Learning Styles & Lesson Format

"I learn best when eating."
I had the pleasure of being jump crew & videographer for two friends' semi-private lesson at our farm the other evening. Occasionally our trainer will come out to our place to teach, and I gladly volunteered to be an extra set of hands on the ground. I got to support my friends, as well as watch my trainer do her thing, which is always an educational experience. Win-win!

After a challenging but successful lesson, the four of us chatted over dinner and wine and the conversation eventually turned to group vs. private lessons.

The two ladies who had just ridden both preferred (small, 2 or 3 riders) group lessons, but for different reasons.

One felt that it was mentally exhausting to focus consistently for an entire hour in a private lesson, and needed the breaks in between jumping efforts to collect her thoughts and get mentally refreshed for the next go-round.

The other benefitted from watching other riders in the lesson while waiting her turn, taking the time to notice how they did the exercise, and make a plan for how she was going to improve when it came her turn to jump again.

Both riders are also visual learners, and find that watching other riders at or above their own skill level helps them learn and understand.

"I'm-a learn all about this pile of hay."
I, however, vastly prefer private lessons!

While I won't deny the benefits of watching other riders, when it's my lesson time I get the most out of an intensely-focused one-on-one time with my trainer. When I ride, I FOCUS, and having my trainer's stride-by-stride, jump-by-jump input is an important part of what makes lessons valuable for me. When she's calling out "THAT'S IT!" at the same time that I'm telling Dino "GOOD BOY!" I know I'm doing something right!

I also value being able to use walk breaks to talk to her about what I'm experiencing in the saddle, what I'm thinking as I ride, and things I'm having trouble with. In a group lesson, that time must be spent in silent contemplation, as other riders need the trainer's attention. Dino is also terrible at going back to work after having a break, so the group lesson format is generally not great for him, either.

One thing I found interesting is that everyone agreed that large group lessons of 4 or more riders were generally NOT beneficial. None of us felt that the typical clinic environment of a big group helped us learn, and concurred that it could even be detrimental. While we all enjoy auditing clinics, few of us enjoy riding in them!

So, what's your preference? Private or group lessons? What effect does your learning style have on the type of lesson you prefer?


  1. I can count on one hand the number of "group lessons" I've had since I moved to this new barn in March (two of those times were the Memorial Day Weekend clinics). Almost every single lesson I've had so far has been private, which I greatly prefer for the same reasons you do. While I'm definitely a visual learner, I need that one-on-one time and attention from my trainer, especially because Roger is green and I want to make sure I'm training him correctly. I only lesson once a week, but since the lesson is a solid hour of work and focus, I can take the things I learn in lessons to my hacks during the week. I really love watching other riders because I learn a ton (same reason I love going to watch horse shows), but I find that private lessons work best for me.

  2. i actually really strongly prefer group lessons - for jumping, that is. dressage is all private all the time. but for the group lessons, i like a smallish group of equally focused riders. part of it is watching them, part of it is getting a little break, and part of it is that the other riders will inspire the trainer to say something or expound on one point or another that might not have come up if it were just me riding - but that is still equally useful to hear.

    that said tho, one of my regular lesson groups has more or less dwindled to just little old me for privates now. my wallet dislikes this, and i miss the social aspect, but there's also no denying that the exercises have become increasingly tailored to specifically me and my horse and what we need. so.... yea, i can't really argue with that.... but would still prefer groups!

    1. oooh i should add (bc obvi i'm still thinking about this haha) that another reason i like group lessons - particularly with friends - is that we can sorta download with each other after the ride. very often what i hear and what my friends hear are different things. we almost always have different takeaways. so comparing notes is super useful!

  3. I like small 2-3 rider groups because I like the social aspect and seeing how the other riders are doing the exercise. It can be a touch stressful at times- I don't like feeling like I'm holding up the lesson if im struggling- but it's good learning. Will never turn down a private :)

  4. I think their are benefits to all the kinds of lessons for both horse and rider (dealing with crowding etc) I mainly don't have a choice. I always figure i'm gonna have a group lesson, sometimes it ends up private, sometimes a small group, sometimes a large group. I get what i can get :P

  5. I like private lessons for dressage for the reasons you mentioned- lots of attention and focus, using walk breaks to chat with instructor, etc.

    I enjoy group lessons for jumping, though! I like having the time to process and rest and watch other riders! I like the social aspect, too. ;)

  6. I like private lessons more if there is a real issue I need help with (and let's face it, there almost always is!) If I'm sharing, I enjoy sharing with one or two other riders working at a similar level, because it's extra helpful to learn by watching them, and we can cheer each other on and help each other with 'homework' between lessons. Clinics have been really hit or miss for me (even with private sessions) and generally something I don't spend $ on anymore.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts