Why Riding Lessons?                  Submission                  Homework                  Resistance

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Why Riding Lessons?
as first published in Riding Instructor, Fall 2002

 Those of us bitten by the equestrian bug may need no other reason to ride than “because we can.”  For non-horsey parents of a child interested in lessons, however, it may take more than that.  For a moment, consider the issue from their perspective: You have never spent any time on a farm, unless you count that class field trip in first grade, where you tried not to touch anything.  You associate large animals with being dirty and smelly.  You like to keep your own feet firmly on solid ground.  Still, you’ve looked into riding lessons for your child’s sake, and what you’ve found is that it costs significantly more than, say, joining a bowling or baseball league.  Your child is persistent, so you schedule a meeting with a local riding instructor, but you can’t imagine what she might say that would change your mind.   OK, now you can be the instructor again.  Imagine this parent is approaching you.  Of course, she is already impressed by the fact that your well-run stable does not seem to be dirty or smelly.  In fact, as you give her a brief tour, she realizes that the hay actually smells pleasant.  And the horses are beautiful, but so big when you get up close!  She’s relieved to see that you have a clean and comfortable place for parents to sit and wait for their children.  You’ve already opened her mind, but she’s still a long way from reversing her tentative decision against signing her child up for riding lessons.  As you sit down to talk, you can tell by her noncommittal attitude that she is unsure whether to proceed.  She probably won’t say it a s bluntly as this, but what she really wants to know is “Why riding lessons?”
Riding lessons have been a time-honored tradition among kings and aristocracy since the Renaissance, and not just for transportation.  It was recognized then, and it is still true now, that an education that includes horses is the best way to cultivate the qualities of a good leader.  Think for a moment about the qualities you admire in the people around you – the people you like to spend time with – whom you respect and trust.  Think about the qualities you would like to enhance in your own child.  What follows is an incomplete list of the traits that have been observed over hundreds of years to be nurtured or revealed through regular contact with horses.

 Compassion.  By caring for an animal – getting to know it as an individual personality – one can’t help but begin to feel something on an emotional level.  This is compounded by the fact that, though horses are so big they rely on us to meet their needs.  Awareness of the horse’s vulnerability rarely fails to trigger a sense of…
 Responsibility.  Feeling needed is quite foreign to most children, for they themselves are dependant on others.  But it is important for a child to feel important.  A good instructor will encourage development of this trait by offering the student opportunities for act responsibly.
 Sensitivity to body language.  The more one cares, the more one notices the subtle gestures of the horse indicating pleasure, discomfort, or annoyance.  The ability to recognize and interpret such communication is a very useful, but generally underdeveloped skill.  It will by learned in the barn by necessity due to lack of other means of communication and will transfer to relationships, job interviews, and life.
 Honor.  The relationship between horse and rider grows very intimate over time.  When the above qualities become strong, the horse becomes a physical representation of the rider’s conscience.  The student will come to realize that regardless of input offered by others, she ultimately answers only to herself.  She will want to make decisions that will make her proud.
 Magnanimity, or generosity of spirit.  The desire to do something nice just for the satisfaction of knowing that you make life a little more pleasant for someone else is depressingly rare in our society.
 Work ethic.  Your child will begin planning in advance to get his or her chores and homework done in order to have more time at the barn.  He will look forward to the work he does there, and he will take pride in a job well done.  In so many aspects of life, the phrase “you get out of it what you put into it” holds true, but requires delayed gratification.  Children and adolescents are not good at waiting and frequently cannot make the connection between effort and results – even when the results are good.  In riding, the connection between effort and results is very clear and usually immediate, in addition to the positive results that happen over time.  This makes it easy for the student to make the connection and encourages continued effort.  
 Respect.  Even kids who have a habit of being disrespectful suddenly feel vulnerable their first few times on a horse.  They instinctively respect the size of the horse and, therefore, the people who confidently control them.  They realize that they are dependant on their instructor, and they suddenly develop the ability to listen and to be humble.
 Courage.  Not cockiness (see above), but true courage – the kind that comes from conquering one’s fears and discovering one’s inner strength.
 Self-confidence.  A 70-pound child controlling a 1000-pound animal.  Need I say more?  This is frequently noticeable within the first few lessons.
 Decisiveness/Assertiveness.  Riding requires a great deal of decision making.  How big will this circle be?  Do I want to make a transition here or at the end of the ring?  If the rider fails to decide or to be assertive in making her decisions clear, the horse will make a decision that the rider may not appreciate.  
 Valor, or level-headedness in times of turmoil.  Sometimes things get a little scary around horses, but riders quickly learn to keep their wits about them in order to maintain control of the situation.  
 Judgment.  This can take many forms: judgment about oneself, the environment, and others, to name a few.  The student will learn to respect her own limitations as she grows in knowledge and ability, she will learn to evaluate the surrounding conditions in making decisions, and she will learn to analyze advice for soundness before acting.
 Moderation.  The importance of regularity and consistency is magnified in regard to the horse.  It may be more fun in the short term to just jump on and gallop away.  But it won’t have been worth it when the horse is lame as a result and can’t be ridden at all for a couple of weeks.  
 Patience with oneself and others.  It takes a long time to learn to ride well.  Muscles need to be stretched and strengthened, old habits need to be broken and new ones formed.  Disobedience on the part of the horse is usually the result of either fear of confusion.  Patience is required to determine the basis of the problem and to formulate a solution.

