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Horsemanship Articles published by the Certified Horsemanship Association. The Instructor Magazine Archives.

Marketing Your Equine Business in Today’s Digital World

By Sarah Evers Conrad

We all know that horse business owners are some of the most passionate business people out there. However, just having passion for what you do won’t pay the bills. It’s all about working smart and hard, and working smart involves your marketing strategy. Marketing is crucial for businesses. With the explosion of technological advances over the past 15 years, digital marketing has become an essential way to market, and makes a great additive to your marketing plan. Traditional marketing techniques such as direct mail and TV and radio advertising can be much more expensive than today’s digital marketing techniques, such as email marketing, social media, and content marketing. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best digital marketing methods to market your equine business, what makes them a great option, and why you can’t afford to not be using them.

Digital marketing can help get you found by new customers, grow your online presence, increase your reach within your niche, connect you with your target audience, educate your customers and potential customers, promote a specific product or service, gain more leads that you can convert to customers, raise your brand awareness, build your reputation as an expert, and/or help you understand your target audience and their wants and needs. However, it’s important to not try to do all of this at once. Instead, carefully choose a few of the goals above, work in phases, and as you accomplish goals, add on additional strategies.

Integrate for Increased Impact

One of the biggest keys to digital marketing is integrating various forms so they can work together to create a bigger impact. For instance, driving traffic to your website through social media and asking for site visitors to sign-up for your email list should put them into a sales funnel, which then lets you build the “Know, Like, and Trust Factor” with your audience using content marketing. During all of this, you can offer your products and services, which then converts your original web leads into customers.

Why is this important in the horse industry? Sales is a process, and research has shown that it can take between three and 12, or more, touches before a sale is made. Obviously if it is a more impulsive buy, you might make a sale in one or two touch-points if the customer already knows, likes, and trusts you. However, in the equine industry, we all know that riding lessons, camp programs, tack and equipment, and especially the horses themselves, would not be considered impulse purchases. Therefore you need to reach out in different ways to your potential customers and focus on relationship building.

The marketing techniques you choose will depend on the phase of business you are in (start-up, growth, or established business), your target audience, and your brand. For instance, start-ups should first start with creating a website and building an email list while a business in the growth phase may be growing their social media presence, while an established business will have already established their online presence with plenty of online content and be seen as a leader in their industry.

Methods of Digital Marketing

The Big Four that all businesses should establish first are:

  • Website
  • Social media
  • Content marketing
  • Email marketing

These four methods integrate well with each other. Once these are set up and running smoothly, you can advance into other areas of digital marketing. Let’s look at the first three to establish.

Websites: While people may hear about your business through word-of-mouth, it’s very likely that they will then turn to the Internet to learn more about you. Your website lets you get found, especially when you make sure to share the link as much as possible. For instance, if you are a CHA certified instructor or a CHA accredited facility, your listing in CHA’s database at CHAInstructors.com can help drive people to your website, but only if you have one and add the link. This gives you an edge over your competitors when someone does a search for riding instructors in your area. These potential customers can then visit your site and learn more about you, see your products and services, learn what makes your business special, and why they should work with you. If your website has all the elements it should and has well-written content, then a potential customer may then call to book a tour of your facility or their first riding lesson or they may at least sign up for your email list, if you have established an email subscription page, which is advisable even if you don’t use email marketing for a little while. Email addresses are seen as extremely valuable for marketing.

If you have the ability to build your own site, you can build one on a purchased domain with WordPress.org or try sites that offer drag-and-drop design. However, if those are too difficult, or you need a more complex website, then a website designer is well worth the investment.

It is crucial to have an attractive site, with useful content for the viewer, and one that functions perfectly, because if you have the opposite you could affect how the public views your business and its level of professionalism and trust. Your website offers potential customers their first impression of you and your business. There is a lot to understand about proper website design and web usability, including site structure, navigation methods, typography, color theory, design principals, user testing, social media integration, and more.

Content Marketing: Whether you write articles and press releases, blog, live stream, create videos, share photography, write articles, podcast, create webinars, or another form of content, you should produce useful, relevant, easy-to-consume, quality content. Effective search engine optimization and using call-to-actions correctly can help direct the readers through the process of a search online to becoming a lead or a customer. Content marketing also grows your online presence, educates potential and current customers, promotes your products and services, raises brand awareness, and portrays you as an expert while setting you and your business apart from your competitors.

As with having a well-done website, quality content gives your audience a look into what and how you do what you do and most importantly why you do what you do and what you believe in. One word of caution is that poorly developed, rushed content can look bad, so make sure to have staff, friends, or professional content producers give feedback and help if need be.

Social Media: If your business isn’t on social media, especially Facebook at this time, consider yourself at a serious disadvantage. You must go where your customers are, and right now it seems as if everyone is on social media. Other platforms include Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn, with Snapchat and Periscope becoming two of the hottest newer platforms. Each platform has its advantages, disadvantages and top strategies to get the most out of it. Regardless of platform, it is essential to be authentically you, transparent, and to want to connect, communicate, and engage with your audience. It can even serve as a way to provide customer service, craft your online image, and promote yourself (organically and through social media advertising). There is a lot to consider for social media, especially with so much variety in platforms and strategy, and it is impossible to use all of them on your own. If you are a total social media newbie, there are plenty of books, websites, and resources, as well as consultants who can help you get started and develop a strategy. The return on investment is usually a positive one with social media when done right.

All of these digital marketing methods should be considered important for your marketing efforts. Now is the time to leverage digital marketing to help you get seen, get heard, and become more profitable.

Author Bio: As a lifelong equestrian, Sarah Evers Conrad joined the equine publishing industry 15+ years ago. In 2014, she decided to combine her passion for horses and her experience in writing, editing, digital marketing, PR, and social media, when she founded All In Stride Marketing. She now helps equine businesses with their marketing and communications efforts. In addition to being published in a variety of magazines, she is now the editor of The Instructor magazine and the official blogger for CHA.

WHY Statement – This is more than your mission or purpose for your business—this is WHY you bother doing it! Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why is a good resource that the CHA Board of Directors used to come up with CHA’s WHY Statement last year. Some great examples of WHY statements include:

  • CHA – CHA Changes Lives Through Safe Experiences with Horses
  • Uber – Evolving the Way the World Moves
  • Nike – Just Do It!
  • Harley Davidson – Fulfilling Dreams of Personal Freedom
  • Coca-Cola – To Refresh the World

You can use any combination of the following digital marketing techniques: a website, social media and social media advertising; online advertising (pay-per-click, display, and remarketing); videos; live streaming; podcasting; webinars; email marketing with opt-in offers and landing pages; online challenges and contests; and content marketing, which includes blogging, guest blogging, press releases, articles, e-books, white papers, and more.

