Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A. Watch a lesson. No one minds that. Ask permission to arrive at a certain time and observe carefully. Are the horses obviously groomed and well cared for? Is the tack of good quality? Is the instructor friendly, encouraging and patient? Not intimidating? Our instructors are particularly articulate, the owner having been a freelance writer in another stage of her life, another who specilizes in children is a highschool teacher and another a PhD scientist with a history of showring success.
Q. If you were a customer, what do you wish you knew about your trade? Any inside secrets to share?
A. As a customer, you want to know how much experience the riding instructor has had, whether she's had a showring career and how well trained the horses are. In my case, I have been riding almost all my life. I trained with British Horse Society instructors in Australia, showed both there, extensively and in Michigan in open dressage competition. Many riders who have gone on to become professionals learned their very correct basics here.
Q. What important information should buyers have thought through before seeking you out?
A. Not applicable
Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?
A. Our horses are very well trained. Some stables put their students on old plugs. We use retired and current show horses, well bred, well trained individuals who, when asked correctly will respond willingly. Like Eeyore, they do have their little ways, but in general they are not sour and cranky because we don't allow anyone to pull on their mouth. This is what makes learning to ride fun instead of frustrating.
Q. What do you like most about your job?
A. It is truly rewarding to see the improvement in students, who often come with bad habits. We can give truly, step by step instruction, teaching people to ride every stride and it is eternally fascinating to watch them become more comfortable, competent and effective.
Q. What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A. People ask how far from downtown we are - 6 miles. Whether we have indoor and outdoor arenas - we have both. Whether they have to own their own horse to take lessons - they don't. How much correct clothing they need - not much because we have a variety of helmets and among the pile, we generally find something that fits and even have some boots that people can borrow. People ask how long I've been on this property - over 30 years. And what do lessons cost - $50 for $50 minutes, although you stay on the horse for an hour, warming up and cooling down, $35 for half an hour.
All lessons are private because that's the most effective way to teach.
Q. Do you have a favorite story from your work?
A. One of my students, who had her start here and showed horses from this barn in her first dressage shows, moved on to study in Germany and is now first reserve for the US team for the World Equestrian Games.
Q. What do you wish customers knew about you or your profession?
A. You need to know that there are many people hanging out shingles as riding instructors who are well meaning, but little more than enthusiastic amateurs, If you are serious about learning riding using classical dressage principles, you want someone who truly knows their stuff. Just riding well is often not enough. It's the ability to actually TEACH with great specificity that matters. And we wish people knew just how much it costs to keep nice horses on hand for others to ride. When people cancel you can't say to the horses "ok chaps, no lessons today, so I won't feed you." It is very expensive to maintain both animals and the property, so that is why lessons cost what they do.
Q. How did you decide to get in your line of work?
A. I fell in love with horses as an 11 year old girl, about the typical age and this passion never left. I had many opportunities to ride but my family had no money for lessons. When I started to earn my own money I spent most of it on getting really good instruction, then came the years in the showring and working race horses, and I always wanted to pass on to others what I had learned along the way.
Q. Do you do any sort of continuing education to stay up on the latest developments in your field?
A. All serious riders go to clinics with visiting equestrian "stars" who visit Michigan. There are always top notch people coming through and although it is expensive, even to audit, let alone ride, it is considered part of one's continueing education. That, and reading. Horse magazines have become much improved over the years with excellent teaching articles in every edition and there are many excellent books worth reading.
Q. If you were advising someone who wanted to get into your profession, what would you suggest?
A. Without being foolhardy, ride every horse you can. Doesn't matter how it's trained and what it is. They all have something to teach you, even if it's only "I never want to ride a horse like this again." That's how you become discerning, how you learn whether some horses can be trained to become much better than the owner thought or whether another just isn't worth the effort for the job in hand. This sort of thing takes years and the sooner you start, preferably under an expert's eye, the better. Stay humble and keep your mind open, hang around good people, offer to scribe for judges, volunteer your time around show barn, learn about other disciplines.
Q. Write your own question and answer it.
A. Why do you still keep doing this, given that you can never get rich and are no longer young?
Out of love for the horse, the desire to see them ridden with tact, the desire to show people that fight is not necesssary, that they will respond to a whisper, a touch of the rein, that there is no need to pull, that these are learnable techniques and that maybe my unquenchable enthusiasm for horses will be contagious.