Be on Time. This does not mean strolling into the barn five minutes after your lesson has started toting a new saddle or helmet that needs time to be fitted properly before the lesson. It means arriving a few minutes early to check your equipment and your horse's tack. Check to see that the run downs are velcroed and shin boots fitted properly. Make sure that your horse's hooves are picked out. If you know your horse will need a bath after the lesson, prepare a bucket of water for after your ride.
Work Ethic. Volunteer. Do extra. If you see trash around the stall, pick it up. put your tack away yourself (yes, we have lesson helpers but they have enough to do). Notice that your horse is out of water? We have hoses conveniently located around the barn. Fill up the bucket. Offer to help if a younger rider needs help getting their horse put away. don't expect others to do something for you. When I have to ask for help, my favorite phrase is "I don't know to ____ but if you show me/teach me how I can do it from now on".
Effort. Be willing to work for what you want. If you know your legs or upper body needs improvement, don't wait for your instructor to remind you. work on this from the moment your butt hits the saddle and make the most of every minute of your lesson. Three half-hearted lessons are not worth nearly as much as one lesson where you give it your all.
Body Language. This is important, both on and off the horse. If you roll into the barn, shoulders hunched and looking like you are dreading your lesson, you will ride like that. If you look like you are confident, ready to work and excited to be there, you will be a LOT more coachable and you'll have a better ride.
Energy. Have a willing mindset. Work hard, with everything you've got. Got a little cold? Don't cancel your lesson. Instead, use that as a teachable moment for finding energy even when you don't think you can. You won't always show at 100% health or in 100% perfect weather, so prepare for it!
Attitude. If you think you are going to fail, you will. Be positive and you will notice changes in your riding. If you had a bad show, or lesson, or week of lessons, take those as a teachable moment. No time was wasted if you learned something. Most importantly, be honest with yourself. Blaming judges or other competitors will get you nowhere. Find ways to overcome adversity-one time I swore that the only way I was going to win is if I rode in lane 2 almost the whole time, blocking another competitor from view. it worked, and I won 1st place in a very large class.
Passion. Stay informed. Learn. Ask questions. Stay later or come early to watch lessons so that you can learn. All of these things show that you have a passion for what you do.
Be Coachable. When your instructor yells at you for the 1000th time that your legs are not in the right position, avoid the temptation to roll your eyes. Fix it, or at least try your best to. Never say "I Can't" unless you feel you are in danger. Trust your instructor. I promise, they DO know what they are doing.
Do Extra. Volunteer. Sign up to work a shift or a pony party. Groom your favorite horse, even if it wasn't the one you rode that day. Help someone else bathe their horse. Straighten up the tack room. clean tack. Take out the trash. And most importantly, do it without expecting anything in return.
Be Prepared. Make sure you have all of your gear before you leave for the barn. Ensure that your horse is tacked properly, and then take a second before your lesson to center yourself. Think about what you want to focus on for the lesson. Talk to the horse (or give them a very stern pep talk if you need to). Drink water and make sure you're not riding on an empty (or really full) stomach. Take a second to breathe and prepare your mind and body for what you're about to do.
There you go, folks. No money out of pocket and no "special, born-with-it talent" required. Everything you want is already there-- you just have to work for it.