Student Rider Etiquette – How To Treat Your Trainer Right

Student Horseback Rider Etiquette

Student Rider Etiquette – How To Treat Your Trainer Right

Seriously, Your Trainer Is Not Your Employee

You ride, maybe you even own your own horse and board somewhere.  You are the client.  The client is always right. Right?


Clients pay for the privilege of enjoying a riding facility.  If you do not own your own horse, you are also paying for the privilege of riding someone elses’ horse.  Even though you may be paying good money to take lessons from a trainer, they do not work for you.  They are not your employees, you are not responsible for their safety, healthcare benefits, and you do not sign their paychecks.

In short, you are not the boss of them.

The Many Hidden Talents (And Responsibilities) Of Professional Trainers

Professional trainers are often certified.  They go to school, have equine related degrees, attend clinics, and must pass difficult tests to attain certifications.  They know how to handle difficult horses but they should not have to deal with difficult clients.

Trainers teach people how to ride, but they may also have a lot of other responsibilities.  They train horses, hack or lunge them, and, at our barn, our trainers give medications, check on sick and injured horses, and even do scheduling and office work.  They also scout out new horses to bring in, and help connect clients with horses to buy.  In other words, trainers are hard working professionals and should be treated as such.

Student Rider Etiquette

  • Be considerate.  Show up on time, properly dressed for your lesson.  Call if you will be late or cannot make a lesson.
  • Show your gratitude. Tip them from time to time or offer a generous bonus at Christmas.
  • Don’t complain about a horse you are assigned to for a lesson.  The trainer has a reason for matching you with a particular horse.  If there is a horse you prefer, it is fine to let your trainer know, but be happy with the horse you are assigned to.
  • Show your trainer respect.  Arguing with a trainer is unbecoming of a client.  If you do not trust your trainer enough to listen, find another one to work with.
  •  Your trainer is not your therapist.  Don’t waste your lesson time whining about everything you have to do.  Use the time to improve your skills.  Many trainers take a personal interest in their clients — if yours does, share personal conversations before or after your lesson, but be mindful your trainer may have something else to do.
  • Your trainer is not your errand boy/girl.  Do not ask them to grab your whip, helmet, gloves, and all the other things you forgot.

Pay Attention And Obey, Obey, Obey

Paying attention may sound simple, but time and again I see students become so excited about riding that they tune out their trainers.  Trainers watch their students, but they also watch the horses in the ring.  In a group lesson, you may not be aware that horse behind you is bucking, or that your horse is starting to bolt.  Trainers notice these things long before inexperienced riders do.  When a trainer tells you to halt, you should halt immediately, not after he yells at you for the fourth time, halt!

Asking your trainer every five minutes “can I canter now?” is not listening. It is making demands.  Of all the trainers I personally know, not one is going to let you do something before they think you are ready to do it.  Making demands won’t speed up your progress, paying attention and doing what you trainer tells you to do will.

Don’t Be An Annoying, Parent

Parents who hang around during their child’s lesson to show support are great parents.  Parents who interrupt the trainer, disagree with the trainer, or call out to their kid in a lesson are putting their child, the horse, and everyone else in the ring at risk.

Your child needs to focus exclusively on their trainer and their horse/pony.  Serious accidents can happen when parents intrude.  If you have something to discuss with the trainer, save it until after the lesson.

The only situation where a parent should interject themselves is if their child is in immediate danger and the trainer is not paying attention.  If you have hired a good trainer, that is unlikely to ever happen.  Note that “in immediate danger” does not mean you are scared something will happen.  Even if your child’s horse starts bucking, in the rare case a trainer has not noticed, it is better to call out to them for help rather than running into the ring yourself.  A trainer knows how to handle horse emergencies properly — you probably don’t.