Make them earn their Check…

Reading the responses and postings from adult amateur riders compels me to address a common misunderstanding between instructor and instructee.  In a fellow blogger’s comment section I referenced the different psyches involved with teaching teenagers and teaching adults. (see comments)  This generated some discussion on why adults may have specific concerns.  Alas,  I too am an adult and have indeed suffered injuries from riding.  I however, seem to believe more in some adults than they believe in themselves.  This is usually illustrated when we first meet and are setting long-term goals.  Almost invariably if I ask a teenager what they would like to accomplish they say “I want to ride in the Olympics.”  Lofty goals indeed.  We then discuss what kind of dedication is involved in reaching that kind of commitment.  When I ask an adult with seemingly the same ambition and enthusiasm the identical question I usually get a somewhat embarrassed laugh and an off the cuff comment like “Well, I know we’re not going to the Olympics or anything, but it might be nice to show training level or something.”  I then know that in addition to the technical aspects of dressage I am in for a big confidence building campaign as well.  It’s not that I mind working on this aspect of my job, I am just left to wonder what happens to people who seem perfectly fine in every way, that somewhere along the road in life they went from believing they had the world by the tail to doubting they could perform at the basic level.   I have seen many adult amateurs reach FEI levels when someone believed in them and they coupled that with the required amount of work to accomplish the goal.  So the next time your trainer asks you what your goals are, don’t let them off easy, they might take your word for it.  Tell them what your goals are and be willing to make the sacrifices to get there.  You’re probably just one believer’s opinion away.

*Photo by MKW Photography

18 thoughts on “Make them earn their Check…

  1. I am all for trainers building confidence in their adult amateur students. Keep building it and believing in them. From my personal experience – it makes a huge difference! However, I would like to point out that when I told you that I am not going to compete in my first show – I am going to WIN! – you almost had a heart attack 🙂

  2. Love this! Thanks for all the pingbacks BTW.

    Saying you’d like to show at Training Level is a realistic goal. Next year First Level, etc. You know, bite sized chunks that could lead to FEI. They didn’t rule it out, just omitted it.

    I think we, okay I, get tunnel vision and lose objectivity about my riding skill or lack thereof. I know I’m good but good is relative. I have a lot to work on and unfortunately, the more I know, the more I know I have to work on.

    So, yeah as a trainer/instructor/coach you may need to pat the adult on the back a little more. We’re taking on something new knowing it may take us longer to learn it. Your belief in your student will build trust and perhaps allow them to take that plunge.

  3. Now that I’ve thought about this very good blog post:

    Bear in mind…adults often name more modest goals because they have learned to be modest about sharing goals! But we may have loftier goals than we are brave enought to admit to! Trainers need to check in regularly with their adults to keep in touch with their individual reality…I write this hoping it actually makes sense!{LOL}

    We adult students, and this is true of any endeavour in our lives, tend to downplay our ambitions for fear of being laughed off the stage!Afterall, we aren’t kids anymore and we, for the most part, have learned that dreams don’t always come true! While we have legitimate fears about how far we can get, we also do have a certain maturity attached to the confidence in what hard work can actually deliver for us. So on one hand we believe in the concept of ten percent talent, 90% hard work rule, but on the other, we KNOW that luck and circumstance play huge roles in everything we do!

    I have been dreaming all year about making the step to third level…in 3 weeks it’s going to happen for me! What is my reaction? Now that I have what I’v asked for, I’m nervous as to whether I can deliver on it! I think, along with fear of injury, that’s an adult amateur’s real worry. Once we put the dream out there, can we live up to our own expectations of ourselves?

    1. yes, you can- in my thirties I earned my usdf bronze, silver, and gold medals on other peoples horses, many of them thoroughbreds. I had to work a lot of horses for free and do a lot of work but it is doable. I am no super athlete although I have had super trainers. I also broke both of my legs falling off a young horse six years ago and am back riding again. Have overcome many fears involved with beginning riding again so I can relate to these apprehensions. Don’t be afraid of anyone laughing at you. You would be amazed at the people that admire what you are already accomplishing. If you are already about to ride third level than you already know everything you need to know for the Grand Prix. After the lead changes most everything is derivatives of the exercises you already know, just stronger and faster. Same bends, quicker half-halts- more athleticism. You’re more than half-way there!

  4. What a kind, supportive reply…and I do thank you! Interestingly enough, my trainer has lately been saying the same thing to me….she says getting through the lower levels is actually the hard part…once the basics are in play, much of the rest tends to get easier!

    And yes…those, quick and quicker again half halts…that’s the real challenge, NOT the piaffe and passage that I can already ride!!!

  5. Pompon jackets and any other mystery items that make noise and by the way you do not want me in the short skirt either!

  6. I’ll never forget when you and I had this discussion for the first time of many… my answer was “I just want to be able to ride this rodeo of a horse (carmen), then maybe the olympics or something” because as you have learned all to well, Junior can’t ride the nice forward horse you suggest, she has to bite off more than she can chew and make things all the more difficult (: Plus there’s no fun in it for me if I can’t get you to chase my horse around! I also learned many valuable lessons through our conversations one of which being make a list of goals, then divide them out between long term and short term. However when I do make it to the olympics on whatever crazy horse you rolled your eyes at when you saw it bucking like crazy or walking on its hind legs, i’ll smile and tell you- you can pick the next horse (;

  7. It’s really a cool and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you just shared this helpful information with us.
    Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

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