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The Art of Teaching Riding

CHA’s latest manual, The Equine Professional Manual—The Art of Teaching Riding, was written by a committee of experienced riding instructors and educators. The following is an abridged except from various sections in the manual.

Classifying or Grouping Riders

Grouping riding students according to experience level and ability is the preferable way to organize groups. There will be some variation within each riding group.

  • It is more difficult to teach a group that has both beginners and advanced riders.
  • When dealing with groups of mixed ability, use the assistant instructors to give more individual attention.
  • Advanced riders may also be challenged by the horses that the advanced riders are assigned to ride.

Riding instructors need to take into consideration age, attitude, and the physical abilities of the riders when grouping riders.

  • Older teenagers or adults may be embarrassed if they are placed in a class of younger children.
  • Physical abilities would include how athletic the rider is and any special needs. Riders who are overweight, awkward, uncoordinated, or have other special needs require particular consideration.

Instructors need to keep in mind the purpose of the lesson as well as the riding abilities when grouping riders.

  • If the purpose is for families to enjoy a lesson together, then a mixture of ages, experience, and attitudes should be expected and accommodated.
  • Questioning the student may approximate riding ability, but a more accurate determination of the student’s riding ability would include a brief evaluation ride.
  • When giving evaluation rides, it is more desirable to under-mount the new riders than to over-mount them. Use very quiet, reliable horses and evaluate the rider’s position, stopping, and simple control of the horse.
  • Preset standards will help determine which group a student belongs in.
  • A novice class of riders may have never ridden before; a beginner class may be able to walk and trot; and an intermediate class may be capable of walk, trot, and canter.
  • The CHA Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 may be used to divide riders into riding groups.
  • The instructor might consider creating an evaluation checklist of skills and mark off each skill as the student rides in an evaluation ride.

Methods of Presentation

To communicate information, the method chosen may depend on the material being presented, students being taught, and environment and resources that are available. It is best to use more than one method; some people understand and respond to one method better than another.

Explanation: An explanation tells the rider how to do something, such as how to hold the reins or how to find the takeoff point for a jump.

  • Explanations must be clear, short, to the point, and with key phrases to remember.
  • Make explanations positive.
  • Tell how to do something, instead of how not to do something.

Demonstration: Demonstrations show how to do something, such as mounting or use of a curry comb, and should be brief and to the point.

Practice or Repetition: Physical skills require practice in order to develop strength, flexibility, and motor patterns. Students need repetition and practice to learn a new skill or to improve on a learned skill.

Correction: Correction leads to mastery of a skill. Anyone learning a new skill is bound to make some errors, and the individuals must rectify those errors to correctly and safely master the skill.

  • Be positive and supportive in correction. Show the students why it is easier and better to use the correct technique and how an incorrect technique will handicap the student. (For instance, have riders try balancing in two-point position with their heels down and then try balancing up on their toes; riders can feel the insecurity balancing on their toes).
  • Be very specific in telling students exactly how to correct their errors. It is not enough to say, “Get those legs in.” The students must be shown how.

Discussion: Discussion combines input from the instructor with input from the students. In order to have a discussion on a topic, everyone must have at least some knowledge of the subject.

  • The instructor’s role is that of leader and moderator; to clarify and summarize the main points of the discussion; and to redirect the conversation if the students wander off the topic.
  • It is useful in planning group projects and for topics on which many people have opinions, such as horse behavior and training.
  • When holding a discussion, try to place all students in a circle so the students can see and hear each other.
  • All students should be motivated to contribute to the conversation, and those who dominate the conversation must be reminded that others have something of worth to contribute. This method enhances communication skills and helps members of the group become acquainted and relate to each other.

Lecture: Lecture is best used for introducing a new topic and giving out background information, like safety rules. Lectures are often used in unmounted lessons. A lecture should be no longer than thirty minutes, and even shorter for younger children. It is easy for students to become bored with sitting and listening. In order for a lecture to be successful, an instructor should:

  • Be well prepared. Show enthusiasm for the subject.
  • Know more about the subject than given in the lecture.
  • Do not read from lecture notes.
  • Be stimulating and creative.
  • Keep sentences short.
  • Keep vocabulary appropriate to the age group.
  • Use charts, models, or other visual aids.
  • Use a sense of humor. People enjoy humor and will remember any points that raise a chuckle.
  • Make eye contact with the listeners.
  • Project the voice to ensure the entire audience can hear.
  • Use expression and inflection in the voice.
  • Avoid using “filler words” like “uh,” “you know,” and “okay.”
  • Involve the listeners; ask someone to come up and hold something, or have everyone get up and try some exercise that relates to the subject.
  • Ask questions.
  • Be prepared to answer questions.

Role Playing: Role playing can simulate reality from someone else’s point of view. It involves imagination and encourages creativity, expression of feelings and values, and the development of social skills.

  • Role playing is very useful in demonstrating horse behavior and encouraging students to “think like a horse.”
  • It can be fun, especially for younger children who are more enthusiastic about some form of play than they are about lectures or discussions.
  • Some students love to “play horse” and will happily run through figure eights or arena patterns or perform imaginary classes in a “horseless horse show.”

Games & Competitions: Games and competitions can stimulate effort and interest in subjects the instructor wants the students to work on. Games and contests motivate the students to try by promising recognition and praise to the winner. The best games and competitions are those that are fun and that reward all riders for their efforts.

Additional topics covered in CHA’s The Equine Professional Manual—The Art of Teaching Riding include riding programs, teaching techniques, the riding student, the horse, communication, arena instruction, risk management, and horse management. The manual also includes sample forms for riding instructors and facility managers, sample lesson plans, checklists, sample business plans, and more. To purchase the complete manual, please visit, www.CHA.horse/professionalmanual.

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Saddle Fit Differences Between Men and Women

By Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSFT, CEE

When I first started teaching my wife, Sabine, how to ride, I couldn’t understand why she kept complaining that the saddle hurt her there. I would get on the same saddle and have absolutely no problem. She, on the other hand, had difficulty keeping correct positioning with her legs back, back straight, and shoulders back. Then when we I started building saddles in Canada, Sabine was my guinea pig, but because she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, she never admitted that the saddles I was making (for female clients) weren’t really comfortable for her.

When a well-known judge and rider confided in me that she was literally “rubbed raw” and felt pulled apart, a light bulb went off in my head. I conferred with a gynecologist and began to investigate the differences in male and female anatomy, starting with pelvic structure, and then including hip articulation, muscles, and skeleton. I learned that the differences between men and women were extremely significant when considering saddle design. We then started using a plaster cast method, which served as incredible visual aids to make our full custom saddles.

Since then, we have refined our designs and are now known as the “Female Saddle Specialist,” a niche which becomes even more fitting when you consider that the demographics of our industry have shifted significantly over the past 50 years or so to become predominantly female.

