Famous Last Words: Elisabeth McMillan

By Elisabeth McMillan

January 24, 2013



A few weeks ago, I happened to call my sister while she was on her way home from taking her girls for their riding lesson.

Of course, I asked her how it went and she exclaimed “every time I leave the barn and I'm driving the girls home, I always think about how glad I am that we made the decision to train with _______.” She went on to tell me a few things that the trainer had said to her girls that had indeed made their day very special.

It occurred to me how important those last words are – the ones you say at the end of the lesson.

I considered how difficult riding can be and how easy it is for students to leave the barn feeling less than good about themselves (even if they rode extremely well). I mentally calculated how many times a client gets asked “how was your lesson?” or “ how is your horse?” And who asks them? These questions are usually asked by a client's support system i.e., their family and friends. In other words, people whose opinions are likely to be very important to your client.

The last thing you say matters, because it is the first thing your client gets asked!

For your student, the “how was your lesson” question is often a loaded one. It can cause them to assess themselves as a rider and without the ability to explain what they did well, this simple question can erode a riders confidence as they try to examine and then to convey “how well they rode”.

To compound the problem, when a rider is unhappy or confused about how they performed, what started out as a friendly “how was your day” type conversation can turn into a “why am I (or you) paying for this” argument, during which your student must defend their largely inexplicable and expensive sport to their family or friends.

On the other hand, if you take a moment to complete the lesson by summing up what your client did well and/or what they learned - “ I think you really learned how to _______ today” or “You did ______ really well.” - these words empower them with the ability to articulate what they got out of the lesson and encourages them to feel good about themselves and the choice they have made to train with you.

This doesn't just hold true for instructors but also for trainers and stables. Horse professionals can get so busy doing their work that they have little time to talk about it. However, whether you are seeing your client in person or talking to them on the phone, your words make a difference. Make your last words the first words you want your client to say when someone asks them “how was your lesson?” or “how is your horse?”.

About the author
Elisabeth McMillan is an equine business consultant, public speaker and the founder of EquestrianProfessional.com, a website that provides business education and career support to horse professionals. For more information please visit EquestrianProfessional.com or you may email her directly at lizzy@equestrianprofessional.com

This article is a courtesy of Equestrian Professional, an USHJA educational partner. All USHJA trainers receive a 10% discount on any Equestrian Professional membership plans. Additionally, USHJA Certified Trainers receive a 25% discount. Plus, as a member you'll receive a huge discount on the Equestrian Social Media Boot Camp!

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