 Students learn many of these qualities from the example of the horse himself.  Noble, generous, and forgiving are adjectives frequently applied to horses.  Others such as valor, courage, and moderation are generally learned by the student to make up for the horse’s lack of these qualities, though certainly there are horses that display these traits as well.  A good guide will help make the most of the experience, so it is important to choose the best - not necessarily the most costly - instructor available.   So powerful is the horse’s influence that he is being used to rehabilitate criminals – both adult and juvenile offenders.  The relapse rate for such programs is a fraction of that for similar convicts in other rehabilitation programs.  Increasingly common, too, are programs for at-risk youth that utilize horses to teach and promote self-esteem, life skills, and strength of character. So, parents, take your child to ride if that is what he wants.  Riding is a sport that can be enjoyed throughout a person’s life.  However, even if your student decides after a time to put away his boots and helmet, the life lessons will stay with him. 

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as published in the Dog and Pony Journal 2006
 Submission is a word with many connotations.  Most have to do with subservience, servility, and defeat, and bring to mind images of horses broken (literally) the wild west way, with no spirit left, and no hope for an enjoyable life.  Thankfully, that is not the type of submission that best serves riders or their horses.
A horses submission is more like that of a child to his parent.  The parent has the power!  We get to decide what is for dinner, when it is bedtime, and we control the rewards and punishments, just for starters.  On the other hand, we also have a responsibility to not only provide that dinner (and breakfast, lunch, and snacks), but to make it nourishing, as well as confirming that all other physical, emotional, intellectual, and social needs are met.  Parenthood is the most demanding job that many of us will undertake in our lives.
Kids have to put up with their parents decisions.  They have to follow parent-made rules, arbitrary though they may be, or risk punishment.  They often get little or no say in matters that directly affect them.  It can seem oppressive.  Or it can seem liberating.  How many times have you heard an adult say "Oh to be a kid again, and be free of all of this responsibility", or even said it yourself?
In a nutshell, the parent needs to be dominant in order to keep the child safe while meeting her own responsibilities, while the child needs to be submissive in order to be cared for and protected.  The horse's herd instinct works similarly.  Horses do not understand equality.  Others (people included) are either above them (dominant) or below them (submissive) in the hierarchy of the herd.  Although the horse, like the child, will test his boundaries, there is great comfort for each in knowing that someone else is in charge, that someone else is responsible for making decisions and avoiding danger.
As the horse/rider relationship grows more educated and develops sophistication, it becomes less like a parent/child relationship, and more like a pair of dancers.  Both partners need skill, strength, and grace equally, but one must lead confidently and the other must follow compliantly if a beautiful performance is to be produced. Submission should be present in the horse from the time of its first handling as a foal, but it can be interrupted by poor leadership.  In order for the horse to choose to be submissive, he must trust his riders ability to lead.  Anything that damages trust will interfere with submission as well (it follows then, that you cannot literally beat a horse into true submission).  Abusive treatment obviously undermines trust, but there are many more subtle and more common circumstances to watch out for as well.

1.)  The rider doesn't take charge.  This is very common, as for several years at the beginning of one's riding education, the horse knows more than the rider does, so it makes sense to defer to him when in doubt.
2.)  Rider communication lacks clarity.  The rider may try to take charge, but if the horse doesn't understand, it can't comply, and must rely on its own decision-making.  This includes insufficient reinforcement.  If the horse is unsure of your request, but tries and guesses correctly, the rider needs to say thank you or the horse will stop being so generous.  You cannot reward too much!
3.) Rider inconsistency.  Sometimes she leads, sometimes she doesn't.  How is the horse to know?
4.)  Poor rider judgment.  Rides too long, movements too complicated, too much precision demanded too soon, jumps too high, incorrect distances, and false ground lines are all very effective at undermining a horse's confidence.  Unfair punishment falls under this heading, like when the horse does not comply because it is uncomfortable, or sore, or doesn't understand (perhaps because you are not asking clearly).

