We need riding lessons, not because we don't know how to ride, but because we think we do. If you don't take riding lessons you at least need photographs and videos of your riding so that you can see all of the things you need to fix because while you are up there riding around, you think you're either Buck Branaman or Buck Davidson when really you're more like Buck the Ice Age Weasel, but not as cool.
I don't get to take riding lessons very often so I rely heavily on photographic evidence. Evidence that can be appalling.
What is my right leg doing there?
All this time, I thought my heels were down...
So that's what behind the vertical looks like.
I hope I found what I was looking for down there in my horse's mane.
All this time, I thought my hands were down...
It can be embarrassing but extremely valuable to see those photos. It can be more persuasive than an instructor's comments.
When I was younger and had access to regular instruction I often found myself silently arguing with whatever instructor I had, that I WAS doing whatever she/he asked me to or was NOT doing whatever he/she told me I was doing. I was quite sure that I was holding my outside rein. Or that my leg was back far enough. Or that my horse was going forward. But now, I am quite sure that I was wrong every time.
It can feel like we are doing something, or we can think we are doing something but the instructor can see what we are or are not doing. At least, a good one can. There are instructors who just shout "Good!" as if we just mastered Beethoven's' 5th on the second try when really we mangled Twinkle Twinkle. And there are instructors who yell "Wrong!" but never proceed to tell us why or how to make it better. I've had both. They were not the one's I learned from, except to learn that I did not want to be an instructor like that.
From being a riding student, I know what it is like to be told I need to do something when I;m pretty sure I have been doing it all along. Even recently, when I had a lesson with a very well -respected trainer who told me repeatedly to put my hands forward. "I am putting my hands forward" I whined to myself, "Can't he see that?" But then, when I put my hands forward more, the horse suddenly became correct. *lightbulb*
If your instructor is constantly barking at you (or even gently reminding you) to do/not do something, you probably need to do/not do it. Again, exceptions occur, such as the trainer I rode with who told me to "hit him harder" every time my poor frazzled horse bolted. Instructors are not gods. You've got to do what makes sense. If an instructor tells you to hold your reins with your teeth and put your hands up over your head to get your horse to do a collected trot, maybe it's time to move on to a new teacher.
That reminds me, not completely relevantly, of the time one of camp kids, in the blink of an eye, slung her reins around her neck and said "Look at me! I'm neck reining!" If I hadn't been so panic stricken, I would have laughed because it was a pretty good joke. A very dangerous joke, but funny after the fact. Anyway...
The point is, have a little faith in your instructor. He or she has (one would hope) more training than you, more experience than you, and can see what you are doing. If she says put your hands down and the whine comes bubbling forth from your self-assured brain that you are putting your hands down, then put them down some more. Or use more outside rein. Or ask your horse for more forwardness, or less neck bend or or more haunches in. Whatever it is, you are paying this person to tell you how to do a better job so don't whine if you're told what to do. Put a little Nike in your ride and just do it. Or don't, but go somewhere else for lessons. Instructors do not like to be argued with or whined at.
If you have a question, by all means ask. Many times I've taught lessons thinking my student clearly understood every theory I put forth when in reality I could have been speaking in tongues and my student would have nodded politely and said, yes that makes sense. Riding sometimes feels like you are deep in a game of Twister or doing the hokey-pokey but it should all come together eventually if you have faith in your instructor. Just remember that even though you feel like you are putting your right foot in, your instructor can see that instead, you are shaking it all about.