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Tack Room Tale 31 - The holistic way that brings the best out in trainees

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Over the years we produced a steady stream of trainees in our equestrian centres. Many of them went on to great jobs all over the world. There are always so many young people who dream about working with animals, especially horses, that we had a bigger demand for traineeships than we could handle. It is so important to do it right, as their dreams are also easily shattered.

Admittedly we never paid these trainees a lot, but they certainly got value for their efforts. We made sure of that. They usually lived in and either rode our horses, or had a horse of their own in board and keep. These trainees can’t just be regarded as a cheap source of labour. The horse industry is basically not a 9-5 kind of profession and our centre operated from 7 am till 10 am pm, 7 days a week. So although the trainees have to realise that the work is hard and often goes beyond an 8 hour day, we created rosters and ran the centre in well defined shifts so that everybody could cope with their workload over a longer period of time. The longer the trainee stays, the more valuable they become in the workplace, so it is no point wearing them out and turning them over quickly.

All trainees started off as stable hands. Gaining the experience on the ground, caring for a herd of horses gives you a great basic knowledge of horse behaviour, safety, health, but also awareness of hygiene and presentation, as all stables and stalls have to have a quick clean up before the clients come to collect their horses.

In the meantime the riding skills of the trainees can be developed. There would be set times rostered on for their lessons. This needs to be strictly adhered to, as in fact it is a form of payment to the trainees. There would also always be an opportunity to ride horses in their own time, or join in a class. The more time they spend on horseback under any circumstances, the better.

Gradually the trainees would start to get involved in the lessons. They would help students get on the horse, adjust stirrups, or as they get more familiar with the lesson procedure assist in the lessons, giving the least experienced riders some support. Important again is to make sure that the trainees look tidy and clean when they assist, so they start to act and think as professionals in a service industry.

Next it is time to start developing more teaching skills. So special teach to teach sessions are required, where the trainees teach each other, and learn lesson craft. Holiday camps are great practice, so the trainees learn to teach skills on the ground that they are by now very familiar with.
Sunrise, our smart pony, was a great teacher of trainee coaches. She was a very experienced, super safe pony, who knew the ropes exactly. Our trainees would start teaching young children on a one to one basis on Sunrise for ½ hour sessions. Sunrise would know the routines, and trot at walking pace, and eventually when the child was ready, do 3 canter strides on the lunge. May be a little boring for experienced coaches, but a great learning experience for the trainees.

From there on they would help prepare and support their little students to get ready for slightly bigger ponies and horses and their entry in a children’s group class. The kids would love their teacher, and often this would mean that the trainee would gradually take over the kid’s class. And so it goes on, one step at the time, but all in a logical progression. This way, the trainee would not be over-faced, and grow confident thanks to a thorough grounding in all the essential components.

Treating yourself to a thorough education following logical steps and your trainees and students will maintain their confidence. By giving exciting lessons with great content, the horses also will also benefit physically and mentally which will give the riders and their instructor more satisfaction. We are very passionate about good teaching …


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