 It is easy to get stuck between numbers 1 and 4.  Riders may want to take charge, but then feel afraid to insist in case they are not asking correctly.  It is generally safe to assume that if the horse is doing something wrong it is the riders fault.  However, you should always be able to expect some response from your aids, even if it is not the response that you intended.  The horse should always try, and never ignore or move against your aids.  On that much you may always insist.  If you get an incorrect response, don't punish the horse, just refine your request and try again. In a really good horse/rider relationship, the rider knows that the horse will do it's best to respond to his every request without hesitation, plus the horse becomes so trusting that it will not react to outside influences without his riders approval.  Really- no spooking!  The horse knows that the rider will not ask for anything that he is not capable of giving, whether physically of mentally, and that both during and between rides his comfort and care will be attended to conscientiously.  Do you have this type of relationship?  Here are some simple tests to find out:
1.)  Place a soccer cone, or other small, safe object, in the arena.  Ride toward it.  Which of you decides on which side to pass?  Try from different directions at all gaits.
2.)  Turn across the arena or down the center line.  As you approach the wall or fence on the far side, does your horse lean to one side, or does he wait for you to tell him which way to turn?
3.)  Transitions.  It is the riders responsibility to prepare the horse for the transition, and to time the aids correctly, for a correct response.  If these conditions are met, responses should be instantaneous.  If your horse resists even your efforts to prepare for the transition, you definitely have work to do!  If your timing is off, you may get an incorrect response, or you may have to accept a delay of a step or two (not a stride) before the horse responds.  No more than that!  Use transitions between gaits, changes of bend, and transitions into and out of lateral movements.  The more frequent the transitions, the more demanding the test.  Try starting with four transitions around the ring, and increasing it to eight or more.  

 The horse should pass all of these tests, all of the time.  If not, you can be sure that leadership is lacking!  Here are some tips for being a good leader, and for alerting your horse to the change.
1.)  Practice good management between rides.  There is little hope for winning your horse's trust if he can't even count on getting his meals on schedule, and his tack fitted properly.  Taking the time to make sure the horse is happy, comfortable, and secure in general will pay off in relaxation and focused attention under saddle.
2.)  Have your horse's respect on the ground.  Do not let him invade your space.  Insist that he walk nicely alongside you when leading; no pulling ahead or lagging behind.  If your horse is spooky, that means he does not trust you to protect him.  Careful sacking out can help.
3.)  Plot your course.  As you ride around the ring, see a path in your mind's eye, and insist that your horse follow it.  If you see a particular path through the corner, do not passively allow your horse to take a deeper or shallower course.  Be the leader! Insist that circles be round, and that transitions be prompt.
4.)  Repeat the above tests frequently.

 Forging a new relationship with your horse will not be easy.  Like bringing discipline to a spoiled child, you will have to place very clear boundaries on his behavior, and there will be temper tantrums before he yields.  Asking your horse for submission is essentially challenging the hierarchy of your herd.  The graph below shows what will likely happen to the amount of effort that riding requires during this quest for submission.

 Most everyone tends to resist change, and horses are no exception.  Convincing your horse to change will require increased effort on your part.  It will probably get worse before it gets better.  You might even be tempted to quit, thinking that it is just not worth it! Just about that time, you will find that very suddenly, riding has become much easier than it ever has been.  The horse is suddenly more attentive, responsive, and relaxed than ever before.  Yes, it is worth it! 
 Achieving submission will result in a big change in your relationship with your horse.  It may not be comfortable at first, as you feel the increased weight of responsibility.  Give it a little time, though, and you each will grow more comfortable in your new role.  Once staying inside the behavioral lines becomes habit, you can start to become more a partner and less a disciplinarian.  You will learn nuances of communication that were not available to you before.  And you will dance!
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As posted on Rational Riding discussion list, previously posted at Classical Dressage list:

Here is a copy of a post that I made a while back on another list in response to the question "is it possible to train a horse without resistance?" Perhaps it will help, if nothing else, to get the 
discussion moving.