With this shift in demographics, why haven’t more saddle manufacturers taken this into consideration when making saddles? Many still build saddles the way they have been made for decades, and some women still dismiss the idea of needing a saddle built specifically for their conformation. Many riders have simply learned to deal with the discomfort and ride well enough to make these saddles work, but it’s not ideal.

I have worked closely with a very qualified equestrian medical expert in our industry, James Warson, MD, who wrote the book, The Rider’s Pain Free Back. I have incorporated many of his findings into my own book.

So let’s consider the various anatomical differences and how they apply to saddle fit for women.

Width of the seat bones (birthing channel): This determines how wide the saddle seat needs to be; in many of the saddles made for men, a woman will actually find herself sitting on the seat seam, which is irritating to say the least.

Spinal column: Riders need to be able to use the four natural curves of the vertebral column as natural shock absorbers. If a female rider leans back or hunches forward because the saddle isn’t right for her, her spine will take the brunt of the impact and result in back pain issues, which could result in slipped discs.

Pelvic balance and pubic symphysis: The male pelvis can balance on its seat bones as on a bipod; the female pelvis needs to use her pubic symphysis as well as her seat bones, like a tripod. For women, this means there is another area of friction at the pommel area, which can result in pain. To compensate and avoid pain, the rider in pain might collapse at the hip, which then causes the leg to shoot forward, placing the rider in the chair seat position.

Hip joints: The male hip joints are articulated differently, which allows the legs to hang straight down, whereas women’s legs are naturally angled outwards. This results in the female rider feeling pulled apart if the twist, the area of the saddle tree that we feel between our upper inner thighs, is too wide.

Upper leg musculature: Because of the structure of the quads and hamstrings as indicated in the picture, the woman needs to have a narrower twist (as a rule).

Gluteus maximus (butt cheeks): The female’s glutes are much higher up than a man’s, which indicates the need for additional support in the seat at the cantle area to prevent her from collapsing to the back.

If all of these points are taken into consideration when fitting a saddle, a woman can use the properly fitted saddle to help her ride in proper position and balance. She can now concentrate on her ride rather than fighting her saddle for proper position.

For a man, riding in a saddle that is uncomfortable for him (especially at the pommel area because of too much padding at the seat) could result in restricted blood flow in the sensitive perineal area. This could lead to erectile dysfunction, impotence, or other physical problems.

These are the points of reference every rider should ensure are correct for his or her body, regardless if they are male or female:

  • Width of the seat to support the seat bones
  • Skirt attachment with flat seaming to avoid pressure at the back of the upper inner thigh
  • Saddle twist appropriate for male or female to accommodate upper leg musculature
  • Angle of the pommel to avoid hitting the pubic symphysis (waist seaming width)
  • Seat foam (mattress) to support the gluteus muscles
  • Flattest part of the saddle, or the supporting area, where the majority of weight is carried; needs special attention to avoid pressure on the crotch area
  • Cantle angle to provide necessary support
  • Saddle balance (many women prefer forward balance)
  • Stirrup bar position to accommodate the upper leg length to lower leg length ratio (most women will require extended stirrup bars since their upper legs are longer than their lower legs); if this is not considered and fitted properly to the rider, the leg will naturally swing forward

In summary, the saddle should allow the rider to sit as closely to the horse as possible while allowing the positive and balanced interaction of the vertical spine of the rider and the horizontal spine of the horse. Riding shouldn’t hurt, and this goes for both the rider and the horse If the rider isn’t comfortable, this will translate down to the horse, and he will never perform to the best of his ability. So us riders owe it to ourselves and to our horses to ride in a saddle suited to our body. As the saying goes, “You are worth it!”

Author Bio]
Jochen Schleese, author of Suffering in Silence: The Saddle Fit Link to Physcial and Psychological Trauma in Horses, is a Certified Master Saddler from Passier He operates a saddlery training facility in Ontario, Canada, and provides diagnostic saddle fit analysis and fitting services across North America, especially for women. SaddlesforWomen.com

Photos of male and female rider side by side with plaster casts showing points of contact:
Although these two riders are very similar in body shape on the outside, their plaster casts clearly show the differences in their pelvic points of reference. The male (right) has two points of contact on the saddle at the seat bones, which are closer together than those of the female (left). In addition, the female pelvis has a third point of contact at the front (her pubic symphysis).

Photos of female and male pelvic skeleton:
The female pelvis’ pubic symphysis is fairly flat and low and will hit the pommel area. The male pelvis’ public symphasis is relatively higher than the female one with steeper angles, which allow it to sit far away from the pommel area.

See images below for reference.

This image goes with the numbered list

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Becoming a Leader for Your Students and Horses

By Julie Goodnight

As a horsemanship or riding instructor, you want to strive to be a good leader and interact with fairness with all of your students and clients. In addition, you want to teach your riders to be good leaders to the horses they ride. Leadership is not just about your actions or intentions; it is also about your honesty, integrity, and fairness. Authority is not the same as leadership—just because you have authority over others does not mean that they have a desire to follow you or accept you as their leader.

Developing strong leadership skills with our horses can also help us become better leaders with people, especially if we think about the lessons the horse provides to us regarding leadership. In addition, you can teach your students to judge whether their mount is questioning their leadership skills.

Horses have a sense of fairness, just as they are good judges of leadership and trustworthiness. Because they are herd animals, they are mindful of leadership, hierarchy, rules, and ramifications of behavior. They are instinctively drawn to strong leadership, with a compelling desire to be accepted in a herd and a profound fear of banishment from the herd. Both horses and students thrive when leadership, rules, and structure exist, and they flail in the absence of it. Horses can be a reflection of our leadership skills with students and clients, as well.

Horses and students usually know when they are breaking a rule or pushing a boundary, and they usually responds well to fair discipline. But when rules are unclear or inconsistently enforced, when you say one thing but then do another, when you inadvertently punish even though no punishment was intended, or when the punishment does not fit the crime, both horses and students will feel that they are being treated unfairly, and trust in you diminishes.

So how do you know if the horse feels like the rider is treating him unfairly? Reactions from the horse may range from a slight tensing and lifting of the head, to shaking the head, refusals, running through the bridle, crow-hopping, bucking, or shutting down (becoming nonresponsive). While there can be a variety of causes for these reactions, whenever a horse is frustrated, it’s always important to consider your own actions and how they may be viewed by the horse. After all, none of us are perfect leaders for our horses or our students.

Here are some common scenarios which a horse might consider unfair. It’s important to coach riders not to do these things or the horse will question their leadership skills.

