Sometimes in this business, the more advanced students seem to get much of the glory and attention. They have program familiarity, a developed work ethic, consistency, a proven track record, and confidence built up over time. They’ve improved, honed technique, and have the ribbons to prove it. They are doing exciting and impressive things. Sometimes, they seem like they might be the most important type of client in a program.
Don’t believe that. It is the beginner rider that is the beating heart of any good program. It’s the beginner riders that keep the program going. The beginner is the one that often challenges the trainer to find new techniques and fresh ways to explain things. With the beginner, most importantly, comes certain magic. It is this rider who has the power to ground all the members of the team and connect us, and reminds us where we all come from, and why we do this. After all, we were all beginners once.
Types of Beginner Riders – Defining the Terms
Certainly, there are different categories of beginners. They can be very generally categorized three ways, and each has a special place in the industry.
Casual Beginner/ Hobbyist
- A person exploring the sport on a curious, low-key, relaxed level.
- Low Level of commitment
- One, sometimes two lessons per week, as schedule allows. Will cancel fairly readily.
- A person who imagines great growth and progress, and is exploring on a more committed level. Riding becomes part of their personal identity.
- Two, sometimes three lessons per week, perhaps a half-lease. –
- Cancels rarely.
Fully Engaged Competitive Beginner
- This is a person who takes the study of the sport with the utmost seriousness. They prioritize time, energy, and financial resources for horses and riding. They put themselves in a position to take frequent lessons, as well as practice independently. The take horsemanship on the ground seriously as well, seeing to the care and comfort of the animals. They ask thoughtful questions of their professionals and barn cohort. They immerse themselves in the barn community and attempt to contribute to it.
- These riders have a high level of commitment and will prioritize riding over other activities. They often lease or buy a horse, often finding creative ways to make it financially possible.
Note that the skill level is not outlined in the above descriptions- it’s unimportant in this context. A beginner can be someone learning to trot, or someone learning to jump a course, or someone learning to find consistency in the modified hunter ring. It’s all relative- any could be considered a beginner. What is important is the attitude and level of commitment.
Beginner Riding Programs
Some programs are set up for the first two levels- if they have lesson horses available, adequate instructors, and are generally set up to introduce people to riding. Often, these programs will hold, or attend, schooling shows on a regular basis.
Other programs are set up for the third category of beginner riders- the fully engaged, competitive beginner. This type of program may not keep lesson horses on-hand, but can match people to appropriate horses for lease or purchase. They go to shows that offer a variety of classes on multiple levels. This is the segment for which the Horse Show Leases program is set up. We love beginners, and we take great pride in introducing riders to the finer points of horsemanship and competition.
Often this type of beginner has more or less learned to ride a horse in a lesson program, but now wants to graduate to horse shows and a more sophisticated set of skills. This rider is ambitious and eager to learn. As such, they deserve a program and trainer that is equally eager to teach them, help them develop, and listen to them.
Beginner riders enhance the sense of community in a program. There is nothing like the whole barn team cheering for the short stirrup rider, or the beginner adult. They also allow everyone to take on a leadership role, to examine their habits and their practices as they explain them. When we are aware that we are setting an example, and we take that seriously, we become better for it. Not only do we often perform better, but we have more awareness of our relevancy in our corner of the world.
Sometimes when we have been involved with something for a long time, we can become jaded. We become a little complacent or perhaps expect certain horse show results. Watching a less experienced rider find joy in small accomplishments, or in the realization of some small piece of understanding is key. It reminds us to have a little more appreciation for what we are doing and why we are doing it- or it should.
We all started somewhere, and so we see ourselves in some part of these beginners. For the trainer, as well as for advanced students, there is some magic in seeing someone else discover this. This thing becomes part of all of us. Connection to the horses, respect for technique and tradition. This sense of community, competitive drive, and the glory, as well as inevitable frustration, comes with any sport.
Therefore we say to appreciate the beginners. Embrace them. Let the dynamic and culture grow and develop with them. Take the time to watch a lesson, congratulate and encourage them for their hard work. Commend their grooming regimen. Show up and cheer- with enthusiasm- for their classes.
The Future of the Sport
Remember that in order for the sport of riding to thrive, we must always have new people, and fresh energy for the sport. It won’t be long before the people who are considered the future of the sport are the present- and the past. We all have a place here.
So whether you are a beginner or advanced rider- or a professional, push the sport in a positive direction by supporting your entire team. Take pride in every person, at every level, and how they contribute to your program, win or lose. Remember that what is key is not the level of talent or skill nearly as much as commitment and heart.
Have a beginner rider ready to build a solid horse show foundation? Contact Alicia Wilkerson today!