How To: Take a lesson

Lila Gendal offers some tips for getting the most out your lesson or clinic experience–and for not annoying the crap out of your trainer!

From Lila:

Regardless of your discipline and experience level, taking lessons can be extremely beneficial. There’s always something to be learned, whether your experience turns out to be a positive or negative one.

Everyone’s lesson-taking habits are different. Some of us lesson weekly, some monthly, and some never! Some of us lesson and take clinics with a variety of professionals; others stick to one trainer we really click with.

Whatever your lesson-taking style, here are some tips and pieces of advice to consider:


1)      Be respectful.

Remember that you made the decision to take a lesson from this person, so be respectful. Having a dialogue at the appropriate time during a lesson can be very beneficial, especially if you are confused, need something clarified, or have specific questions. Regardless of how many times you’ve taken a lesson with the trainer, being respectful should remain a constant. It’s just as important to be courteous with someone you’ve known for 20 years as it is with a brand new trainer.

2)      Don’t talk back. 

This goes hand-in-hand with tip #1. You sought out this individual to help you with your riding and your horse, and talking back will not win you any brownie points. Under most circumstances, talking back to your “teacher” is considered very rude. Even if you don’t agree with what a trainer is telling you, best to bite your tongue and kick on! There does exist a fine line between knowing what’s good for your horse and taking advice from a professional, but generally speaking a trainer ought to know more than the student, therefore, best to listen closely to what they have to offer.

3)      Be present.

Don’t go into a coma during a your lesson! You wanted a lesson, so show up ready to work. Make wise decisions. If you know you have an early lesson in the morning, perhaps staying out late is not the wisest of choices. Be sharp, be ready, be prepared, and be on time when taking a lesson. Being on time cannot be overly expressed!

4)      Have a good attitude and TRY!

If nothing else, have the right attitude. Come to a lesson as if you were an open book ready to absorb anything and everything that the trainer has to offer. Don’t be moody. Don’t be quiet. Don’t talk too much. Speak when spoken to and be friendly… especially if you want this trainer to come back and teach you again. Also, try your hardest! Oftentimes in a lesson, riders are pushed out of their comfort zone to where both the horse and rider have to work a little harder than they normally would. Don’t complain, just do your best!

5)      Do your homework.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, if you got anything out of your lesson, what then do you do… go home and eat some popcorn? NO–practice and do your homework! You might also consider recording notes and exercises from your lessons in a journal that you can refer back to in the future.


Go take a lesson!


About the Author

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.


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