forms for lesson and trails rides ask this question of new customers:
are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced rider?
on the discipline, area, type of program, general experience, or necessity of
learning, the same person might be characterized as any of these at any time.
The situation is not improved by asking how many lessons someone has had
because the person that grew up on a ranch in Montana or South Texas probably
never had any lessons. He will say,
I never had a lesson but I have been riding all my life."
the sentence, "I've been riding all my life" is the same statement
that the weekend rider will make and this rider will not understand that his
hour or two once a week for many years does not equal 10 to 12 hours a day doing
cow work on a horse to make a living for the family.
"D3" level Pony Clubber is in the lowest level but by general
standards no one would call someone who has passed her "D3" exam a
beginner. Some riding programs will
move students into what they call the "advanced class" as soon as they
have experienced their first canter or gone over their first crossed poles even
though their balance on the horse may be extremely precarious.
It is the terminology of that barn.
When that student goes to camp or on a trail ride he or she will say
"I am in the advanced class at my riding school."
To most people that statement would not signify a student who could
barely trot and only do a little canter.
instructors and trainers are accustomed to this problem and simply go with the
flow. Most tend to run all students
through the basics anyway to make sure there are no glaring holes that need to
be fixed. It gives them a chance to
evaluate, rebalance and formulate a plan for the student.
ride wranglers, inexperienced instructors teaching without supervision (not a
good idea ever), and horse sellers may not be so aware that the student knows
only what his or her lesson program has taught him, or less if he is guessing.
He has learned a scale for beginner, intermediate, and advanced and does
not realize that it is not universal. The
youngster who has been taking riding lessons and been learning to jump in a nice
ring may be unaware when she goes to try out her first horse to take home that
riding in the pastures and meadows is quite different.
It may be different to the horse too, often with disastrous results.
that an experienced instructor or trainer will ask automatically may not occur
to the inexperienced. Where have
you been taking your lessons, in a ring only or do they include cross-country?
If you are learning Western Pleasure, have you ridden only this type of
horse or have you ridden out of the arena?
Where do you plan to ride this horse?
Is this comparable to where you have taken your lessons?
You have ridden all you life but what training have you
had? What type of accidents
have you had and what do you believe to have been the causes?
the questions are for a public trail ride where the guest is likely to go one
time and not be around for a whole week as with a guest ranch, the questions
become critical and the ride needs to be managed as if all riders are BEGINNERS
unless different information can be documented.
Wranglers would want to know the following: Have you ridden before?
How many times? Have you had
lessons? How many?
Have you owned your own horse? How
long did you have your own horse?
of the terminology and self-evaluation problems, it is impossible to safely take
a ride out without a pre-ride skills test.
Just because a wrangler demonstrates skills to a bunch of people does not
mean that they can do them. Having
the skills test is insurance for the wrangler and ranch that not only were the
customers shown the skills but they had to demonstrate an ability to perform
skills test sort of takes the place of the instructors going through the basics
with everyone just to make sure that there is nothing missing.
The skills test will also let the wrangler see if any horse/rider
combination does not work or if some one is going to be so nervous as to be a
danger to himself or a hazard to others.
Beginner, intermediate, and advanced should not mean much to the people with the responsibility for safety. They are only labels and will never give anyone reliable information about anything other than a rider's perception of his or her own skills or a parent's perception of the skills of their child - and that is another can of worms altogether.
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