Teaching the Skill 2.0: What, How, Why, Where

Updated 7/9/2018: the following is focused on using What, How, Why, and Where to teach the Skill of your lesson – it’s a nice “additional info” post to the Teaching the Skill post. There is also the Teaching Techniques: Hows & Whys post about using those as a teaching technique throughout your lesson. It’s very similar, but this post focuses on that time in your lesson, after warm ups, when you teach your rider a particular skill.

Teaching the Skill: What, How, Why, Where

When you teach your riders a new riding skill, you should explain very clearly WHAT they are going to learn, HOW to do it, WHY they need to learn/do it, and WHERE they are going to practice doing it.

Let’s look at each one more in depth…


  • Is the riding skill and description in as few words as possible.
  • Should answer: What the instructor is going to teach? What do you want the client to do specifically? What exercise? What task?
  • It helps to start off “WHAT we are going to learn today is…”
  • It may need some additional description. Such as, if WHAT you are teaching is the leg aids to ask the horse to trot, also explain WHAT the trot is.
  • Ex) “Today we are going to learn how to direct rein steer. This is when we use our reins to tell our horse where to go.”


  • Is the main incentive/reason/motivation for learning the skill.
  • Should answer: Why is it important? What will they gain? What is the benefit? How is it relevant?
  • Make sure your explanation is chronologically and developmentally appropriate.
  • You don’t have to use all the reasons, just those that apply most. Keep it attention span appropriate.
  • Ex) “We learn to direct rein steer so we can control our horse all on our own! You steer kindly so you don’t hurt the horse.”


  • Is the aid/s used to accomplish the skill and help the student have success.
  • Should answer: How will the client complete the requested task or exercise? What aids will they use?
  • Use Task Analysis to break it down into simple steps through the “process of isolating, sequencing, and describing all of the essential components of a task” – Howell, Kaplan, and O’Connell (1979).
  • Be specific and clear.
  • Prepare several different explanations/analogies in case students don’t get it.
  • Teach to the different Learning Styles – incorporate:
    • Auditory: Prefer learning through words, sounds, and music
    • Visual: Prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding, demonstrate
    • Kinesthetic: Prefer to use body, hands, and sense of touch
  • Repeat the How’s while they are practicing to help them remember how and guide them through it to success.
  • Ex) “You direct rein steer left by gently pulling the left rein to your left hip. To turn right, gently bring your right hand to your right hip.


  • Is the location in the arena.
  • Should answer: Where are they going to practice this skill?
  • Use visual aids and points of reference.
  • Ex) “You will practice direct rein steering while weaving through 4 cones.”

Put it all together

Here is an example of teaching the new skill part of a lesson using the What, Why, How and Where:

“Today you are going to learn the posting trot. The posting trot is when you stand and sit as the horse trots, avoiding every other bump. Riders learn to post because it makes riding the trot more comfortable for both the horse and rider, especially if the horse is extra bouncy. We are going to practice posting at the trot down the long walls 4 times each direction. You will ask your horse to trot, let his trot push you out of the saddle and stay standing like in two-point for one beat, then sit down the next beat. I will cue you “up down up down”.” Physically show them how you post up and down with your body. Even have an example rider demonstrate as a visual. Then as they practice give more detailed feedback with a Why for every one.


See these blog posts for examples of the What, Why, How and Where in a lesson plan!


These are some good resources for researching your Whats, Whys, Hows and Wheres:

  • CHA manual
  • Horse books
  • Research online

Sources for this post

  • http://lessonsintr.com/2014/01/17/path-intls-what-why-and-how-method-handout/
  • http://lessonsintr.com/2012/02/26/the-basic-lesson-plan/   (scroll down to “#8 teach new riding skill”)
  • My own notes from instructor training and workshops

Anything to add? Please leave a comment!


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement!


3 thoughts on “Teaching the Skill 2.0: What, How, Why, Where

  1. Cindy, As a Path certified mentor and the Region 9 Rep, I want to sincerely thank you for this blog! I just happened upon a business card that I must have picked up at the San Diego conference last November, and looked it up just for fun. I am absolutely blown away by the content and usefulness of your posts, lesson plans, observations, etc. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to do this. Two ladies that I am currently mentoring are in Alaska and Canada, and the information you are posting is invaluable to helping them learn and study long distance. As an advanced instructor, I am even finding many useful tips for enhancing my own skills, and numerous tips for improving my mentoring skills. How I wish this had all been available 20 years ago when I was certified. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I intend to keep passing along your site for others to enjoy and learn from as well. Sincerely, Annie Mabry

    • Hi Annie, Thank you so much for your kind comments! You are so encouraging! It is so good to hear that this blog is doings its purpose and helping people. And I am especially honored to know that it is helping advanced instructors and mentors. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, you made my night 🙂 I wish you all the best with your endeavors! p.s. I did leave business cards at the Conference, I’m glad that strategy worked!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *