Be a Better Riding Student: Stephen Bradley's Tips


One of the best things about working with horses is that no matter how long you've been around them, there is always more to learn! This means that many of us find ourselves taking lessons and going to clinics even after years and years of riding. Since each clinic or lesson is not only a financial investment but a time investment for both rider and instructor, it's important that we do our best to make the most out of every learning experience. Read on for some pointers from sponsored rider Stephen Bradley on getting the most out of your next lesson or clinic!

Whether you ride to compete or just for fun, it’s always good to take a lesson or clinic with someone new once in a while. Not only for a fresh set of eyes but also for a fresh set of ideas and inspiration. And if you’re having a hard time with a learning concept or your horse, there’s a good chance you’re not alone (and not the first person to have had a problem)!

Be Prepared to Learn

With regard to clinics, the first thing I will say is to make sure you’re turned out appropriately. Clean tack, clean horse, be dressed properly and appropriately. That means clean boots, breeches, button-down shirt. If possible, show up early to see how earlier lessons run so you know what to expect from the clinician and be warmed up and ready to go in advance of your ride time. If you’re in the first lesson just be there ready to work — be warmed up unless the instructor has communicated they want to warm you up or watch your warmup.

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Clean up your horse, wear appropriate attire, and be on time to your lesson or clinic.

The next key idea for riding in a clinic is to go in it with an open mind. Hopefully, you know something about the instructor already whether it’s their philosophies about riding or if you’ve seen them teach before. But no matter what, you need to be willing to try new and different things. At the end of the day, if you take even one thing home that works or will make things better for you or your horse, then it’s worth it.

When Things Go Awry

We all have to tell ourselves that we learn from our mistakes. If you fall off, you truly have to just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on in order to fix what needs to be made right, mainly so it doesn’t happen again. Check your ego at the door and know sometimes you’re going to make mistakes. That’s part of the learning process.

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"Check your ego at the door" when riding with a clinician and remember that mistakes happen!

Lessons are No Exception

Lessons incorporate the same principles. If you have a 2:00 lesson it doesn’t mean you’re pulling into the driveway at 2:00. You’re still turned out properly, as is your horse, and you've warmed up and are ready to work when the lesson begins.

With my own students, every lesson starts with what they’ve been doing recently. I consider whether they have just gotten back from a competition or if are they getting ready for a competition on the weekend. I think it’s important for the instructor to know what you’ve been up to and how it’s been going as well as what your near future plans are. I’ll always ask if there’s something specific they want to work on, but if they are getting ready for a competition on the weekend, we will keep that in mind during our lesson.


Take time to discuss what you've been doing and what you hope to work on with your riding instructor.

Final Takeaways... Whether you are riding with a clinician or your instructor at home, learning is supposed to be a positive experience. Always remember that you get what you put in!

Thank you for reading and happy riding! Gear up for your next lesson or clinic at
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