Coaches that don't ride

Does anyone have one? What is your experience?

When I was a kid, my first coach couldn’t ride due to a back injury, and it was awful - she found me this horse that we found out was a chronic bucker and I was stuck trying to resolve on my own (fortunately her sister stepped up to help).

I have never been the type of coach to get on and resolve every little issue, but I liked being able to help smooth out some learning or rebuild some confidence by getting on a client’s horse from time to time.

That definitely won’t be possible anytime soon and possibly never (broke my pelvis in Sept). I naively thought I could be riding by spring. Not the case (as I found out yesterday). Struggling with what to do. I unfortunately helped a client buy a kind, but young horse last summer, and they are hitting issues. I had assumed I could get on and ride as needed…but I can’t.

Considering a working student/hiring someone, but my barn is small…not a lot of room for enough business/income for an assistant.

Just looking to see what other people whose coach’s can’t ride have seen work.

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I had one. They “could” ride, but not to the level of regularly schooling horses due to injury. They luckily had a family member who trained regularly (different but adjacent discipline) that could hop on if needed. Rarely happened though, since we jumped and they didn’t. This trainer also had a network of other trainers who could school a horse at shows or take it in the open divisions for a warmup. If we needed it, we just paid that trainer their rates.

Generally, it worked out fine! This pro was great at picking good horses for clients, had exceptional experience and communication skills, and did have a few juniors and amateurs able to do a little work on one if really necessary (but that again, rarely was needed). It was the network of trainers to help at shows that really kept everything going - everyone was able to work through issues at home but if you were having an off day and just really wanted someone to get Dobbin over the ‘scary’ outside line, it was easily done.

Edited to add: for your situation, I’d specifically see if you have a pro in your area that could come work with the horse. Maybe even do a clinic or two, if that may help and might be attractive to other clients you have. If not, it may be in the best interest of the client to find them a new barn and trainer, otherwise it’s a situation that may quickly sour. If you can’t make something work, it might be best to help the client find someone who can, and maintain that relationship.


I have a masters in business, nearly All of the business professors had run at least one company into bankruptcy, most had multiple business failures… they turned to teaching since they “could teach what they could not do”


I depends on who you teach, I think.

If you’re teaching at the upper levels, they’re mostly capable of sorting out their own issues with some help on the ground. If you are teaching very beginners, the horses are (hopefully) broke enough that they don’t need pro rides. It’s the people in the middle who occasionally need someone else to get on a demonstrate or fix an issue. I’ve known former top level riders who don’t/can’t ride anymore who are very successful teaching.

That said, there are a ton of clinicians who rarely or never get on horses at clinics and do just fine.

Could you provide a stall for a working student? It may be possible to find someone part time, in exchange for a stall and lessons on their own horse. Leaving them time to do other income earning things the rest of the day.


I don’t teach high level. I have taught former pros - my knowledge is there, I just have no interest. My clients are a mix of “adults that suffered bad riding accidents and need confidence” to older people who just want to learn but not be overly pressured to do bigger/show, to a couple teens who want to do a few local shows on their fairly average horses. I am working to shift my business model to my new reality…but not sure what that shift should look like.

( I had two students who wanted to do the bigger shows, but one is selling her horse and the other is moving. I never wanted to do that type of show, and regret not telling them to move to a show barn rather than try to cater to them. I feel they pulled me off track of what I wanted my barn to be)

I could provide board to a working student .

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I have had trainers ( teachers coaches) who did not ride but they did have advanced riders or other trainers who could school. I sounds like you are at a place in your journey where you do need to have a WS or young pro who could get on clients horses for regular schooling training.

I had no issue with trainers who no longer rode. They had a lifetime of knowledge and tools which I could benefit from


My coach is now in her mid 60s and crippled by RA. As a result of the RA attacking her spine, she has enough hardware in her neck that she damn well better not get on anyone’s horse but her own. Too risky.

Ignore @clanter. He doesn’t know (or likely care) about your fractured pelvis c/o your client’s difficult horse.


She was recently lawn darted by her client’s horse and he could have killed her or paralyzed her. He broke her pelvis and got her a ride via ambulance. Does that quibbling detail matter at all to you?


Agree, if you have the wherewithal to get a WS, that’s probably your best route.

My own trainer will ride clients’ horses, but after a single ride, advised me she would not ride my WB.
I understood. Riding is her livelihood & he had an issue that could have been dangerous.
We fixed him with me riding & her coaching from the ground.
I am no Charlotte DuJ, but she’s a damn good trainer.

@clanter Your example bears no resemblance to OP’s situation.


I am guessing you can do most of it from the ground. It may take thinking up exercises to help the horse and/or rider understand better, and progress may be slower, but it’s possible.

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Coaches that don’t “ride” as in don’t offer pro rides as part of their offerings are more common than not in my area. I have my own farm but if I could find a halfway decent barn that offered pro rides as a regular part of their program, I’d board my riding horse out in a heartbeat.

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It sounds like what you need / want is a trainer who can also teach you, not just a coach.

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I’ve read what you’ve posted about being injured and I feel so for you. Such a tough road to be on.

I really appreciate that you work with adults with confidence issues. That is me. A few bad crashes/injuries over the last 20 odd years have permanently changed how I feel about riding and what I want to do with it. I just really want to learn and would love to find someone with your mindset to worth with. Best of luck and I imagine your students really appreciate you.

