That will have to wait.
Instead I want to have a little rant about coaching.
In the years I've spent riding I have taken too many lessons from a ton of different coaches that I can't even count them without my eyes starting to cross. Some were fabulous and helped me advance and others made me feel like the SPCA should be called the next time I climbed onto a horse's back.
I've been reading a lot of blogs lately and some of them are about lessons/clinics in which the rider felt worse at the end then better. It upsets me when I read about someone who loves her horses and wants to do the very best she can ends up in tears because of the ego of the instructor. I am amazed at how some horse clinicians will treat their paying students in ways that they would never tolerate if the students were horses.
Here's what I've learned in my 50+ years on the planet:
1. There are stages of learning. I love the Gordon Institute model of the Four_stages_of_competence:
|With Carmen I'm moving into the conscious competence phase for many things but I still fall into the conscious incompetence at times.|
A good coach/teacher/instructor knows how to gauge where their student is in the process and figure out how to help them onto the next phase.
Telling all the other participants in a clinic that one student is doing it badly is not the way to do it.
2. Blaming the student is a cop out. If you think that the student is not trying-talk to them, see if you are correct or just leaping to a conclusion. As soon as you go to the blame place you have stopped trying to figure it out and removed yourself from the team.
If a student is repeated 'failing' a test then it's your fault not theirs.
It's the same attitude we need to have with our horses. If a horse isn't getting it we need to stop and think about what is missing or going awry.
3. No one learns by being yelled at. Ever. They may do it, and it may succeed in the moment but no learning has occurred. If I point Carmen at a fence and beat her with a stick until she goes over it I doubt very much that she will learn to jump. She's very likely to learn that 'holy shit this is scary'
4. It's hard to be a clinician- rarely do you have a long term relationship with the student and so you need to go by what you are seeing in the moment. You can't assume that you know all that there is to know about the horse/rider relationship based on a limited exposure.
Some amazing clinicians I've worked with have been pretty good at analyzing what they see and, through some pointed questions, figure out the big picture.
5. If I end a lesson feeling worse about myself or my horse then that lesson was a failure and probably a waste of money. I say probably because it may help me to think about what's going on and make some changes. One of those changes may be to dump that instructor.
6. It's not helpful to be told to not do something. You need to be told what to do. We all have bad habits when we ride. However, I have never achieved success being told 'don't pull on your inside rein'. I have had success being told 'keep your inside rein quiet and bump with your inside calf to get the bend'. It sounds subtle but when ever I've been told to not do something I feel adrift and unsure of what to do.
7. Every lesson should end with a clear takeaway and a plan. I need to know what I will be working on on my own. An excellent plan is when I also have discussed what could go wrong and what I will do to fix that.
8. As a student you need to be aware of how you learn and be honest with your instructor. You are paying them- that doesn't make them subservient but there's a relationship and you both need to contribute. It's okay to say 'I'm not comfortable with ...." that can lead to a discussion about what you need. A good coach will be open to that dialogue. Not endless dialogue mind you but there should be some.
Making a living in horses is hard and I know that not all horse trainers want to teach- they need to do it for the money. Some times it must be a real grind. But to be honest I don't care. If you decide that you need to teach (for whatever reason) then work to get better at it.
The worst coach I ever had was actually really good at building me up, but didn't really know what she was doing. She was great at making me feel like I accomplished something...but I never really progressed. Then I found out it was all lies (her compliments of me, I mean) when I moved barns to find a better trainer and she flat out told me that the only reason I wasn't progressing was because I never listened to her, and that she didn't agree with how I rode my horse. Now I'm with an instructor that is not only great at making me feel good about myself, but also has an amazing aptitude for teaching and Fiction & I are flourishing.ReplyDelete
Instructors are vital for building self confidence on a horse. I equate them to a personal gym coach.
yes one who gives you false information is also harmful. I often wonder if it's about ego or just ignorance.Delete
Great post that I really needed to read this week, thank you!ReplyDelete
Sometimes it can be hard to find the right coach. I had an amazing instructor who I loved and felt like I was progressing well under, but sadly she moved away. I spent two years looking for a new one. I'm in the very beginning stages of riding with a new instructor and hoping it'll be a good fit.