It has always been my goal to avoid resistances. I don't think that you can always avoid the need for the horse to ask for clarification. That is, when asking something new for the first time, the horse may say "You want me to do what?" But that isnot necessarily resistance. If the horse is used to having his questions ignored then the horse will quickly learn to ask BY resisting, but a polite question is not, in itself, resistance.  Some questions from the horse can even come out rather strongly, for example, I used to start a lot of young horses (and hopefully will be doing so again soon!) and by the time I got on we had a trusting relationship so there was no resistance to it, just questioning looks. One young mare, though, LEAPED sideways. I slid off, reassured her, and got back on and she was fine. Many would have called that resistance, and many would have said that by reassuring her I was reinforcing the resistance. The fact that I didn't have any additional problems from her though, supports my response. It was just a strongly "worded" question! Over time, the mare learned to phrase her questions more softly!

All horses have physical issues that can lead to resistance, if only that they haven't yet developed the strength for certain movements.  In order to find these limitations, I think it is necessary for the trainer to push the horse to the point of resistance, BUT as soon as they find that the horse is not responding to the aids per usual, to recognize that they have reached the horse's limit and to back off and work further on strengthening or stretching or whatever the horse needs. In other words, don't push to where the horse is obviously "resistant."

Even horses that have learned resistance from previous poor handling can be taught to be soft without "working through" the resistance, but rather working over it or around it. Here I need examples.

I worked with a horse who had a fear of having anything pulled over her ears due to a painful procedure years before. Her owners left her halter on always.  The alternative was to be dragged around the barn by the horse, smashed into walls, struck at with forelegs.  I softly and quietly put the halter over just her nose and stood there.  And waited.  Until eventually she would get bored and forget she was supposed to resist, and she would relax her ears, and in that instant I put her halter on. I followed the same procedure in reverse to get the halter off: I would wait until something caught her attention and her ears went forward, so that I could slide the halter over them easily. Within a few days of practicing a few times each day, she realized that there was nothing scary or painful about it, and nothing to resist against. From then on anyone could halter her. When I introduced her to a bridle, I initially unbuckled it and put it around her ears, rather than over, but she soon accepted that in the normal fashion as well. I never actually encountered resistance from her throughout the whole procedure, because I knew where the resistances were, and I stopped just short of them.

I currently work with a woman and her young mare who had a tendency to resist everything! She was badly sucked back all of the time. If any of her rider's aids were too strong to ignore (her usual response) then she reared, or spun, or bolted, or bucked. To work THROUGH her resistance would probably have caused serious injury to the rider. We started with longeing, encouraging forwardness and keeping her brain occupied with lots of transitions. When she
changed direction on her own as a resistance, we ignored it, and pushed her forward. When she was sufficiently forward, she could no longer play. She soon got in the habit of being forward on the longe and her resistances were no longer possible. There was no need to punish, just keep pushing for the correct response. In fact, to punish would actually have been a reinforcer for this mare, as her resistances were largely a method of baiting her handler into a game.

Once under saddle, we continued to work on forward. Some days she just refused to do a forward trot. To reinforce with the whip would have triggered bucking. Instead we asked for a walk transition, then almost immediately sent her into trot again.  As soon as she failed to respond to the leg, I had the rider ask for walk, and almost immediately to trot again, repeat as needed. The effect of the transitions was, of course, engagement, which soon resulted in a forward trot! Problem overcome without any confrontation. Some days with this very intelligent mare, we obtain forward through "box turns" (precursor to turn on haunches) or with leg yields, when she requires a "stealth method" and frequent changes in exercises as well. As time goes on, she becomes more and more willing, and though she has expressed willingness to rear, has never done so, or bolted, or anything else dramatic since this work began. In our last few rides she was, for the first time since I met her, truly soft with a swinging back, stretching into contact with the bit. It took several months of weekly lessons, but a lot of money saved, I'd bet, in medical bills, and the owner now rides her with confidence instead of trepidation.

So, to summarize, yes, I think it is possible to train without resistance. Even if the horse offers to resist, we can detour and take a different route, or wait until the resistance is gone. It requires more tact and sensitivity, more patience and less ego than most riders develop.

By the way, I don't want to create the impression that punishment is never an appropriate choice. I use it when a horse has acted aggressively against me. This can be with a young horse, or any horse who has never learned manners, threatening to bite or kick or rear. I also punish the rare horse who goes directly against my aids, for example, moving left in response to my left leg. Imagine if you were riding along a road or train track, and you asked your horse to step away from on oncoming vehicle and he moved towards it!
Punishments must be quick and to the point.


