finally press the buttons yourself and develop that movement.
On the other side of the stick, riding a horse gives you greater understanding of the way they go and what makes them tick, so I wouldn`t be adverse to schooling a client`s horse every so often.
The first horse I hopped on this week was a client`s Haflinger who was in a different, milder bit, and my client was struggling with her right circles and the gelding was falling out through his right shoulder. After I had tried explaining the co-ordination of her aids, and her horse still fell out on the circle, so I asked if I could hop on a get a feel for what my rider was feeling. After a couple of circuits on both reins I found that the Haflinger needed more left leg, of which my rider knows she is weaker in, and also to be stronger through the core so that she could keep her arms stiller and provide her horse with a more consistent contact. When she got back on, I could focus her immediately on her left leg, to support her horse from the beginning. This time, me getting on was beneficial as my rider could see that the faults she was having were with her, not her horse, and her horse was reminded of the correct etiquette, which hopefully makes her life easier when she remounts. I also discovered that a surprising amount of left leg was needed to support him on the left rein, which I didn`t know from observing the pair.
Today I was teaching a young girl, riding the family pony for her first lesson with me. Yesterday, he older sister had been schooling the pony in canter, and this mischievous pony spent the first ten minutes cantering off when my rider asked for trot. My rider pulled up each time, and we addressed the matter. The pony was napping towards me, in the middle, and towards the pony at the other end of the school. So I got my rider riding a more purposeful walk, reins the correct length, using her rising trot to establish the two beat gait, gentle squeeze with the leg, heels away, and the half halts. By using a combination of these factors we managed a couple of trots. But this pony knows every trick in the book – now she kept trying to stop! We were making slow and steady progress and then the cheeky monkey cantered off and jumped a pole! Making a lovely bascule, she stopped a couple of strides after and put her head down, so her rider tumbled over the pony`s head.
Now in this situation the pony needed to learn some manners, and the rider needed to see her behave to give her the confidence to get back on. After I had ridden the pony through her grumpy faces, I put my rider onto the lunge and we worked on her trotting a large circle, making her pony move away from me, and strengthening my riders aids and coordination of aids. This included carrying her hands to help increase her core stability and strength and maintaining the trot at her speed, not her pony`s. It was a successful end to the lesson, and I moved onto my next lesson.
This mother and daughter that I then taught ride a friend`s horses, who are coming into fitness and have a relatively unknown history. The large cob is forwards going, and has a basic education and seems to know her manners, but the smaller grey pony is green, and has napping tendencies. In the trot his rider is mastering controlling his rhythm and pre-empting his corner cutting or rushing to catch up, and you can see their relationship growing. However, in canter they fall apart. The pony doesn`t fully understand, and his rider is not yet confident with her aids to keep asking an inexperienced horse. So after a few tries, and a couple of successful canter strides, I offered to try cantering him for the final time, to better his understanding of canter and to finish on a good note. it took me a couple of goes, and then I found the magic button – a sharp tap with the stick behind the inside leg. Now I have more faith in the pony`s ability we can work more on this over the next couple of weeks.
So in all, giving demonstrations this week have been beneficial, but I`ll stick to my explanations and analogies at the forefront of my lessons as it`s so much easier than squashing my over large head into client`s hats when mine isn`t to hand!