Unfair Treatment #1: Asking him to do something then punishing him for doing it
An easy way to test a horse’s sense of fairness is to cue him to canter, then hit him in the mouth with the bit when he does. How he reacts to that will tell you how tolerant he is. This happens far more often than you think, regardless of rider level. Sometimes it’s related to lack of skill; other times it is reactionary—a rider fearful of the canter often snatches the horse up as soon as they respond to the cue. From the horse’s point of view, you asked him to do something then you punished him for doing it. Responses from this kind of conflicting signal can include: a small shake of the head, crow-hopping, a refusal to canter anymore, or bucking. Usually it is the horse that is blamed, although from the horse’s point of view, this is not fair or honest.

Unfair treatment #2: Asking for one more time
Let’s say you or your student has been working on something challenging with their mount—like jumping gymnastics. You started with a few rails in a line of jump-every-stride obstacles and gradually added more until it’s a very challenging and strenuous exercise. After some stops and starts and failed attempts, the horse finally goes through the full gymnastic correctly. You are thrilled! So what’s the first thing you say? “Let’s do that one more time.”

So, he’s already given you his best and that wasn’t good enough; now he’s tired and emotionally spent and you ask for more. Things fall apart, and what should have been a great training session turns into a salvage effort. Fairness would dictate that you recognized your horse’s best effort and let him rest on that.

Unfair treatment #3: Setting the horse up for failure 
This is the actual real, unedited scenario that stimulated this article. A past clinic attendee whose horse had come uncorked due to the clinic atmosphere wrote to me about how her horse had recently done great in an arena full of 15 other horses. When they finished, he loaded without hesitation into the trailer. However, since her horse was tired and away from home, she then decided to practice trailer loading. Her horse balked, and a nearby rider had to assist her.
It was indeed unfair to finish and then ask her horse for more. Clearly the horse had given of himself, worked very hard, and done the right thing. He had every reason to believe he was done and would receive the kindness of comfort from his leader. Instead, he was set up to fail. He had already loaded once without resistance.

Should we expect perfect patience from our mounts in every situation or at the same level we expect from more patient or experienced horses? No. Should we make our horse, or our students for that matter, jump through hoops when they are anxious or aggravated? No. Should we ALWAYS set our horses and our students up for success? YES! That is what makes a good training exercise.

Good leaders do not expect their followers to do things beyond their capabilities. If we think an individual (horse or human) may not be capable of giving us what we want in that moment, it’s best not to ask. Do something else instead. Come back later and address it when the chances of success are greater or when you have removed other obstacles.

Always make sure your expectations are realistic and attainable. Have high expectations, but always remember to recognize efforts from both your horses and your students. Everyone wants the feeling of a job well done.

[Author Bio]
International trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight is the international spokesperson for CHA, a CHA Master Instructor, and the star of RFD-TV’s “Horse Master with Julie Goodnight.” JulieGoodnight.com

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Lisa Lombardi in CA

Finding Your Career Path

By Sarah Evers Conrad

Members of the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) have an abundance of career options, including riding instructor at a public riding facility, owner of one’s own facility, a camp instructor, an instructor associated with organizations like the Girl Scouts, instructor of riders with disabilities, teaching at the college/university level, being a trail or overnight guide, etc.

Managing one’s career can mean making some big decisions over time. Those decisions can mean the difference between a carefully crafted career or one that can take you down a variety of side trails before you end up on the path that is best suited for you. Everyone is different, and there is no one right career pathway, especially in an industry as vibrant and diverse as the horse industry.

Owning a Lesson Barn
Some of the most common options for instructors is to either work for a lesson facility as one of several instructors, to run their own lesson program and lease space out of a facility, or to run a program out of their own their own facility. CHA Certified Instructor Corinne Lettau is the owner of Denver Equestrians, LLC, and the Colorado Equestrian Center in Littleton, CO, a full-service boarding and training facility with lessons in English equitation, western pleasure, dressage, and jumping for youth and adults.

“I started my own business, which featured a horse camp program in 2009,” she says. “It grew by 400% each year until we were able to purchase our own facility.”

Even though it is stressful, Lettau likes having control of her own facility. “While it was definitely easier to lease space from another barn owner, the ability to secure the facility gives us stability that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Lettau has the most experience within the disciplines of dressage, however her views have broadened beyond that one niche. “My appreciation for kids and allowing them to choose their own disciplines after learning the basics has become a new passion,” she says.

Scouting the Way
Many instructors get started in Girl Scout or Boy Scout riding programs and summer camps, just like Julie Fischer did. Fischer is a CHA Certified Instructor in western disciplines in Allenspark, CO, and an assistant site manager at Meadow Mountain Ranch Girl Scout Camp during peak season and a camp volunteer in the off season.

“The career path with Scouts has led me to work and live in some amazing and remote locations, go on some great trips, and change the lives of many scouts through horses,” says Fischer, who adds that the down side can include a lack of job security.

Fischer shares that her skills in accounting, bookkeeping, management, training, grant writing, non-profits, and facility management have been helpful when working for these non-profits.

“Being valuable to an equine business is important,” she says. “I was constantly improving my knowledge and traits so I could provide more to any program I worked for in addition to horse knowledge.”

Camp-Related Career
Camp Morrow Ranch Manager Teddy Franke of Pine Hollow, OR, says the great thing about working in a camp program is that there are always opportunities and directions to grow. Franke is a CHA Certified Instructor with a certification to teach riders with disabilities as well, a CHA Equine Facilities Management Assistant Clinic Instructor, a CHA Certified Trail Packing Guide, as well as a graduate of Mission Farrier School and an American Stock Horse Association judge.

“If I can dream some program up and get a pile of people to come along on the adventure, it will usually fit the mission and generally be effective,” says Franke, who knew his ideal career would be to combine horses and ministry. “Having the freedom to pursue those ideas and the ability to scrap the poor ones is what makes this line of work worthwhile.”

Franke has really enjoyed traveling to horse-related events, clinics, conferences, and a host of other functions. On the flip side with a camp career, he cites never having enough time to accomplish everything he wants to or being able to develop a specialty within the horse industry because to help people use a camp horse, he has to teach a wide range of disciplines.

In addition to the camp, Franke runs a small side business involving training, instruction, and farrier services. This has helped him diversify his income streams for when one part of the business is slower.

Academia Instructor
Instructing at the college level and/or coaching a collegiate equestrian team is a calling that many CHA members find appealing. “I love college students,” says Amanda Love, the horsemanship director and women’s equestrian team coach at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) in Canyon, TX. “It is a very fun age to teach as they are now responsible for their own decisions and are excited to pursue new information. College is a place where I have an opportunity to help encourage others while they pursue their riding passion and balance that with choosing their own career path.”

Love adds that the college kids keep her young at heart. However, she jokes that she doesn’t remember what a day off looks like with this career path, because in a college environment, one teaches all week and then must take the equestrian team to competitions on the weekend. However, this can also be true for any instructor who take their students to shows.