If there are other trainers close to you, do they have a talented student who maybe wouldn’t mind picking up extra rides? Someone really wanting to learn? It can be hard to find consistent people, everyone is so busy. I have had great coaches who didn’t ride and it’s not a deal breaker for me when taking lessons. But it can be useful to have someone who can get on, I know I appreciate it with my youngest horse. I found someone myself to put some rides on her (during lessons that I paid for) and it helped a lot (the barn and instructor were not the best fit). There might be someone around who could do this without having to go full working student.

Wishing you healing!


How is this relevant? It’s just nasty.


In my world, lessons and training rides are two different things. Some coaches do both, but many only coach.

Our barn is self board and very DIY for better or worse. We have several coaches who board here and several that visit, and we allow any coach with appropriate insurance to teach. Most of the times I see coaches doing training rides it’s when the owner is not at the barn, even out of town. I don’t see coaches hopping on during a lesson and some coaches are very picky about what horses they will risk their necks on.

So my concept of lessons is that the coach talks you through things but doesn’t ride. When I myself have paid for training rides I’ve sent the horse to another barn. One winter when I broke my foot and didn’t ride for 3 months and had my mare on full training board with my coach. And once for 3 months another project horse to a colt starter.

So while it would be great to have my coach at my barn doing some tune-ups, it’s not really a model I see around me.

Obviously all these coaches can and do ride their own horses but I don’t see them on clients horses that often. So I think it’s not unreasonable to transition to a lessons only model.

Getting a working student junior trainer in to ride as needed is a great idea. I don’t know what your fee schedule has been up to now, but giving a free stall and maybe allowing the junior to charge a modest fee per training ride from the owner would be a very attractive deal to many young adult riders. And they might be useful in pole setting and be able to shadow you and take on some coaching too. It sounds like you have alot to teach a junior trainer as well as your riders.


Sally Swift, for example was a gifted instructor who NEVER rode at a high level. She garnered respect from Olympic riders, and helped umpteen thousands of equestrians do better.

As far as your green horse conundrum goes, I do think you’re going to have to find an outside Rider to come in for you. I know that might be tricky… But you can oversee the work. There are people out there who have good physical instincts on a horse, good balance, but they are just not educated. They’re not trainers, but they’re good body on a horse. You could find one of those.

There’s a very successful upper level event rider in the Portland area who has not trained horses under saddle for years. But she has always had some very good riders in the pipeline and she is the trainer. They are the rider…there is a difference.


I had one trainer who rarely rode due to back problems. She did want to hop on each training horse at the beginning, just to get a feel for the horse, but any “pro” riding after that usually got done by working students or an assistant trainer.

Her reaction to my little sports-car mare, after years of riding BIG WBs and other large horses, was “she gave me vertigo!”

Her assistant took over the riding part, under supervision by the pro. Assistant was 6 feet tall, which was amusing.

OP – I wish you the best! It would be great if you could find someone to come in and do the rides you would have done in the past.


I worked as a Level I Instructor going for my Level II instructors under a Level III Instructor.

I did all the riding. I was literally paid to have lessons with her on other people’s horses. I was also instructing, feeding, rugging, cleaning paddocks and stables.

I did not get on during another person’s lesson. If my instructor deemed I needed to ride it I had a whole lesson. One Anglo Arab, the horse was given to me to ride and she banned the owner from riding until some more training was under it’s belt as it was going backwards every time she rode it.


I had a trainer when I was a junior who had ridden in several Olympics but no longer rode. Wife and son (also pros) and assistant trainers schooled the horses. Earlier this year when my trainer had an accident couldn’t ride and didn’t have a working student who could sub in, I (and others) stepped up to flat horses and she brought in another pro occasionally to do some pro rides as needed. My horse is one who doesn’t necessarily need a pro ride often, but sometimes I need one to make sure I am not ruining her. Lol. (Also helps me if there are new/scary jumps to know the trainer or other pro can pop her over them first). As far as a WS as a sub for a pro ride, it would depend on the caliber of the WS, in my opinion.

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I’ve had coaches in the past who no longer rode. As others have said, it depends on the student and their needs. My experience was with older coaches who had decades of experience and lots of knowledge to share and I learned a lot from them. I learned the most when riding horses the coach knew very well because they had been in their program for years.

I’ve also had a couple of experiences working with coaches who almost exclusively taught me from the ground but got surprising insight from sitting on my horse just once. So I think there’s a lot of value from having that option.

I do think you should be able to find a niche where you can offer value to students without riding their horse. However as you’ve said, that niche doesn’t include amateurs with young horses that need someone else to hop on. With a young green horse I specifically would want a coach that could also put on training rides. If the coach wasn’t able to support that, I would appreciate a referral to another professional who could. Doesn’t mean we couldn’t come back to the first coach once we worked through whatever needed to be worked through.

I think there’s tremendous value in recognizing what value you can offer your students and offering alternatives when their needs fall outside the areas you can best serve them. So often in this industry pros try to cater to clients beyond what they should and in the end it does no favours to the client or horse.

Also the scheme of having a WS ride the horse under supervision of the trainer would very much depend on the WS and their qualifications. My own experience going that route in the past wasn’t great, I ended up switching to another pro who could do the riding and in retrospect would have been better off doing that from the start rather than spending the time and money having the WS on board. YMMV.