The average American horse owner, according to the 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey, is 90% female, and 60% over age 45. Almost 50% indicated that they ride for pleasure, and over 30% compete. [i]
Pertinent to horse trainers and riding instructors, just over 40% pay for riding lessons, and just over 30% pay someone else to train their horse.
You've probably served this demographic in your training/lesson business. While this demographic has a lot of pluses (extra disposable income) there also are some challenges.
A big challenge is keeping them motivated. Just as in training a horse when you can see the end goal, such as a show or event, you don't expect the horse to perform at that level after 30 days. These horsewomen often have high expectations of themselves, and are quickly discouraged when they are not successful.
So how can you keep these clients motivated, and help them achieve their horse goals?
By paying attention to these five basic ideas of adult learning theory.[ii]
#1. Adult learners need to be involved in their own learning.
#2. Adult learners rely on past experience to influence current learning.
#3. Adult learners want to know how to solve problems; they don't want to memorize content.
#4. Adult learners want to apply what they learn immediately.
#5. Adult learners are internally motivated to learn.
So how can you, as a horse trainer, apply these 5 adult learning principles to your horse business?
#1. Involve them. The best way to do this is to ask them questions. Ask what their horse goals are. Then customize your training to fit their goals.
#2. Ask about past horse experiences. Tie this into #1-ask about their horse experiences. Take notes if you need to, and find a way to relate what you are trying to teach them now to their previous experiences.
#3. Tell them how what you are teaching them will help them reach their goals or solve a problem with their horse. Don't drill for the sake of drilling; explain what the drill will accomplish. Give them a reason to pay attention.
#4. Make sure you are teaching them something that they can use right away. They will be more likely to stay motivated if what you are teaching them has immediate relevance.
#5. Internal motivation. Horses are a hobby, recreation for most of these women. The motivation for them is internal-it is something that they want to learn. It isn't something that you can force them to learn. This can be hard for some trainers/instructors, as they can often see that the client and their horse is so close to making a breakthrough, so they push, and that causes the client to lose motivation. Keep it fun.
By remembering these five basic ideas of adult learning theory, you can better meet the needs of the average American horse owner, and make your horse training/riding lesson business more successful.
[i] 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey sponsored by Kentucky Equine Research, Merck Animal Health and Pfizer Animal Health. http://www.americanhorsepubs.org/equine-survey/2012-equine-survey/