My first lesson... let's see... I was nine years old. It's kinda funny, because I only rode at that barn for about 2 months, and then we stopped because the school horse we were riding got sick and the other horses had too many students already. I never saw or heard of that barn again, until recently, when I interned with my barn owner, who happens to do some part-time training at this other barn. Now I go there all the time to take care of some peoples' horses while they are away, or to help out my barn owner.
Anyway... I remember meeting my instructor for the first time. I'd loved horses for years, but I'd only ridden a few times. Still, I read the Pony Pals books and watched the Saddle Club, and I make-believe had a horse of my own, so in my head, I was an expert. My instructor introduced herself, and asked me, "So, are you an experienced rider?" I gave her a very firm, "Yes." My mom, who was standing behind me, was shaking her head violently so that I couldn't see... :P
I rode a little grey pony named Blue. I rode her bareback on a lunge line, so that I could start learning to develop my seat. I think we just walked that day. I can't remember much else at all from that lesson.
I also found out recently that my barn owner's really good friend owned Blue, but that the pony had passed away only a few months after I'd stopped riding there. (she was the one who got sick so we stopped riding.)
Now, I have actually begun assistant-teaching first-ever riding lessons for some students. I love it :) We always start out by finding an appropriate helmet that fits before going out to catch the school horse. The student learns to do it all; halter and lead the horse, take the blanket off, groom the horse, and put all the tack on. The instructor always does the bridling for the first few lessons, because it's tricky and we don't want the school horses to become difficult to bridle from inexperienced students banging their teeth with the bit or something, but eventually the student does everything.
Then the student leads the horse down to the arena and we adjust the stirrups and tighten the girth. Once the student is mounted up, the first thing we teach is how to stop, go, and steer. Then we do some simple, basic exercises to practice this like stopping at each of the letters, and circling in all the corners. Sometimes, we just practice this for the whole lesson, or if the student gets the hang of it quickly, we'll get out some props like cones, and weave through them. The important thing is that the instructor adapts the lesson to the students' abilities and needs.
Then we cool out, (walk the horse around on a loose rein to let them catch their breath) and take them back up to the cross-ties. Then we unsaddle, brush them off, put on the blanket, and take them home. All students are expected to catch, groom, and saddle the school horses themselves every lesson. This is of course supervised for the first few months, but once the student has got the hang of it reliably, they can just meet the instructor down in the arena. We think it's important to have these skills, instead of just showing up and having the horse all ready for you.
Tips for your first lesson:
- Don't be afraid to ask questions! You are there to learn.
- Listen carefully to the instructor. If they tell you to do something, it's for a reason.
- Give everything a try, even if it seems difficult.
- Please, don't be one of those obnoxious students who complains when something is too hard or says "I can't..." That student is every instructor's nightmare.
My mom just took her very first riding lesson from me and my sister, so here's her advice:
- Make sure you trust your instructors. They know what they're doing.
- Don't let the horse be pushy; ask your instructor what to do when he does that.
- Remember to breathe! (she was very nervous)
Good luck! Let us know how it goes!