How CHA Helps Career Development
CHA certification can open up a lot of great career opportunities. Fischer says that the connections, resources, and relationships one makes through CHA can last a lifetime, while Love adds that the CHA network of people and the interaction at CHA clinics and conferences is the best way to find new ideas to bring back to the barn.

This ability to always be learning is what Franke loves about his career. “I feel fortunate that I will likely run out of life before I come close to learning all there is to know about the horse,” he says.

Fischer adds that the various CHA certifications allow instructors to branch out and become skilled in working with riders at all levels and in various disciplines.

In Summary
Love encourages instructors to try out different careers before deciding on a final path. “I think it is important that as instructors, we have a bigger view of the horse world than just what is out our back door,” says Love. “Being involved in different facets of the horse world gives you more to offer your students.”

Lettau says that by experiencing multiple career paths within the horse industry that instructors will be able to find the exact niche that they are meant to provide to others. And finding that ideal career path can lead to a lifelong passion and contentment with one’s career.
Sarah Evers Conrad is the editor of CHA’s The Instructor, and is also published in a variety of equine publications, such as The Horse, Arabian Horse Life, American Quarter Horse Journal, American Paint Horse Journal, USDF Connection, Equestrian, and others. In addition, she helps equine businesses with their marketing through her company, All In Stride Marketing. Visit AllInStrideMarketing.com.

Finding Your Career Path
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Risk Management is a Must

By Jill Montgomery

Most riders are well aware of the risks that come with horseback riding. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, one in five riders (20%) will suffer a serious horse-related injury that requires medical care or hospitalization. In addition, an equine professional such as a riding instructor, may face legal action if someone is injured in their care. We should all pause for a moment to consider exactly what that means. However, there is a lot we can do, and that we should be doing, to manage the risks in equine activities.

Equine professionals should create an environment where clients can enjoy their program and have the necessary tools to make their experiences with horses safe; this leads to repeat customers and more business. Conversely, the old adage “bad news travels fast” is never truer than when a client is injured in your riding program, and it could damage your reputation.

With such a broad range of potential problem areas, you may ask, “Where do I start?”

Key areas for managing risk in a horse program include:
• The horse’s training and suitability for the activity,
• The education and expectations for the participants behavior;
• The education and expectations for the behavior of staff;
• The equipment used in the equine activity; and
• The environment in which the activity takes place.

Proper handling skills and training may reduce risks of injury for both humans and horses. Safety-oriented facility design and advanced planning for emergencies and disaster planning may substantially reduce environmental risks.

Ensure that your well-trained staff and clients practice safety every day with every interaction with a horse or another rider. Train your horses to accept the tasks asked of them calmly and obediently. Check tack and equipment every time it is used, and repair or replace damaged equipment. Plan for and create policies for dealing with environmental risks.
The equine professional must also constantly educate participants about equine behavior and continually identify, assess, and analyze risks associated with the services they offer. However, even with good management, training, and preparation some equine behaviors are largely unpredictable and can cause injury to a client. Unpredictable behaviors such as bucking, shying, rearing, bolting, tripping, or stumbling are collectively referred to as inherent risks.

Legal Liability
Almost all states now have limited liability statutes to offer protection from legal liability for the inherent risks of equine activities. While these laws don’t prevent injured parties from suing, they are very helpful to defendants and limit the complaints to the exceptions in the law, which vary by state. Equine professionals need to know their specific state laws. However, despite these statutes, the best defense is to take practical steps to avoid injuries.

Risk management in regards to legal action can be described as a three-legged stool, and removing any of the legs from this stool leaves you in an unstable position. These three legs include:
• Acknowledgement of Risk or Liability Waiver—More than just a release of liability, this document should educate the client about the risks they may be exposed to in your program. Your attorney and insurance company should review and sign off on the language. Everyone in your operation that comes into contact with horses should be taught the material and be asked if they understand it before they sign. Keep the signed document as a permanent record.
• Liability Insurance—Ensure the activities in your operation are adequately covered with insurance. To find the correct policy, work with an insurance professional who understands your operation.
• Refrain from Negligent Behavior—Negligence is an exception in every state’s statutes. Be familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction that effect your program. Know what your community expects from you as a service provider. Build a culture at your facility that is safety aware using training, procedures, and policies. Post barn rules so everyone sees them and can enforce them. Document your safety efforts.
Identifying Risk Scenarios
One technique for prioritizing risk management is assessing the relationship between the likelihood (frequency) of a risk and the severity of the damage if it occurs. Identify the high frequency risks in your program and always be prepared to handle them should they occur. Examples of risk scenarios ranked using frequency versus severity, include:

The Barn Fire—Any barn fire can be catastrophic. However, if you have a disaster and emergency plan in place, it could save lives and reduce the amount of damage.

A Loose Girth/Cinch—This type of tack failure, as well as others, could result in the saddle slipping and/or a fallen rider. Yet, this type of incident is avoidable. Always check if the saddle is off center or if it has moved forward or backward from its normal position before having a rider mount. You can also reduce this risk by adjusting the cinch as needed, adding breast collars for increased stability, and by helping the rider to stay centered on the horse.

Horse Steps on Handler’s Toes—This is one of the most common risks, although it’s often not severe. Teach your horses to be respectful of their handlers’ space and teach handlers to be aware of the potential for crushed toes and to wear proper footwear.

In Summary
Providing clear and consistent messaging to your clients and staff about your safety policies and practices will help build a safety-conscious culture and create a foundation for your horse program’s continued success.

[Author Bio]
Jill Montgomery is CEO of JRAM Enterprises, Inc., Equine Business Consulting. She is also a CHA Certified Instructor, CHA Certified Equine Facility Manager, and a Region 9 Director. JRAMenterprises.com.

CHA’s Further Resources
Webinars: Risk Management in a Horsemanship Program; Risk Management—What You Need to Know About Liability, Contracts, and Releases at CHA.horse/store/categories/CHA_Webinars
Books: CHA Standards for Equestrian Programs
Blogs: Emergency Planning: When It Really Counts, Will Your Farm Be Prepared?; Three Must-See Safety Guidelines for Equestrian Facilities; Three More Important Standards for Equestrian Programs; Safety Standards for Managing Equines Important for Equine Programs and Clients; Horseback Rider Safety Apparel from Head to Toe; and 7 Pieces of Equipment for a Safer Ride at CHA.horse/blog

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Secrets of Successful Riding Instructors

Secrets of Successful Riding Instructors
By Sarah Evers Conrad

When riders are asked why they ride, it often comes down to one prevailing answer—passion for the horse. And it also explains why so many riders become riding instructors. It’s important for riding instructors to have that passion for horses and teaching. Riding lessons are often the stepping stone into the horse industry for many participants, which makes horseback riding instructors the lifeblood behind a thriving equine industry. Therefore, it’s crucial for instructors to be able to have successful careers so that there is growth and sustainability within the horse industry as a whole.

