Looking through some old photographs, I stumbled across a picture from a series of Tad Coffin clinics I participated in at Sand and Spur Riding Club on Eglin AFB. These clinics were in the early 80’s and I was in my early teens (I’m sure apologies are in order for Mr. Coffin!). I have ridden with many exceptional horsemen with amazing resumes but for many reasons I have always thought of Tad Coffin as one of the most memorable and inspirational clinicians I have had the pleasure to have trained under.
Tad, a three-day eventer who won individual and team Olympic gold medals on Bally Cor in 1976, walked and stretched, and I mean stretched, (he demonstrated the splits, both ways, in lunch discussion) the entire time he taught. No wasted time sitting around while he was teaching. This was before the fitness revolution brought on by the first home workout videos.
After I became frustrated with my horse, a hot Thoroughbred cross, he took the time out after our group ride to talk to me alone about the use of imagery, a concept that now is popular but then was almost unheard of. I still remember how he explained a study to me in which three groups of people were observed playing basketball, one group practiced every day for a month, group two didn’t practice, but visualized practicing every day for the month, and group three neither practiced nor visualized practicing. At the end of the study the group that practiced showed the best results, but the group that visualized practicing also showed marked improvement. Group three, of course, showed no improvement. He wanted me to practice visualizing riding perfectly when I had extra time on my hands, even before sleep. I still do this to this day.
These are just a couple of ways that Tad opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. He was an exceptionally aware teacher, that took his time out to personally address concerns that others might dismiss as teenage angst. This is a concept I have aspired to achieve in my own dealings with clients. His innovative techniques are as useful now as they were twenty-five years ago (or more!).
When getting the personal facts together about Tad I googled his name and in his Wikipedia entry I learned that he is a nephew to an internationally acclaimed peace and civil rights activist, William Sloane Coffin. I have linked to his biography as it is too vast to describe in this blog and too great not to read. I don’t know how much time Tad spent with his uncle, but I do know that in his own way he was very inspirational to at least one grateful teenage girl. Much love to you Tad.