You've booked your lessons and can't wait to get started. You're all set and just waiting to see what your instructor has to tell you. That's all you need, right?

Well, yes and no. It is great to be prepared with horse and equipment ready. But there is so much more you can do to maximize the potential for learning from each and every lesson. Here are some ideas on what you can do to really benefit from your instructor's time and energy. 

Be in the ring and ready to go.

Some instructors want to do the warm-up with you in order to guide you in a way that is most suitable for your horse. In that manner, they can start you off with exercises that help your horse with his specific difficulties. They also give you ideas on what can be done when you're riding on your own.

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As you become a more advanced rider, and you and your instructor know each other better, there might come a time when you might be told to be warmed up and ready to go. This gives you both more time for the learning part of the lesson, when you can try new things or reinforce something you are still working on.

The bottom line is be ready. Don't make your instructor wait for you. Get in the ring before the lesson is scheduled to start. Have all your tack adjusted and secure so you can start right away. Be on the horse and walking by the time your instructor is ready for you.

Interpret instructions into physical movements.

There is an art to being a good student. Your instructor tells you what to do but it is you who has to know how to make it happen. Learning how to be the translator of verbal instructions is a difficult skill to develop, especially when you are first introduced to a new skill or concept. However, it is one of the most important keys to having great lessons and reaping rewards from what is taught.

Try even if you think you can't do it.

This happens all the time! Your instructor might tell you to do something and all you can think is, I can't do that! Or maybe you think, I've never done that, we're not ready!

In any case, give it your best shot. You'll realize that your instructor is likely not going to push you so far out of your comfort zone that the skill will be impossible for you. There is no other way to expand your horizons, so just go with it. Most skills take a long time (years maybe) to really develop, so just get started and work on what you get.

We all go through self-doubt, especially when faced with new learning.

Maintain a steady lesson routine.

Nothing can be learned in bits and spurts. You need to develop a routine, for both you and your horse, in order to make any kind of significant change in your riding and/or your horse's training. Most instructors offer lesson packages or monthly schedules. Take advantage and slot yourself in for regular lessons.

Lesson more often if possible.

Many of us take lessons once a week, but if you really want to make an impact, you should aim for two or three lessons a week. The secret to making a substantial change in your physical ability is to do it repeatedly, under supervision, as much as possible.

Watch other riders.

Many of us are visual learners. If your instructor has other students, try to stick around and watch them if at all possible. Even if they are more or less advanced than you, there is always something to be heard or seen that can clarify a concept in your mind. When you sit by the side, you can have more time to really listen to your instructor and watch what the outcome is with another horse and rider. All this information is helpful in your own learning process.

Ride together.

If you tend to have private lessons, you'll enjoy riding with others to break up the routine. You'll be motivated by what the others do. Your horse will be motivated by the other horses in the ring. When others ride at the same time, you'll have a chance to see and then do. It's great for the kinesthetic learners who need to do to learn.

Audit or ride in a clinic.

There is nothing better than adding a clinic to your regular lesson routine. If you can participate in a clinic, you get the chance to get an outside perspective on you and your horse. Often, you'll be surprised at how the clinician picks up on the exact same points that your instructor tells you routinely. Other times, you might hear something told to you in a different way that makes you connect the dots that you already knew about, but come together just because they were presented in a different manner.

If you can't ride, you can always go watch. Even if you don't know the riders or the horses, you'll see what other people do, how they learn and what exercises to use for particular skills. You can listen to the clinician's explanations. There are always things to learn by watching.


I always say that you can't learn to ride by reading. I still agree with that statement. However, reading is an excellent addition to your practical lessons. There isn't always enough time in a lesson to go into detailed explanations - and that is where books (and blogs!) can fit into your learning program. You might be able to pick something up theoretically that you can later use during your ride. If you are prepared with some knowledge, you might be able to pick up the meaning of your instructor's directions quicker than if you have no background whatsoever.

Are there any other strategies you use to get the most our of your lessons? Let us know in the comments below.

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Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions. 

This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.

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If you enjoyed the above article, you might also like:

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To Lesson or Not To Lesson? That shouldn’t even be a question!

Top 10 Ways to Reward Your Horse: A happy horse is a willing partner, and many horses will give everything they have if they feel your acknowledgement and generosity of spirit.

17 Things I Learned While Developing My Seat: Here are some of the lessons learned over the years as I focused on developing my seat.


  1. Be mentally ready to take it all in – leave your worries and daily concerns at the arena gate and give all your focus to your instructor and your horse ?

  2. I disagree about the book part – I learned so much by reading, then visualizing, and trying it the next time I rode; I rode my 1st ever 1/2 pass that way. Books are great for visualizing how it should be done.

  3. I read constantly, and always try to find youtube videos on what I’m stumped on. Sometimes watching it done by other riders is just what I need! I’m very visual, so this is what helps me most in between lessons. I always try to watch videos of others riding the same dressage test I’m planning to ride in my next show. Watching it several times cements the pattern in my head, and also gives me the opportunity to be a little judgmental – positively and negatively – which helps me to remember “ride deeper into that corner”, “look up”, “forward!”, etc!

  4. I video each lesson (as well as my normal rides). For lessons on multiple days, I always watch the first lesson before I take the second one and we generally make good progress the second lesson. Then between lessons, I watch that last video and incorporate the homework and feel so we can start close to that point the next time.