February 23, 2018

What’s Your Warm Up Routine?

DSC03809            Just the other day I asked a student to do the “usual” warm up. Now I didn’t think this to be a difficult task since I had instructed her through this same warm-up at the beginning of every lesson for nearly a year. However, since I had always told her what to do, she never understood that she was doing a warm up. This was my mistake. Therefore; a long conversation ensued about what the purpose of a warm up is, how it helped both the horse and rider and what you should do to ensure that everyone was ready for the task at hand. But it got me thinking. How many riders know how to do a good warm up? Do they even do one at all? Based on what I see in the “warm up” pen at shows, one could wonder.

            A good warm up will help prepare both the horse and rider for the work ahead. How much you include in your warm up will depend on your riding level and your horses training level. If you are a beginner, some simple stretches on the ground or in the saddle will suffice for the rider. Often just riding at a walk and trot is exercise enough for those who only ride once a week. I usually have my riders spend some time in “balance position” or “two-point position” during each ride. These positions help stretch muscles, increase strength and improve balance.

          My beginner school horses actually seldom get a complete warm up, since their riders aren’t capable of more than walk and a bit of trot. I believe everyone should do at least one circle at each gait and each direction. Frequent changes of direction will work both sides of horses and riders while keeping the lesson more interesting. Therefore; my level 2 riders (walk/trot beginning canter) warm up routine is- Ride one complete circuit of the arena at a walk each direction. One small, walking circle each direction. Ride one complete circuit of the arena at a sitting trot/jog each direction with a small circle. Finally, they will also do the same at posting trot. Once that is completed, the group will be brought together for the lesson to begin.

            If you and your horse are more advanced (Level 3 and up), some canter and/or lope will be in order. At least 2 times around the arena with a circle in each direction should be included. I always start in a faster canter before asking my horses to slow down, collect and lope. Reverses usually involve dropping out of the canter for the change of direction. Once the horse has worked on both leads, flying lead changes can be put in the warm up if the horse and rider are proficient in them. For advanced horses and riders, bending, leg yields, haunches in/out and shoulder in/out may also be part of the warm up routine.

            Whatever your routine is, be sure it uses your horses strengths to the best advantage. Only do what your horse can do well during the warm up. Wait until everyone is completely ready for new tasks before undertaking them. This is not the time to learn or practice a new skill. Save the weaker areas of your horses training for the actual work portion of the ride. If you are still struggling with a simple lead change, don’t include it in the warm up. Bring the horse back to a walk or trot, complete the reverse, then pick up the new lead after the direction has been changed.

            After you have completed your work for the day, be sure you cool your horse out before you put him away! How do you know if your horse is cooled out and ready to quit for the day? That is a conversation for another day…

Are You Worth It?

Cheryl & Christy Landwehr, CHA CEO

            I just got my contract for my next CHA Riding Instructor Certification Clinic! Every time I get contracted to facilitate a new clinic I get pretty excited. I learn so much from all the participants and enjoy their energy. It revitalizes my teaching and gives me some great new ideas for my program. 

            Of course running the clinics is also hard work. The hours are long, sometimes the weather is an issue and the participants are always stressed. They have usually traveled a long distance and paid a lot of money to be there. Most have left their jobs, families and homes behind for the week. Some, like me, had to close their business and entrust the care of their animals to others. Plus, just the process of getting a CHA Certification is stressful. There are written tests, classes to attend, new concepts to grasp and lots of evaluations from the staff and other participants. It seems like everything they do is being judged and commented on. Or they are doing the judging and commenting. All the participants are trying to get the highest level of certification they can, so they work very hard to impress the staff. Sometimes the stress gets to them. Very often, someone will end up in tears. Some of the participants are there because attendance is a requirement of their employment. Some of these participants are resentful of being put through this extremely stressful process but others are grateful for the opportunity.  After all is said and done and they have time to reflect on the process, most of the participants will be extremely happy they came.

            So why do people put themselves through this? Would you spend your hard-earned money and time to be stressed, judged, and pushed by people you don’t even know? Does certification really make a difference? After all, everyone has a driver’s license and there are plenty of bad drivers out there. So what difference does a piece of paper really make? I can only speak to my experience, but this is what it did for me…

            Certification tells the world that I am serious about my job. I’m not just someone who hung out my shingle proclaiming to the world that I know how to teach riding. I didn’t get into teaching because I needed some extra cash, own a horse, took lessons as a kid or because I couldn’t get a job anywhere else. I’m not doing it to pay the bills until I can get my real career on track. This is my career. I want to be the best instructor I can be and certification helps me be just that.

