Every instructor has been there—two of our best and favorite lesson ponies are off the lesson list for a couple of weeks—our little Morgan, Webster must’ve had a disagreement with one of his pasture buddies and he got the brunt of it. Webster’s been “off duty” while his neck heals up. And then our best “small fry” pony, Spot decided he was working too hard and should scratch his eye. Although he may be regretting his decision as he really doesn’t enjoy his eye meds.
So this really makes the instructors sit and scratch their heads while making the lesson list. Who’s going to ride who? Which rider is going to stretch their “riding wings” and be challenged to ride another horse? These “little vacations” really affect the entire riding schedule.
Over the years, as an instructor—you will find if you have horses—you will quickly realize that they will get sick and injure themselves (or in our case each other). And usually when you need them the most, usually one or two will be “off” the lesson list. I find their favorite time is about 48 hours prior to the start of the first camp of the season.
People often ask me, “Do you have a lesson horse for sale?” Where do you get your lesson horses? Honestly I have bought them—and the good ones are not usually cheap.
But most of my best lesson horses are made in my lesson program. It’s a lot like hiring a teenager and giving them their very first job—
They’ve never had a job—They may never have worked before—their work skills may be very limited if not existent. Remember though when you hire a new employee, especially a younger one or one with less experience—while they may need extra time to learn new skills, they will learn the skills you want them to know, and do things the way you want them done.
Remember learning new skills takes time and repetition. It takes time. So if you need a new beginner horse right now—ready to give “up and down” lessons tomorrow, you may need to spend some money and purchase one. And they are often difficult to find.
Carmen Henderson, an instructor in Alabama—said the best thing on FaceBook the other day. One of her best lesson horses was having a foot issue—and she said he could have some time off, but since he was her “Employee of the Month” and will always be her “Employee of the Month”. He had better get back to work quickly.
I have always looked at my lesson horses as my friends. They are helping me. But I think Carmen’s method is a great way to look at your lesson horses. The best lesson horses are the best employees. They are always on time, always ready to jump in and give a hand, they work the hardest, they are the most trustworthy, they build confidence in your program with your clients, and they make you the most money!
So while my favorites are taking a break, it’s a chance for one of the newer “employees” to step up and show off their skills—maybe they’ll get a promotion!