Three of CHA’s experts, all who have had successful careers as riding instructors and who have given back to the industry as CHA board members and volunteers, share some of the secrets behind their success.

Various Avenues to Success

CHA Master Instructor and Clinician Tara Gamble of British Columbia, Canada, went out on her own with Tara Gamble Horsemanship in 2009 after working at a variety of facilities. Gamble got her start teaching at age 18 at Birch Bay Ranch in Alberta after 10 years of being a camper. She says she wanted to give back to the ranch that had been such a big part of her life. Gamble was introduced to CHA early in her career because the ranch required CHA certification.

Gamble’s excitement for running the games station at Birch Bay Ranch led her to to one of the most important decisions of her life. “It was at this moment I realized this was my passion, and I was going to become a horsemanship instructor,” she says.

Not only has she been an instructor at a variety of facilities, the past 27 years have seen Gamble serve as CHA President, as Vice President of the Miss Rodeo Canada Board of Directors and a pageant coordinator, as President of the Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF), and as an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) board member. She also became an AQHA Professional Horseman. CHA has recognized Gamble’s dedication by naming her the 2013 CHA Volunteer of the Year and the 2006 CHA Clinic Instructor of the Year.

Peggy Adams of Greensboro, GA, retired a few years ago from teaching on her farm, PLA HorsePlay. Adams is the current CHA Past President, a CHA Master Instructor, Clinic Staff, and a Certified Overnight Trail Guide. She spent almost 30 years with the Girl Scouts outside of the Atlanta area in a variety of managerial positions, including as the supervisor of the year-round outdoor programs for youth and adults. Because one of the most popular activities for the Girl Scouts was horseback riding, Adams was charged with designing and developing the riding lesson program at three equine facilities.

“Having been a horse enthusiast my entire life, it became my mission to help make sure that campers had an opportunity to be introduced to horses,” says Adams. “Many of our young riders wouldn’t have ever had the chance to ride if not for our programs. It was a wonderful way to take my passion for horses and share it with others.”

Due to her lifetime achievements and her dedication to CHA since 1996, Adams was named the 2016 CHA Distinguished Service Award winner.

Anne Brzezicki, CHA’s Vice President of Regional Relations, is most known for her work as the Director of the Equestrian Program at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and coach of the MTSU Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) teams. She also taught at the University of Connecticut and Virginia Tech, worked for AQHA Professional Andy Moorman, and ran her own business in Tennessee, which was focused on amateurs and youth inside and outside the show arena.

Brzezicki’s first horseback riding teaching position was at the Connecticut 4-H Camps, where she worked with 500 riders every summer for seven years. She says her career chose her. “It was there that I discovered my passion for teaching riders to get the best from their horses rather than to simply look good,” she says.

Due to a hiring freeze, she and another student were allowed to coach her university’s equestrian team when she was a student at the University of Connecticut (UConn). Due to that experience, she was hired to teach at UConn before she got out the door. That position led to her other teaching positions and a lifetime of dedication to college students in equestrian programs.

She is a now a CHA Master Instructor and an Assistant Clinic Instructor, and the 2015 CHA Instructor of the Year. For all of her contributions to IHSA, the organization awarded her with the 2003 IHSA Lifetime Achievement Award. She retired from MTSU last year.

Reflecting on Success

Gamble points out is that the diversity within her career has helped her enjoy a variety of experiences and continuously offers up brand new opportunities. While she gained a lot of experience subcontracting at different barns for lessons for 17 years, transitioning to her own facility was a new challenge that required business, management, and public relations skills in addition to her horsemanship knowledge and experience.

“Going the private route allowed me more control over my client’s and their horse’s needs to increase their satisfaction,” says Gamble, adding that great communication skills, people skills, and organizational skills have been important. She encourages instructors to always keep learning and adding to their experience.

Adams recommends that instructors learn to communicate with students as easily as possible. “This requires the ability to break skills down into easily understandable small steps,” she adds. “Being able to teach with a rider’s learning style in mind goes a long way to achieving success.”

Brzezicki advises instructors to teach respect for the horse and to share their enthusiasm with their students. “Pay attention to what works for your students and what doesn’t, and change what doesn’t,” she adds. “Take advantage of every opportunity to teach and to watch and listen to other teachers. And understand that your students will also teach you every day.”

Common Problems

Some of the common problems that instructors experience include: miscommunications with students, burnout, lack of self care, how to keep up with progress within a discipline, and dealing with fads, and barn drama.

“Keeping a positive attitude through adversity is paramount,” says Gamble. “It’s important to keep a direct, clear line open and check in often with your students/clients. Try to be as proactive as possible and think of potential challenges.”

Marketing Tips

Marketing is an important aspect of running any business. Gamble recommends that instructors become involved in the local horse community and network as much as possible. “I recommend remembering that you are always an ambassador, and your actions are a reflection of your reputation,” she says.

Adams reminds instructors to tell others about their CHA certification and to use this credential in their marketing.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are key for riding instructors to market themselves. People will often market a business that they can stand behind. “Students and customers having a good time with their horses, supporting each other and winning, draws others to your program and makes the best advertising,” says Brzezicki.

Additional methods of marketing that have also been beneficial to Gamble, Adams, and Brzezicki are:

  • Hosting their own websites;
  • Participating on social media platforms;
  • Hosting free or low-cost clinics for local 4-H or saddle club kids; and
  • Helping state organizations with their novice programs.

The CHA Impact

Adams shares that she used the CHA standards to design the programs and facilities for the Girl Scouts. “These industry standards were very useful in helping others understand why we did things a certain way,” says Adams, who adds that both parents and students appreciated that she had the CHA Certification to back up her experience.

“CHA offered me the tools to develop a riding program focusing on safety and progressive skill development for my students,” says Gamble, who has been certified with CHA for 27 years.

Even though she found CHA late in her career, Brzezicki says CHA’s teachings validated what she had been doing in her career and gave her more confidence to help her students who wanted to become riding instructors. It also broadened her network.

“I have found CHA to be the most inclusive, accepting, creative, and helpful set of horse people all dedicated to the progress of their students and other instructors,” adds Brzezicki.

Gamble encourages instructors to familiarize themselves with all of the information, resources, and opportunities on the CHA websites, www.CHA.horse and www.CHA.horse. In addition, many CHA regions have their own websites or social media platforms with additional information. One important resource offered by CHA is the ability for instructors to advertise their businesses on the CHA instructor database.

Additional member benefits that Gamble, Adams, and Brzezicki have found valuable include the insurance discounts, this magazine – The Instructor, the ability to participate at regional and international conferences, corporate partner benefits, products on the CHA online store, and educational materials, such as manuals and DVDs.