            Being CHA Certified tells the world that not only do I think I’m good at the job, but really talented, experienced instructors do as well. At least 2 clinic staff had to agree that I have the necessary skills, education and talent to teach riding at the level of certification I received. Plus, all the other participants got to give their opinions as well. For my certification I taught eight lessons- six mounted and two un-mounted, lecture-type lessons. Every lesson I taught was evaluated by 11 people. That’s a lot of feedback! All the feedback was greatly appreciated, but the constructive critiques helped me the most. I had to teach many different levels of students and topics correctly. Teaching riding requires a very unique type of person with a very specific skill set. Not everyone can do it well. I am a great riding instructor and I have the piece of paper to prove it! 

          Participating in a CHA Certification Clinic improved my education and ability to teach. During the clinic I had to take classes on many different topics crucial to being an excellent instructor and business person. Since my certification I have had to keep taking classes every year to keep my certification current. As a Clinic Instructor I teach those same classes, so I have to to really understand the curriculum. I have since researched these topics further and created interesting ways to bring the information to the participants. I also keep on taking classes and attending clinics to fulfill the continuing education requirements my certification requires. 

          Being a CHA Certified Instructor proves that I am willing to invest in the most important asset my business has. If I was going to buy a school horse, I would take plenty of time to decide what type of horse best fits my needs. Once I found a prospect, I would do lots of research into the horse’s training, background, temperament, health, etc. I would try the horse out on several different occasions, perhaps even bringing it to my barn for a trial period. Then I would spend my hard-earned money on a vet check before I spent even more hard-earned money on the horse itself. I would do all that because a good lesson horse is an important asset for my business. When I got my CHA Instructor Certification I invested the time, money and effort in myself because I am the most important asset my business has. Unless I am the best instructor I can be, all the horses, or saddles or facilities won’t make any difference.  I don’t sell T-shirts or saddles or even horses, I sell my knowledge and skill. My ability to impart that knowledge to my students is my product. CHA Certification has improved my product beyond measure. I am a better instructor because of it. I know it was one of the best things I ever did for myself and my business.  

          Do you believe you are worth investing in? Do you want to be the best instructor you can be? If so, then you deserve to be certified by CHA. Go to www.cha-ahse.org to find a certification clinic near you. Or you can come with me to the Palomar Christian Conference Center in June. We’ll have a great time!

          Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to www.crktrainingstable.com







Are you ready?

I was asked to speak at the local riding club meeting a few weeks go and something interesting happened. I never got to the topic I was asked to speak about.

I introduced myself and explained some of the exciting programs I have coming up at our ranch. I also gave some information about my background, experience and such. You know
the usual stuff. Just as I was about to jump into my  topic for the evening, it happened…

Someone in the audience asked a question.  The question was about my riding program.

“How is your program different from all the other camps out there?”

An interesting question to be sure. Am I different? I believe so and here’s what I told them. I explained that I am a Certified Riding Instructor and that I went through a 40 hour testing process to get that certification. I explained that there were two people evaluating me on my personal interaction with students, teaching lessons both mounted and on the ground, horse knowledge and riding ability.  I also had to take a written test. The clinic included some classes on teaching techniques, professionalism and other topics important to riding instructors. I explained the certification levels, how they are attained and what level I received.

Next, I told them that at CRK Training Stable we use a nationally recognized program to help our students learn correctly, quickly and safely, while always keeping it fun and interesting. This program is separated into 4 different levels. Students ride in lessons and study from the manuals before taking 3 tests for each level, written, practical and riding. If they pass the tests they receive a certificate and patch and advance to the next level.

 Well, one questions led to another and before I knew it my time was up. What an amazing evening! Everyone wanted to know what I did to make my riding programs better than the others. I guess these experienced, horse-owning people were surprised that there were better options out there for people to learn to ride. Or to improve their riding skills or their horses training.

So that brings me back to my question- Are you ready to ride?

The CHA Region 10 Conference has opportunities for you to bring your horse and try several different Certified Instructors. See for yourself the difference between a certified instructor and one, um…,  shall we say…. un-certified. There is a better way for you to learn and improve both yourself and your horse. Try it out. At only $15.00 a lesson you don’t have much to lose and so much to gain!

How To Choose A Riding Program, Part 3

More questions to ask before you sign up.

3. How many people will be in the same lesson?

Most beginners benefit from private lessons and will make the most progress that way. Very young riders (under 7 yrs.) should always be in private lessons for safety reasons. Intermediate to advanced riders may do well with the interaction of group lessons. A Group lesson should have no more than 6 students with one instructor or 10 riders with 2 instructors. All group lessons should be ranked according to the ability of the riders, not their age or size.  Also, any groups beyond basic riding should be separated according to riding style and the focus of the class.   

 4. Are ground classes required? Are they included?

All programs should require one ground lesson before you are allowed to ride. More may be indicated depending on the student, but more than 2 or 3 shouldn’t be needed unless riders are very young or handicapped. Ground work can always be reviewed at the beginning of riding lessons as needed.

