I recently had the opportunity to get back into writing and it inspired a blog post! One of the things I really appreciated about the instructor training workshop I attended before I got certified was how much the teachers emphasized having a reason for every decision you make. One such decision they focused on was the order in which you mount and dismount your riders, the order you line them up in, and the location. It should never be on a whim, but rather planned ahead of time because the order can greatly impact the benefit of the lesson for the riders. Unfortunately, I don’t have many notes from that part of the workshop and can’t find any article in which this factor is discussed, but here are some things I’ve learned over the years and some factors to think about. (Obviously this applied mostly to groups). I hope this helps you make your lessons even more beneficial and flow smoothly for your students!
ORDER OF MOUNT & DISMOUNT
This is the order in which you mount and dismount your riders – as in first, second, third, and so on. This is important because it will help set your rider up for a good lesson (and recovery) and it can be used to make adaptations for certain riders.
Considerations for warm up needed and personal goals:
- Hypertonic (high tone) – may need more time to warm up and relax muscles. If so, mount first to give muscles time to relax; unless also prone to fatigue, in which case mount middle or last to shorten the time on the horse.
- Hypotonic (low tone) – may get tired quickly from working to maintain posture. If so, mount last and dismount first to shorten time on the horse, until their endurance builds.
- Anxiety – may need to mount first because waiting for their turn increases anxiety, or may want to mount second so they don’t have the pressure of being first
- Cerebral Palsy – if muscles are hypertonic may need more time to warm up; if so, mount first. If has a weak side, may benefit from progressively tighter turns to “wake up” their weak side, if the other riders don’t need this, mount this rider first and have them do their turns while you mount the rest (if it won’t tire them out too much).
- Autism Spectrum Disorder – may need consistency in order of mounting, if so, always mount that rider first, second, etc.; may need a lot of sensory input early in the lesson to help focus, if so, mount earlier and give a longer warm up; may need to mount first if the sensory stimulation of the mounting area is overwhelming
- ADD – may have the goal of working on patience, if so, mount second or third
- ADHD – may benefit from trotting right away for the sensory input that helps them focus (while the other rider/s don’t need that) – if you have a trusted team you can mount them first and have them trot in the arena while you mount the next rider.
- Chatty riders – may benefit from mounting first so they can more time to talk to their volunteers while doing simple exercises before getting down to (quieter) business.
- First lesson – if it is a rider’s first lesson you might mount them second or third so they can watch the others mount first as an example of how it’s done; if they’re nervous you might want to get them on their horse sooner and mount them first or second; or if they’re nervous you might mount them last so you can stay close to them after mounting instead of having to go away from them to mount the next rider.
- Location – if your ramp/lift is outside of the arena it may be best to mount the riders using those first, and then the riders using the block in the arena second, so you can keep an eye on everyone better
- Length of mount – Some mounts take longer than other. When possible, I prefer to first mount the riders that take longer, so that progressively my attention is taken away from the group less and less (instead of mounting a few riders quickly and then having my attention taken away from them for a long time while I do the mount that takes longer), but this must be balanced with the other decision factors (like warm up needed)
ORDER OF LINE UP
This is the order in which you line them up before dismounting – such as who is on the end, in the middle, etc. This is important because it can help streamline the dismount, adapt for the riders, and work toward a rider’s independence.
- In order – you might line up in the order of dismount so you can quickly work your way down the line instead of jumping around; this will also help riders that anticipate the dismount so they know when their turn is coming
- End vs. middle – certain riders (because of their disabilities or more complicated dismount) may need to be on the end so they have more room for their dismount
- Near the gate – certain riders may need to be closer to the exit gate in the line up order (such as those who can’t walk as far, or need a wheelchair to come out to them)
LOCATION OF DISMOUNT
This is where in the arena you line up to dismount. This is important because it can help make the exit out of the arena smooth and fast, and can foster a rider’s independence.
- Close to the gate – certain riders may need to be closer to the exit gate (such as those who can’t walk as far, or need a wheelchair to come out to them)
- Far from the gate – certain riders may be working on leg strength and benefit from walking a ways in the arena dirt to get to the exit gate; certain riders may be working on leading their horse and one place to start is dismounting away from the gate and leading their horse to it; certain riders may be working on leading their horse back to the stall and therefore need to dismount in the area of the arena near the gate that exits to the stalls
- Independence – a rider working on independence can progress by starting to dismount close to the gate then every lesson a little further, whether they are working on walking distances or leading their horse independently; you might also let them choose where in the arena to dismount so they can learn how to make that decision on their own (for a private lesson)
- Away from the wall -wherever you choose to dismount, remember it should be away from the arena wall so the rider, volunteers, and instructor do not get pinned against it
Those are all the factors I can think of, but I’m sure there’s many more ways to do it! What would you add? Please leave a comment below!
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! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!