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Do you know how to assess the different learning styles of your students?

 Natalie Wilson having some coaching advice on JC Spiderman

Students learn in different ways.


© Roger Fitzhardinge



COACHING TIP | Do you know how to assess the different learning styles of your students?


COACHING TIP is a new Education series on Equestrian Australia's website. Top coaches from all over Australia will be sharing their knowledge with the community.


As instructors and coaches, we often spend years refining our skills and knowledge to help aspiring riders of all ages and levels to learn, grow and achieve their riding goals.


As important as it is to have many exercises and tools to work through the hundreds of different challenges we are faced with working with many different rider and horse combinations, it is far more important to make sure we know the best ways to influence our students and communicate effectively with them.


Effective communication does far more than just making sure our students understand what we are trying to teach, it also achieves the following:


Motivates and encourages

Creates great rapport

Builds great relationships

Holds the student accountable

Makes sure each student is learning in the style best suited to them

Allows an instructor to teach effectively in group situations

In order to create effective communication and influence our students in a positive way, we first need to understand the four different learning styles that we need to accommodate for.


1. Visual – Someone that likes to see or watch to learn. Approximately 40% of the population.

2. Auditory – A person that learns best through sounds and hearing things. Approximately 10% of the population.

3. Kinaesthetic – Someone that learns by feeling or actually riding/doing the exercise. Approximately 40% of the population.

4. Auditory Digital – A person that needs to talk things through and learns best with structure and steps. Approximately 10% of the population.


Every student brings different challenges, and require different ways to communicate the exercises and techniques to them.


How insightful and useful would it be for instructors and coaches to properly understand what each of our students learning styles were so we could always know we are communicating to them in the best way possible.


With training, and the right skills, coaches can learn how to identify the individual learning styles in each of their students.


Below are some of the more common ways to easily identify what learning style a particular student is strongest in:




People with a visual preference will tend to:


Be the best-presented riders at a competition.

Have a clean, neat and organised tack room. Turn up for their lesson or clinic with a beautifully presented horse and in their best riding clothes. Why? Because they want to look good. Presentation is very important to Visual people.

Use language like; I see, I can get a visual, let me see it first, I get the picture, can you show me.  

Sit upright on their horses, with their eyes upwards to see everything more clearly.

Want to see or be shown concepts, ideas or how something is done.

Want to see the big picture.

May not remember what the instructor has said to do and becomes confused with too many verbal instructions. However, if the instructor draws a map or picture, then they can see what they are saying.

Be distracted by visual activity around the arena and less so by noise.

Learn their test best by either watching someone else ride through the test or themselves on video. Or, visualising the test in their mind.




People with an auditory preference will tend to:


Be more aware of the subtle change in the tone of your voice and be more responsive to certain tones of voice. Therefore, respond in a different way to the instructor’s tones when receiving instructions.

Enjoys listening to music and audios.

Use language like; I hear you, sounds good, listen, that rings a bell.

Perceive and represent sequences and are able to remember verbal directions or instructions more easily.

Learn by listening and asking questions. Enjoy discussions and prefer to communicate through spoken language rather than the written word.

Talk through problems and like to have someone available to serve as a sounding board for their ideas. or they will often talk to themselves.

Need to be heard.

Be easily distracted by noise in and outside of the arena.

Learn their test best by having someone read it out to them, or they read it out to themselves, and then repeating it back to someone.




People with a kinaesthetic (feeling) preference, will tend to:


Learn best by riding the activity or movement.

Dress and groom themselves and horses more for comfort than how they look.

Often speak slower than the general population. Why? Because they need time to get in touch with how they feel about the topic.

Use language like; I feel, I just need to do/practice it first, get a hold of it.

Be more sensitive to their bodies and their feelings.  

Make decisions based on their feelings.

Enjoy a good hug, connection with their horse.

Need to touch an item to get a feel for it, before deciding if they should buy it.

Learn their tests best by actually riding through their tests or alternatively riding it on their feet in the living room.

Auditory Digital:


People with an auditory digital preference will tend to:


Have a need to make sense of what they are learning, to figure things out, and to understand.

Talk to themselves and carry on conversations with you in their mind. Often, they will say they remember discussing something with you, when you actually did not have the conversation. They did, however, in their mind!

Use language like; I understand, let me talk that through, sense, think, does that make sense.

Enjoy writing to do lists and creating graphs and tables.

Learn by working things out in their mind and prefer direct instructions from instructors.

Not tend to be spontaneous, as they like to think things through first.

Have logic play a key role in the decision process as do facts and figures.

Memorize by steps, procedures, sequences, therefore when learning a dressage test, it is helpful to break it down into steps or sections.

Learn their test best by repeating the test back to themselves in their mind. They may also like to think about the test in steps.


When instructors have a clear understanding of what preferred learning style each of their students have, lesson time can become much easier and successful for both parties!


If you are still unsure what style a particular student has, then just ask them to fill in the free, short twelve question Riding Quiz, that can be downloaded from the Dressage Plus website, www.dressageplus.com.au


Not only does this quiz allow instructors to learn how to identify the learning style of their students, it also allows students to understand their own reasons for why they understand something, and struggle understanding other things, like remembering their tests or following instructor’s exercises.


Allowing the instructor to communicate more effectively, and empowering the student to go into every clinic or learning situation equipped with the right knowledge of how to get the most out of the situation.     

For more information contact Danielle Pooles from Dressage Plus at info@dressageplus.com.auor, alternatively, you can follow on Facebook at @dressageplusepc


Source: Equestrian Australia (EA) website

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