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What to Look for When Selecting a Dressage Trainer

What to Look for When Selecting a Dressage Trainer

When choosing the right trainer for you, the first thing you need to decide is: what do you want a trainer for?

  • Are you competitive?
  • Do you want to learn more technique, but aren’t bothered about competing?
  • Are you training for a specific competition?
  • Do you want an all-round education, or specifically dressage training?
  • How much are you prepared to pay for lessons?
  • Are you prepared to travel, or do you expect a trainer to come to you?

There are different places where you can source trainers who are suited to your specific needs, so think about this aspect first.

Finding a dressage trainer

Often a good way to source a trainer is by watching other riders, and when you notice one who rides in the manner you wish to ride in yourself, take the plunge and ask them directly who their trainer is.

Alternatively, if you spot a trainer riding at a competition, watch how they ride and relate to their horses, and if you like what you see, approach them and find out if they are taking new clients.

One of the best recommendations for a trainer is that they are really busy. The best trainers have no need to advertise, and often have full books with little room for new clients. However, horses being what they are, clients will drop out due to lameness, or other issues, so those sought-after spaces will come available from time to time.

If you are new to an area, or perhaps to the sport, and have no knowledge of local trainers, places you might also look would be:

  • For all-round trainers, the BHS (British Horse Society) instructor’s database.
  • For dressage specific trainers, the BD (British Dressage) trainer’s database
  • Also for dressage trainers, the classified ads in the BD magazine and on the website.

How do you know that the trainer is right for you?

  • Ask if you can watch some lessons. Good trainers will be happy to allow you to watch them teach, but you will also need their pupil’s agreement – not everybody likes to be watched while having a lesson.
  • Book a trial lesson. Always check out details beforehand, such as length and cost of the lesson, so there are no nasty surprises at the end.

After your trial lesson, ask yourself:

  • Did the trainer’s style suit your personal approach to riding and your relationship with your horse?
  • If you like to ask questions, did they take the time to answer, and were the answers clear enough for you to understand?
  • Did you learn at least one new thing?
  • Did they explain exercises clearly enough for you to follow without being confused?
  • Did you feel they showed enough interest in you/your horse to warrant going again?
  • Were they professional, or did they spend some of your lesson time chatting on the phone or to others – unless there is a very good reason, such as an emergency, this is not acceptable, and yes, it does happen!
  • Do you feel you are going to learn from this person, or just get exercised?

In conclusion

Take the time to go through checklists such as those above, and make sure you know what you want from a trainer, have a trial lesson and then analyze whether they delivered.

Don’t be afraid to try more than one trainer before you settle, unless your first lesson is so good you can’t imagine it being better!

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