 5. What are the requirements for riders?

Ask about your particular situation such as age, height, weight, experience, riding style, able-bodied vs. handicapped, etc.

6. What level of riders do they teach?

Some barns only take advanced riders and do not teach beginners. Some are the other way around. If they teach advanced riders, does their certification match? Do they have horses suitable for your level of rider? How are riders advanced? Do they have a system in place to test students or is it arbitrary?

7. Are you insured?

Liability insurance is a must. Some barns will require you to have insurance as well, but usually only if you have your own horse.

8. What riding styles do you offer?

So many options here, but the basics are Western and English.  Western style-think western movies, cowboy boots, “ten-gallon” hats, jeans and the like. Western saddles are larger, heavier and provide more rider support. English style- Movies like National Velvet. Clothing- Hunt coats, breeches, black tall boots, velvet hunt caps. English saddles are lighter, smaller and provide less rider support.

9. Can I watch a lesson? Is an appointment required or can I just stop by?

If they won’t let you watch a lesson, continue your search elsewhere. But an appointment to watch someone at your level is a good idea. Also, some instructors are the only staff, so it may be necessary to make an appointment to discuss your situation. Don’t expect them to stop a lesson to chat with you. If they do take time out of a lesson for you, what does that say about their priorities? Will you be getting the lesson you are paying for if someone calls or stops by while you are riding?

10. How much do you charge? Do I pay per ride, buy a package, or monthly? Are there minimum requirements?

Be sure you are comparing apples to apples. Determine how much you are paying for each lesson, how long that lesson is and how much of that time is “horse” time. And remember, not all instructors are the same. Better instructors might charge more, but you may advance more quickly and therefore pay less in the long run. The cheaper instructor may not be the best deal after all.  In this area it’s best not to skimp. Pay for the best you can afford. Also, some instructors are capable of teaching from beginners to very advanced riders. If you choose one of them, you won’t have to change trainers to keep improving your skills.

Now that you have completed your research, it is time to visit the facilities you have chosen. If you have made an appointment, please be on time. Allow the staff to show you the facility while you observe. Is the facility clean and well cared for? Keep in mind that the instructor may not own the grounds and might not have any control over this aspect. Are the horses healthy? Is the Tack Room (horse equipment room) neat and well organized? Is the tack well cared for? Are the students properly supervised?  Is everyone- students, instructors and staff properly attired? (Long pants, boots, riding helmets when mounted, no baggy clothing) Do the students and staff seem happy?

Observe the lesson.  The instructor should greet all the students by their name, not the horses name. All tack (saddles & bridles) should be checked along with the riders attire. The lesson should include a warm-up for both horses & riders. Students should be engaged in the lesson. All students should be challenged, but not overwhelmed. Most important of all- The instructor should teach! That means they are talking the entire time, giving instruction not just on what to do, but how to do it. They should always be offering  position corrections while keeping a positive attitude.  The instructors should be attentive to the lesson at all times, not texting, talking on the phone or with people not in the lesson.  Assess the program  and decide if it is a fit.  If so…..

Speak with management and schedule a lesson. Understand that most first lessons are only on the ground and not riding. If that is not what you want, see if they can accommodate a change.  Confirm that you meet their requirements and determine what attire you will need to purchase. Some barns have very specific requirements, so make sure you get the correct items.  Fill out paperwork & make your payment in advance. That will save your spot and save time on lesson day.

Attend your lesson! Make sure it is everything you wanted it to be, but don’t be surprised if you feel nervous. If the lesson fell short was it the fault of the instructor? Or were your expectations too high?  Everyone wants to gallop off into the sunset, but those skills take time to achieve. Your first ground lesson should include- Safety around horses, catching the horse/putting on the halter, leading, stopping, turning, grooming, tying/untying, and putting the horse away. The first riding lesson should include-everything from the ground lesson plus Saddling, bridling, mounting, stop, go, turns, reverses, stop (lots of stops!), dismount. Anymore than that is usually too much. Less might be an indicator that the barn progresses it’s students very slowly.  Access the lesson and decide if you want to continue. If so, check out some package prices. They usually offer a better rate than the Pay-Per-Ride rate, but may have more restrictions. If the lesson wasn’t what you expected, be sure to tell the instructor and find out why. They should be able to explain why. If the explanation makes sense, give it another shot. If things still seem wrong, perhaps this place isn’t a good match for you. You shouldn’t have to talk yourself into it. It is either a good fit or it isn’t. After a few lessons you should know. If it doesn’t fit, look elsewhere. The right program for you is out there. You just have to find it.

The world of Equestrian Sports is challenging, wide-ranging and, at all times, exciting. You can always aspire to a higher level of riding, no matter what your discipline. You just need the right person to can show you the way.  Enjoy the Ride!