P.S. In re-reading this, it sounds like I'm citing a lot of examples of resistance, and then saying there is no resistance. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that with a little more skill and tact and patience, I should someday even be able to work around even these resistances, to stop sooner, to recognize limitations earlier, and avoid them altogether. Also, keep in mind that these examples cited are the two most "resistant" horses I've encountered. There have
been several others for whom I was their last chance before the meat man got them, successfully reformed, without confrontation. The horses I've trained from scratch, without prior problems, did proceed without resistance.

Posted by: "Cathy" 
    Date: Tue Oct 3, 2006 2:42 am (PDT)

Now see when I saw your post I looked at it and said now that women knows how to work a horse through a resistance. :-)  [excerpt]


Posted by: "marjory kreda" 
    Date: Tue Oct 3, 2006 12:00 am (PDT)

Your post is so good because it defines the ideal relationship between horse and trainer/rider, I think.  It so negates the horse as mechanical object owned and controlled by the "masterful human." 

  Obviously the trainer has an agenda and focus, but it presupposed the horses's attitudes and experience.

March 9, 2006
Re: [rationalriding] re: resistances 

Hi Amanda

Brilliant post.

Again it becomes clear that a resistance (different from a polite question) is elicited by the rider -- not necessarily through the use of strength, but through not being sufficiently aware of what the horse is saying.

I think that many riders don't get the idea of having a conversation with their horse. This is a two-way activity -- ask, then listen. As you say, resistances arise because riders 'demand', without waiting for the response. It's like someone talking over the top of you -- eventually you stop trying to join in the 'conversation' because it has become a monologue or worse, a diatribe.

The term resistance means (to me) an action that tends to oppose, that no longer has thought behind it. Therefore it is something that arises over time and through repetition. 

Author of Ride Smarter, published by HalfHalt Press, ISBN 0939481650

March 10, 2006

>>>>>>>> Excellent post thanks for sharing Amanda!
I really like your approach to 'resistance' in horses and the foresight and feeling you incorporate in your training. Good on you are an inspiration!


P.S.General Decarpentry, in his wonderful book "Academic Equitation", suggested that one should not ride through a resistance but instead "one should have recourse to skilful disassociation from them".

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as published in Riding Instructor, Fall 2003
 When a student rides but once a week for an hour at a time, there are 167 hours left in the week to forget what he's learned!  To take lessons more frequently would be wonderful, but for many students, not feasible.  So what else can be done to maximize retention between lessons?  To answer that, consider the opposite:  the worst thing that a student can do is to not think about their lesson from the time one lesson ends, until the next one begins.  To make the most of her lessons then, the student should spend some time in between them thinking about what went on in her lesson.  Things like, what exercises were ridden, the purpose of the exercises, what was easy or difficult about them, what problems arose, what solution was found.  Between lessons is the time for the student to process and reconcile information and experience, and to build a data-bank of memories to draw upon at a later time.  
Because almost all riding students take lessons by choice, rather than compulsion, they usually care enough that they do think about their lessons.  But if these thoughts are just random, they still are of little value.  One way of addressing this is to provide a summary at the end of the lesson.  Remind the student of what exercises were ridden, and the other points mentioned above.  This will assist the student in organizing her own thoughts and recognizing the important points.   Some students benefit from writing these points down in a journal, though its value is strongly dependant upon the individuals learning style.  To improve the chances of a journal being effective, provide students with written guidelines on what is to be included.  It is fun to refer back to a journal to see how far one has progressed, and can be useful when investigating the source of a difficulty.
Another tool for directing the student's thoughts toward a particular topic is homework.  Now, before you groan and turn the page, consider the possibility that homework need not be tedious, and can be fun!  Riding is a topic that your students want to learn about.  Providing them with more tools to do so, and a measure of control over their learning should fan the flames of their enthusiasm, not put a damper on them.  
When teaching beginner riders, there is so much information to learn, not just about riding, but about the horse and its care, that the material simply can not be covered thoroughly in lessons alone.  With advanced students, the subtleties of riding are so numerous, personal, and individualized, that one instructor cannot possibly cover all possibilities.  It is generally accepted that different student sometimes require different teachers, that one person's style may be more compatible than another.  Imagine this as not so much a question of style, but of having taken a different path.  Riding becomes a very personal journey, with each of us taking a slightly different route.  The scenery that the instructor describes may not be what the student sees.  Any good instructor should be able to help with the more common checkpoints and roadblocks, but the opportunities for detours and alternate routes, combined with the variety of learning styles, are so numerous that one instructor cannot possibly know them all in the detail that some students require.  

