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How to get the most from your driving lesson

By Patricia M. Demers / Horsetrader columnist - February 18th, 2016 - About Driving

About DrivingWhen you are first starting out in any sport or pursuit, you have an interest.  That interest turns into a quest for knowledge.  Somehow you have to be taught how to do the new thing.  You learn from watching videos, reading books, or taking instruction.  When you learn, you are the STUDENT, learning from someone who has KNOWLEDGE of that subject to pass along.  Being a good student is a process that hopefully you learned in school.  For many of us, it’s been a very long time since we’ve gone to school, so we may have forgotten some of the protocols of good behavior.

As a trainer, instructor, clinician, judge, I’m there to help you learn.  I’m going to try to teach you in a systematic, building block fashion that is easy to understand according to your skill level.  You are the one paying for the instruction, and you have your own motives and goals.  Together, we have to agree on the steps to learning.  We BOTH also have to maintain a safe environment at all times.  That means, having a controlled environment, such as a fenced area to work in, free from hazardous, objects, areas and poor footing.

Be courteous by being on time. Be READY for your lesson at your appointed time.  Start tacking up your horse BEFORE your appointed lesson time. The clock is ticking.  If you take 20 minutes to tack, and your lesson is only 45 min long, you only have 25 min to accomplish something.  That’s almost 50% of your lesson time lost because you weren’t prepared.  In a clinic or private lesson situation, there is only so much time scheduled to each student during the day.  Remember that the facility or instructor may have limited hours, or a certain number of lessons to maximize the daylight.  . Usually, there are a few minutes of overage scheduled into the day.  Some sessions may take a few minutes longer, and others may finish a little early, depending upon the individual.
Here is an example of what I’m getting at: I was giving a clinic, and the student had a driving pair that they wanted to work with.  I was watching this person while I was giving the lesson prior to their time.  I didn’t see the pair driver getting hitched or harnessed.  When the lesson before theirs ended, the student then came into the arena and proceeded to harness and hitch up during their allotted time.  They didn’t need my help with this process, as they already knew how to do this, and knowing they needed a helper to be safe, didn’t arrange for another set of hands to help.  They then spent 30 of their 45 minutes harnessing and hitching.  They then expected their 45 min lesson to start!  Instead of keeping to the clock, I gave them a 30 min. lesson.  That put the whole rest of the day’s schedule behind, and by the last student, we were almost working in the dark, and overtime by almost an hour.  This driver was inconsiderate of the other student’s time and the instructor’s time, by not being prepared and ready.  If they had said something ahead of time, accommodations could have been made, allowing them to be on time, and take their full lesson.  This was also a mistake on MY part by not asking ahead of time if there were any expected problems.  I should have explained to the WHOLE group at once that if this is your first time doing something like this, here are the rules- Be on time and be ready for your lesson.  I think we BOTH learned something that day!

Often at a clinic, neither the student nor the clinician knows anything about each other.  The clinician doesn’t know your skills.  This must be discussed very quickly during your introduction to each other. Have a plan of what you want to accomplish during your session.  If you don’t have a plan, the clinician has to start at the basics and work forward until they see something that needs to be addressed.  Often, this ISN’T what YOU had in mind for your session.  However, because you didn’t have a plan, the clinician had to devise a plan and goal very quickly.  It may not be what you wanted to do, but now you are both stuck with this because of time constraints, accomplishing less than you each expected.  Have a plan ahead of time!  Be a good listener —  listen to what the instructor is attempting to explain to you.  Listen the whole way through, then try the exercise, and then ask questions.

Be sure to ask questions, but leave your attitude at the door —  you are there to learn. Asking questions is appropriate, but please, be aware that the clock is ticking.  You can spend the whole lesson discussing theory and not actually working.  Keep things brief.  Be open to new ideas versus what you already know.   Establish your long-term goals – pleasure?  Competition? Or both? Be sure your instructor knows what to teach you.  The more you put into learning, the more you’ll get out of your lessons and clinic. Read books, magazines, and watch videos between your lessons.  Discuss what you’ve learned with your instructor or clinician.

Have an equine that is suitable to your current level of talent- being over-horsed, or trying things above your ability can lead to wasted time, frustration, and possibly injury to you and others.  Understand that learning is a building-block process.  You must start at the beginning, taking small steps that build into larger steps and skills. When you have honed your skills, you can work on more difficult tasks.  Having confidence in yourself is wonderful, but overconfidence can lead to being humbled when things go badly.  Accept it graciously, and move forward! Have a great time learning.


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