“Use the CHA student books and materials with your riders,” suggests Adams. “Have students and parents watch some of the video shorts on the CHA YouTube channel to reinforce topics taught during lessons.”

In Summary

Adams emphasizes the importance of continuing education and certification for today’s instructors. “My advice is to keep learning and challenging yourself to become certified as an instructor,” she says. “This will allow you to see how you stack up with other instructors by having a third-party evaluation of your current teaching skills.”

Brzezicki says that CHA certification is a great resume builder, especially since many employers are looking for certification as a sign that someone has been tested and found to be competent. She says it’s important for instructors to challenge themselves to always work toward higher levels of certification.

Adams recommends instructors serve as mentors to less experienced instructors in order to help the horse industry as a whole. Gamble and Brzezicki remind instructors that it takes time for success to happen.

“This is hard work,” says Brzezicki. “Approach each lesson with positive energy, a plan, and a goal. Look at each student with hope. And if you don’t love it, find another job.”

Gamble sums it up with the why behind why she teaches. “The rewards of teaching are much greater than monetary and have enriched my life immensely,” she says.

Sarah Evers Conrad is the editor of CHA’s The Instructor, and is also published in a variety of equine publications, such as The Horse, Arabian Horse Life, American Quarter Horse Journal, American Paint Horse Journal, USDF Connection, Equestrian, and others. In addition, she helps equine businesses with their marketing through her company, All In Stride Marketing. Visit AllInStrideMarketing.com.

“Being able to teach with a rider’s learning style in mind goes a long way to achieving success.” – Peggy Adams

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Julie Goodnight Photo by Whole Picture

Succeeding as a Clinician

By Julie Goodnight

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “clinician” as “a person who conducts a clinic,” with “clinic” defined as “a group meeting devoted to analysis and solution of concrete problems or to the acquiring of specific skills or knowledge.” After decades as a horsemanship clinician and thousands of clinics worldwide, I think these definitions make perfect sense. In the horse industry, a clinician is an expert trainer or instructor who travels to various locations—regionally, nationally or internationally—to teach horsemanship on a one-time basis.
To me, being a clinician is not a career in and of itself but rather the result of a successful career as a horse trainer or riding instructor. And it can help diversify your revenue streams.

To be a successful clinician, you must have:
• Expert ability
• Exceptional communication skills
• Years of experience training horses
• Years of experience teaching horsemanship to people
• An established reputation in your field
• Business sense

Business Model
The purpose of a clinic is to teach, correct any issues, and to improve the performance of the horses, riders, and handlers involved. With experience, you’ll learn which techniques, business models, and clinic structures work best for your teaching methods.
Some horsemanship clinics involve group lessons while others teach back-to-back private or semi-private lessons in front of an audience. Some clinics are discipline, breed, or ability-level specific, while others are open to all niches. Usually there are spectators and auditors.
Administering the clinic requires organization, communication, and attention to details or the clinic will fail—no matter how brilliant the clinician. If your organizational skills aren’t up to par, consider outsourcing.

Here are some ways to structure your horsemanship clinics.

• Find a clinic host that will foot the bill, pay you a flat fee per day, or guarantee a minimum number of riders or a percentage of the profits. The host provides the facility, promotes the clinic, recruits attendees, collects all the money, and—after paying you—makes all the profit (or may take a loss). Pro: This model is easy—just show up and teach. Con: If the clinic is well-attended, the host may make more money than you.
• The clinician foots the bill, rents the facility (or trades for spots in the clinic), promotes the clinic, registers attendees, collects the money, and accepts all risk for profit or loss. Pro: This is the most profitable if the clinic fills and you have total control. Con: More work is involved, and there are no guarantees.
• Combinations of any aspects of the above could be used to structure a clinic, as well as bartering for services, partnering with a promoter, and non-profit or philanthropic partnering (e.g, you teach a 4-H clinic for free in exchange for being able to host a for-profit clinic for adults).
However you structure your clinic, make sure you consider all expenses, including travel, advertising, liability insurance, care of your horses at home, and labor at home and at the clinic. Before you price your clinic, ensure the profit will adequately compensate you while you are away from home.

Marketing Clinics
It’s up to you to convince attendees to take your clinic, but the marketing tools below can help.
• Website—Include all the information people could want or need on your website, such as your bio, your teaching techniques and philosophy, what a clinic is like, policies and procedures, your calendar of events, and registration information. Enter your clinics on free online event calendars (e.g., Eventbrite.com, Wikido.com), and link to your website.
• Social Media—Social media—especially Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube—can raise interest in your programs. Keep your brand active, share your training philosophies, spend time visiting relevant online horse groups and chat rooms, and allow people to get to know you.
• Horse Expos—Speaking at horse expos is the easiest way I fill clinics because it gets me in front of an audience who will then come back a few months later for my clinic.
• Flyers—I send a flyer to be printed at an office store near where the clinic will be held. Then a local volunteer will pick them up and post at places horse people frequent.
• Newsletter—We always include informative articles plus a list of my upcoming clinics and expos. Staying connected to your customers is key.
• Word of Mouth—Followers of your training methods are happy to spread the word if asked. Sometimes we offer a discount off a rider’s own tuition for each rider they sign up.

No company is eager to invest in a clinician unless they will get a nice return on their investment (ROI). You will have to work very hard for them if you expect to get a deal and maintain the relationship. What you have to offer is influence over the buyer and things like media exposure, arena banners, wearing their logo, product placement, a trailer decal, website exposure, social media posts, etc. The sponsor will want evidence of how your efforts impact their ROI.

It’s important to get a feel for the landscape of sponsorships in the horse industry and to distinguish between readily available product trades and harder-to-come-by cash sponsorships. Product trades should offsets your costs. Some companies may only offer a sales commission, which may or may not be lucrative because you must repeatedly close a sale.

Don’t forget to protect your brand. Taking on too many sponsors, changing sponsors regularly, or endorsing fly-by-night products could devalue it and repel bigger sponsors. One big cash sponsor may be better than a bunch of product trades.

Some categories of products are highly competitive for sponsorships, so sponsors will want exclusivity. Supplements, feeds, tack, saddle pads, pharmaceuticals, and apparel are categories with many brands competing against each other and areas where horse trainers have a lot of influence with the customer.

Tread carefully with exclusivity, because this rules out having other sponsors in that category. To me, exclusivity is like getting married to that company. Think about the long term. Are your values compatible? Is it a brand you can use and stand behind? Can you positively impact the company’s sales and conduct yourself in a manner that the sponsor wants you to? Can the sponsor make a long-term investment in you, or is this going to be a one-time thing?

In Conclusion
It’s important to develop the traits mentioned above to succeed as a clinician. Developing horsemanship clinics can be rewarding and lucrative. Find ways to stand out from the crowd. Develop a loyal following at home, decide on your business model and marketing, and then take your show on the road!

International trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight is the international spokesperson for CHA and a CHA Master Instructor. JulieGoodnight.com.

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Laura Jones

Sample CHA Lesson Plan

Tips for Lesson Planning

By Sarah Evers Conrad

Lesson planning is an important part of developing a cohesive and organized lesson program focused on goal achievement and rider progression. According to CHA’s latest manual, The Equine Professional Manual: The Art of Teaching Riding, a lesson plan is “a clear, flexible, and individualized teaching aid for conducting a class or a short-term instructional session.”

Each lesson plan is based on the individual needs, interests, and abilities of the students involved in that lesson. It should always focus on safety and be specific, sequential, and progressively build on the student’s skill level.

Why Lesson Plan

“Lesson plans make you organize your thoughts, arena, focus, and energy,” says CHA Master Instructor Tara Reimer, who owns Cloud 9 Ranch in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada, with her husband, Derek. This CHA Clinician, Region 2 Director, and 2013 CHA Instructor of the Year teaches Western, English, jumping, and vaulting, while also training horses at the ranch. “A lesson plan keeps you on track time wise.”

CHA Master Instructor Cheryl West is a USDF Bronze Medalist, CHA Standard, IRD, and Equine Facility Management Clinician, and director in Region 8. She owns and operates West Equestrian in Sand Springs, OK; teaches at Stormwalker Ranch; and gives clinics nationally.

“A well-thought-out lesson plan allows you to have a creative lesson for your riders,” says West. “It gives you the ability to teach to the lowest level, but allows you to be prepared for those riders who catch on a bit quicker or even a bit slower.”

Since West works with a variety of instructors, having a lesson plan ready means that another instructor can fill in and use her plan if West needs to miss a lesson. It also creates a record of skills, attendance, and horse usage.

CHA Certified Instructor Donovan Dobbs of Dobbs Horsemanship in Ozark, MO, considers a lesson plan a map that guides the rider to a specific goal. Dobbs teaches riding lessons, starts and trains horses for a variety of disciplines, offers horsemanship clinics, and serves as the Missouri representative for Region 9.

Parts of a Lesson Plan

The Equine Professional Manual advises each lesson plan should include the following sections:

  • Destination, which refers to the lesson’s main goal, aim, or objective
  • Preparation, such as the number of students and horses, assistants, equipment, tack, how the arena will be set up, etc.
  • Explanation of the new subject or skill to be taught, which includes a step-by-step progression highlighting key points and phrases of that lesson
  • Demonstration by an instructor or student who can perform the skill mounted or unmounted
  • Application of the new skill by students, either as a group or individually
  • Observation and Correction by the instructor as students try to master the new skill
  • Repetition of the skill by students, which sometimes is done via games, patterns, etc.
  • Conclusion of the lesson with a summary, review by the students, and a cool down for the horses
  • Evaluation by the instructor to see if the new skill was achieved, what the strengths/weaknesses of the lesson and teaching techniques were, and what changes to the lesson are needed

Creating the Lesson Plan

Each riding instructor will have their own methods for creating a lesson plan. West, Dobbs, and Reimer start with a general list of skills students learn in their lesson program.

Dobbs uses his master list and general lesson plans as a basic blueprint to develop individualized lesson plans based on the students in each lesson. He focuses on general topics with an overall goal for each rider per lesson. Each lesson with Dobbs focuses on that overall goal until it is achieved.

He likes to cover at least two or three points under that goal, although he may be able to cover more material beyond those if time allows. Dobbs keeps lesson plans to one page or less and never works more than five lessons ahead.

Both West and Reimer use the levels provided by CHA.

“I create goals at each level,” says West, adding that next she focuses on the aids or part of the rider she wants to focus on.

She always includes a pattern of some kind, even if it’s just one that has the rider ride in and out of cones or poles. To create her lesson plans, West reviews old lesson plans, articles, books, and websites that have patterns from several disciplines, including dressage, jumping, and western riding.

Each of Reimer’s lesson plans addresses the natural aids of weight, voice, legs, hands, and energy. In addition to the lesson plan, she always has a progression plan for how students should progress through the skills.

Reimer recommends instructors write out lesson plans, and if they end up teaching more than planned, to revise the lesson plan afterward. In addition, she gains invaluable insight for lesson planning by asking for feedback on the lesson from her students afterward.

Mistakes to Avoid

One of the biggest mistakes West sees in lesson planning is not including how to do the activity. “It’s important to the rider to understand how its done, not just what,” says West. “Tell the rider specifically how to use each part of their body and when.”

Reimer warns not to overcomplicate the plan. “Some students really struggle with left and right or memorizing patterns, so keep patterns simple, and repeat them several times,” she adds.

Dobbs reminds instructors not to get so focused on what they want to teach that it affects the effectiveness of their teaching. “Keep it simple and flexible,” he says, adding that there are many ways to complete a goal. “The instructor should not get too frustrated if circumstances get you away from your lesson plan. Remember, we are dealing with horses and people with minds of their own. It should never be a one-size-fits-all program.”

After the Lesson

Taking notes on the lesson plan can help with future lesson plans. “We always write notes on each student after the lesson on what they succeeded with and what they could work on, or the next possible step,” says West. “We also will note how horses rode, any issues, or if the plan was changed.”

Reimer shares that her notes, which she archives for two years, are detailed enough that if another instructor has to step in, then they will know each rider’s strengths, weaknesses, and skill level.

However, while details are important, says Dobbs, he warns that too many can be problematic. “Some lesson plans I have seen have so much going on that I even got confused,” he adds.

Reimer’s final piece of advice is for instructors to think back on how they learned all that they know. “Don’t expect your students to learn it any faster,” she says, especially if they only ride once a week. “It took me trying to learn piano as an adult to appreciate muscle memory and retention of the skill from one week to the next.”

While lesson planning is never an exact science, being organized and fine-tuning what works for you and your lesson program can make the time invested well worth it. And CHA’s various resources, including advice from fellow members, can always improve any lesson program.

Sarah Evers Conrad is the editor of CHA’s The Instructor, and is also published in a variety of equine publications, such as Horse Illustrated, The Horse, Arabian Horse Life, American Quarter Horse Journal, American Paint Horse Journal, USDF Connection, and others. In addition, she helps equine businesses with their marketing through her company, All In Stride Marketing. AllInStrideMarketing.com.

For more on lesson planning and to see a blank sample lesson plan and several additional completed sample lesson plans, you can purchase CHA’s The Equine Professional Manual—The Art of Teaching Riding from www.CHA.horse/store.

  • Pull Sample Lesson Plan from Equine Professional Manual from pg. 191 and 192
  • Show the cover of The Equine Professional Manual—The Art of Teaching Riding

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