I hear you on the difficulties of finding an instructor! It's hard in this area.Delete
Well written and explained. As an ADHD adult, I've always tried to remember to mention it at the onset. Perhaps that's why I enjoy my current instructor. She also leads 4H, so she's used to explaining to people who's minds can wander of and break things down into dance steps.ReplyDelete
Thank you. It's good to know your limits and explain them. When I feel overwhelmed I will stop and tell the instructor and then regroupDelete
Hey! I resemble this post! Thank you, excellently done, and a ton of good reminders. I left a lot out of my little story but I think you read between the lines quite accurately :)ReplyDelete
It's a common story- unfortunately. As I get older I get less willing to accept things that are stupid.Delete
I've been fortunate to have many more good, than bad, instructors. I tend to research trainers before doing a test ride, or a clinic, and the ones who are abrasive and abusive usually have that reputation very visibly. I don't care if they coach Olympians or have been there themselves, I won't ride with them. And, in my experience, the best coaches are not always the best riders. Teaching people and training horses require different skillsets; not everyone has both. My current trainer has both, but she's the only one I've worked with that does. Our previous trainer, in SoCal, was an amazing teacher but didn't have the financial resources (or wealthy clients) to have a horse of her own to compete at FEI.ReplyDelete
Research is important. Sometimes with a clinician from away you have to take a leap. Unfortunately it doesn't always work out. I tend to audit those.Delete
I like that hierarchy. All good points.ReplyDelete
I find the hierarchy invaluable.Delete
Hey, try it with a language barrier *lol* - they don't teach words like pommel, forelock, and shoulder-in at the Integration classes!ReplyDelete
They have a fancy word for "downward transition" and I always think it means half halt, agh. I'm learning the words for all the parts of the horse (and hoof) but tack, no way, not by far. To be fair, it must be really frustrating to have a student not do what is asked, and just say, "What does that mean?"
So many crappy trainers, so few good ones.
While searching/observing trainers, I even found one that was a sexist jerk, making fun of a lady's breasts as she rode. Smoking cigarettes while teaching. Another trainer I was checking out made her student cry during the lesson. No way. (They know I'm a potential student, and they do things like that?)
I tell potentials, "If you yell at me and make me cry, I won't be in the learning mode, so we won't be able to work together."
I really hope I found a good one finally. The last two were problematic - one was afraid of my horse and always rode behind the vertical, the other was great with horses but was utterly unreliable.
I agree with what Annette said, they must be able to teach horses and be good with people. Think Buck Brannaman - great with horses, with people? Hm....
It's not easy and I don't think that they need to brilliant at both- they just need to try to be betterDelete
I learned to ride from a instructor who yelled, insulted, and belittled her students (mostly children). I look back on that, and think how was everyone OK with the way she treated us? The answer is most of the time there were no other adults present. I really learned to ride from her wonderful horses not her.ReplyDelete
Instructors have hard jobs. They are teachers after all! I wish more of them had training in learning theory, conditioning, and the hierarchy of competence. Good coaches have been hard to come by for me, but as an adult I have learned to be an advocate for myself and my learning style which helps me with all kinds of folks.
I did too. I thought it was how things were done.Delete
Great post! I love a good rant it's good for the soul.ReplyDelete
In my 60+ years I've encountered them all. The yellers, the incompetent etc. I've dealt with egos and the trainers who compliment you all the time even though you don't deserve the praise. I realize they're in it for the money most of the time but still have a little pride in your work and help the students to become the best they can be. It reflects back on you, the trainer, when you're students are happy and doing well.
I can honestly say I've only had two good instructors that I learned anything from. I'm very lucky to have a daughter who is an excellent trainer and a good problem solver. Without her I would be lost as to why my horse does this or that and how to deal with it. She's an expert at diagnosing what is going on and how to fix it in a gentle way that makes sense to both horse and rider. Unfortunately, she doesn't train professionally anymore but has a day job that actually pays. So we're basically weekend riders.
You are very lucky to have a talented daughterDelete