Using Forward Riding at a Commercial Facility

by Pam Whitfield
(This article appeared in Riding Highlights.)

Nancy Welch, a number two rated rider, directs the instructional program for the boarders at McNair’s Country Acres in Raleigh, NC. She sees the value of using the ANRC system at a commercial lesson and boarding facility, to develop both horse and rider. McNair’s clientele is  particularly diverse, ranging from pony school riders (ages 6 to 9) and 4-H clubbers, to college PE classes and adult amateur riders. Welch herself teaches a full range of boarding students, from short stirrup riders to amateur-owner competitors.

“The system works great for getting horses stabilized,” explains Nancy. “The horse learns to do its jobs and the rider learns not to interfere with that. The school horses are so safe and stabilized that I have a lot of control over the horses just standing in the middle of the ring. And that allows the students to work on themselves.”

Nancy, who has taught at McNair’s for twenty years, has worked with riders of all levels. “With our students, regardless of level, we focus on the four fundamentals and seven physical qualities as the foundation of riding. You can take one fundamental and work on it, and that helps the other three; each part builds onto and strengthens everything else,” she adds.

In other words, using the system makes for more connected and effective teaching, and at a stable with 300 students and 100 horses, it becomes imperative to standardize the instructional program to a certain degree. According to Nancy, the forward riding system does just that. “The system helps to standardize the teaching at McNair’s so that any instructor on the farm can come in and teach any class. It’s all the same language and the same idea. The horses are versed in it, and the riders are too.”

McNair’s also encourages its instructors to participate in ANRC Equitrials along with their students. “The students really enjoy it because the three different phases gives them something to work on besides just jumping the typical hunter type course,” Nancy recalls. “But it helps the instructors too, because it solidifies what they know and makes the teaching better because they have to know the ride and be able to do it themselves.”

While teaching boarders on their own mounts, Nancy has discovered that the forward riding system improves the animals’ attitudes. “The horse is much happier because the rider is working with the horse as opposed to working against him. And results come more quickly too, because the rider is not creating resistance. She makes the horse think it’s his idea.

Happy horses make for successful lessons, and allow for more rapid improvement on the rider’s part. From the very beginning, students at McNair’s are taught to respect and consider the horse. “At the lower levels we use lots of exercises to teach riders not to abuse the mounts,” says  Nancy. “For example, we teach them to use the mane and neck to balance, rather than using the horse’s mouth. We do a lot of balance and rhythm exercises to encourage students to move with the horse. Then the horses last a lot longer in the lesson program.”

“The way that we teach has been a large part of the success of our lesson program at McNair’s. We have a waiting list and a low turnover rate,” she concludes. Which shows that the forward riding system is not only effective, it’s sound business practice too.