How long should a riding lesson last?

As a riding instructor, it is your job to make sure that your students receive enough value in their lessons to justify the cost of those lessons. Although time is not the only determining factor, it certainly makes a difference. When you go out into the arena with a group of students, how long must they be mounted and under your instruction? The length of a riding lesson is a point of great controversy among riding instructors.

Unfortunately, this is a question that is not easily answered when I don’t have a specific situation to consider. How many cyclists participate in each lesson? How many lessons do you plan to give in a day? What equestrian discipline are you teaching? And at what level are your students riding? Since every riding instructor teaches differently, it is impossible to give a definitive answer on how long a riding lesson should last. However, this information should give you an idea of ​​your own situation, thus helping you to make the right decision for you.

The concept of value

Many riding instructors seem to forget that they have a business. In exchange for their services (riding instructions), their clients (students) pay them money. It’s no different than buying a hamburger at McDonald’s or paying a home improvement company to install your new hardwood floors. Since riding instruction is a service, and since you are selling your services to the public, it is important that you understand the concept of value. Otherwise, you’re just organizing pony rides for a restless, horse-mad bunch of girls who’ll never understand what riding really means.

Frequently, however, riding instructors interchange the concept of value with words like longevity. The length of a riding lesson is not necessarily indicative of the value the student received for that lesson. He can spend an hour-long lesson going over deep concepts with his students and teaching them the fundamentals of their chosen sport, or he can spend it sitting on the fence while watching his students go around and around. Each lesson includes the same amount of riding time, but which group receives the most value?

This is something that all service providers that charge by the hour come across with their professions. For example, a friend of mine once hired a contractor to paint her walls a beautiful shade of robin’s egg blue. They were compensated by the hour and consequently did as little as possible each day they worked, trying to stretch the number of hours they would rack up for the same amount of work. However, when she told them that she would pay a flat fee for the rest of the work, they really got down to business.

The strict approach

Now that you understand that you need to provide value during your riding lessons, let’s move on to the question of timing. How long should a riding lesson last and when should it be stopped? There are two basic ways to structure riding lessons, the first of which is the strict approach. This simply means that each riding lesson you teach lasts for a specific amount of time and never varies from that schedule. If you decide that all your students will ride for one hour, they will ride at three o’clock and get off promptly at four. No variation; No problem

This is arguably the simplest approach to teaching riding lessons and often raises the fewest concerns. Schedules and conformity naturally comfort human beings, and they respond well to limits. If your students know they will mount and dismount at specific times, the riding instructor will not get any complaints when it comes time to drop out. However, the problem with the strict approach is that the driving instruction is not easily controlled. Since we are dealing with humans and animals, it is impossible to predict the things that can derail the program at any time. For example, what if one of your students gets hurt in the middle of the lesson and needs to go to the emergency room for treatment? Obviously, the lesson will be diverted, as will all subsequent lessons scheduled for that day.

Also, the strict approach lends itself to less value than the other (which I’ll discuss in a moment). Sometimes it can leave the riding instructor constantly looking at his watch, counting down the minutes until he can bring his riders and call it a day. Also, if you find that you need more time to accomplish a goal, you have no choice but to suspend the lesson until next week. However, the strict approach to riding lessons is often more convenient, especially when you have students who simply show up for their lessons at their scheduled times and then immediately leave when they are done.

The flexible approach

The second approach to scheduling riding lessons is the one I use most often, but only when working with advanced riders who own their own horses. The flexible approach simply means that the lessons last as long as necessary. A goal is set for the day, and I end the lesson as soon as we reach that goal. In other words, if we achieve our goals in twenty minutes, the lesson ends after twenty minutes; if it takes an hour and a half, we spend that time getting there.

The problems with this approach to riding lessons are obvious, even if they promote more value during the lesson. When you have students who are picked up and dropped off by their parents on their school days, it is important that you respect their schedules and stick to the one you have set for your classes. For example, Susie can go horseback riding at 4:00 pm, but she has to rush to piano lessons at 5:30. Letting the 3:00 lesson go on for fifteen minutes ruins Susie’s entire day.

However, when your riding lessons last as long as you need them to, you’ll find you get more done and hit your goals much faster.

Let’s say, for example, that you are teaching an advanced jumping lesson every Tuesday at 3:00. You decide one day that you’re going to work on the lead changes on courses, so you set up a tricky, twisty course and ask each of your riders to jump it. He originally thought that they might have trouble with the concept, but is surprised to find that they have mastered it after skipping the course twice each. Only thirty minutes of the lesson have passed, but you have achieved your goal.

Now, let’s say you’re operating on a strict riding lesson, so you need to find something to fill the next thirty minutes with. You send them down the course once again, and this time they all fall apart because they’ve gotten too cocky about their previous success. Now your horses have learned that they can get away with doing the wrong thing, and you have to squeeze more instruction into the next fifteen minutes or so.

Counterproductive? I think so.

However, if you are going to use the flexible riding lesson approach, it is important to ensure that your students are fully aware of the arrangement. Eventually it all works out time-wise, because it will overtime as often as it will finish early, but this can be difficult for clients to understand.

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