 Reading and other outside assignments can help the student to find the help she needs from an author who has traveled the same path that she is on; to provide a map, so to speak.  By recommending sources of information that your student may find useful, an instructor may enable herself to be effective with students on a wider variety of paths than she would otherwise.  Discussing the information with her instructor helps the student by providing an opportunity to clarify points of confusion and to obtain suggestions for practical applications of the theory, plus it can help the instructor to help the next student who encounters a similar challenge.  With riders of any level then, there is much that can be gained from homework. 


 To encourage students to want to do homework, it is important that they have goals.  Many students do not, and many do not even know enough about the various equestrian activities that exist to form meaningful goals.  Most equestrian organizations provide brochures at no charge describing their programs.  These can be displayed in the lounge or on a tack room wall.
By providing information about such things you give your students dreams!  Experimenting with various disciplines during lessons can be a nice change, and open students eyes to the challenges of different sports.  A "trail class" can be ridden in any style of saddle in a lesson, as can a dressage test, or a "course" of ground poles.  Each of these exercises appears easy to someone who has never tried them.  In practice, though, each is challenging in its own way, and may encourage a student to want to hone her skills and extend her knowledge.
Another way of encouraging students to deepen their knowledge, expand their horizons, and maybe even create their own homework, is to provide a lending library.  When information is easily accessible, it is more likely to be utilized.  To protect your investment, it might be wise to keep the books in a secure place, like a locked cabinet when unattended.  It is common for private libraries to charge a small fee to be applied toward building the collection.  In this way, you and the students both benefit from more reading material than you might otherwise be able to access.   

 More structured ways of encouraging students to do homework can be used as well.  Many lesson stables already hold student-only horse shows.  A knowledge based competition, perhaps modeled after a game show, could be incorporated into the activities.  Team or individual competition, prizes or just glory, the excitement of a challenge and camaraderie make it fun.  If the student knows of the plan, preparation for the competition can be the goal.
Some riding schools simply make homework completion a requirement for moving on to a more advanced level of riding.  This can be a very good idea as long as assignments are carefully designed.  An overburdened student quickly loses his enthusiasm.


 Children and adolescents generally have plenty of homework already from school, and so assignments from their riding instructor should be kept short, light, and fun.  They should reflect and support what is happening in lessons, for example, by asking which diagonal or lead is correct, or the proper spacing of ground poles.  Alternatively, with a student whose lessons consist of practicing material previously covered, a different topic for homework can serve to keep things fresh.  For example, if the student understands the concept of posting, but can't quite maintain the rhythm yet, a homework assignment that covers coat colors and markings might be a nice diversion.  
Assignments such as these can be developed by the instructor, or they can be purchased.  Horse Bits is an example of a commercially available product.  Each section covers a separate aspect of riding or horse care and includes 10 questions, mostly multiple choice.  Most pages also include a skill to be demonstrated.  Upon completion of all the lessons the student can, with her instructors signature, receive a certificate of completion.  
Adult students often crave more theory, and a deeper level of understanding than their younger counterparts.  Providing reading material relating to the work they are doing in lessons, such as copies of magazine articles, can satisfy this.  Be prepared to spend some time discussing the assignment at the next lesson.  
An increasingly popular tactic for facilitating discussion is the formation of e-mail groups.  This does not require any exceptional computer skills.  Simply address one e-mail to all interested students.  Include a reference to an article you've provided previously, a link to an on-line article, or the text itself.  In order to respond with comments, critiques or questions, the student simply clicks on "reply all" and her response will be sent to all members of the discussion group.  This allows a valuable exchange of ideas between people whose schedules may not allow getting together in person.  It also encourages critical and independent thinking - necessary traits to becoming a thinking rider.

 Because the homework reminds students of what they have been taught, the instructor is not obligated to repeat herself as many times, and because the student develops a stronger knowledge base, the instructor's explanations of new material frequently do not need to go into as much depth.  For example, teaching flying changes can be a challenge when the student does not fully understand or remember the footfalls of the canter.  But if these footfalls were read about, brought up in homework, and quizzed in competition, in addition to being taught in lessons, the student would remember them, and the much later lesson in flying changes could progress more smoothly and easily.  
In the short-term, homework does increase the instructors workload slightly, but once assignments are developed, they can be filed and recycled for use with other students in the future.  In the long-term, it can definitely be a help to the instructor and make her job easier.  Give it a try - let homework work for you!

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