No Used Cars here……

I try to help, Samson looks a little indifferent

I enjoy and appreciate the comments and discussions that have been contributed to the blog thus far.  The readers of the blog seem to represent a wide variety of viewpoints from the horse owning community.  Barn owners, trainers, adult students, young riders, parents and other bloggers have been kind enough to read, and help share perspectives on this forum.  Thanks for that, I hope it can help to build mutual appreciation for each of the positions, as they are all inter-related and our horse communities are more positive when every person’s contribution is acknowledged, and each person’s concerns are validated.

A fellow trainer related a story to me the other day of a client of his that had recently bought a new horse.  The trainer had helped pick out the horse and it seemed a great match for the young rider.  As the horse settled in to the routine at the trainer’s barn, it became obvious that the reduced pasture time was causing some difficulty for the young boy at riding time, as the horse still had too much energy.  When the trainer suggested additional turn-out for the horse, the father of the young rider declined, citing concerns for the horse’s stress level.  The owner also did not care to have either the trainer or another rider work the horse in addition to the child’s lessons.

Empathizing with the trainer, I asked why he thought the owner was reluctant to follow any of his advice.  His response was one that made me think of several students I have taught in the past.  It seems this particular horse owner had come to this trainer directly after leaving a trainer he felt was very controlling and overbearing.  I do not know the circumstances of that situation, so I do not know if this was in fact true, but it was the belief of the horse owner. 

Explaining his dilemma with the situation rang true to me.  Many times when a person leaves a trainer that they feel is over-controlling, or unwilling to allow them to make even small decisions, they tend to overcompensate for this indignity with the new trainer.  Every decision the new trainer makes is immediately subject to scrutiny for signs of control or deceit.  This is an understandable response, if there were misdeeds done by a previous trainer, but it makes the learning progress difficult and possibly dangerous.

Many aspects of dealing with horses rely on faith and confidence.  Learning technical information can be done by reading books.  Most progress with riding happens once the rider believes that they are capable of making it happen.  A good instructor must be able to explain the technical aspects of riding.  A great instructor must convince the rider that they can persuade the horse to do it!  Horses are not apt to follow the apprehensive.  If a rider is skeptical of his trainer’s advice, the lack of confidence and committment will result in a failure to convince the horse to accept his aids.  Success in this situation is doubtful. 

In addition to making progress slow, safety must be a priority.  Many times when I was growing up taking riding lessons in Europe, where the teachers seemed particularly scary, I wondered why the trainers always seemed to bark commands and refuse objections.  “I can’t”, or “I won’t”, was not tolerated.  Anyone uttering these words was dismissed immediately.  Having taught for many years now, I understand the rigidity, and I wish I could thank them all for their intolerance.  When you are responsible for someone riding a large, powerful animal, the rider must be conditioned to follow directions quickly, without hesitation, in the event the horse becomes frightened and shows signs of bolting, rearing, or any other behaviour that could be dangerous to the rider.  A quick movement, with relaxed confidence in a trainer’s ability, can mean the difference between making the situation safe, or causing more fear and escalating the danger.

This is not to belittle the indignity and condescension that some have fallen victim to at the hands of an overzealous trainer.   But I like to believe that most people who get into this occupation do so in order to share their love and passion for horses with other people.  Don’t let one bad apple keep you from learning what so many others are eager to share.  Whatever the experience level, we all love the horses the same!

19 thoughts on “No Used Cars here……

  1. I will agree that trainers must be afforded the same courtesy as a drill sergeant if there is any progress to be made!

    I used to be a manager at a BHS facility and couldn’t understand why our BHS-certified instructors had such under-achieving students. I mean, they couldn’t even win in the home shows- kids trailering in took all the honors.

    Watching lessons and listening to mothers chatting in the lounge, I found that they were approaching riding in the same manner that they might approach painting, or piano, or something else casual and low-impact. The parents didn’t want their children taxed or overworked, and the instructors didn’t have their respect or the ability to demand performance.

    There’s no point to riding lessons if you aren’t going to work hard at it, in my opinion. Dressage especially is one of those things that you shouldn’t do unless you’re devoted to it. My opinion. 🙂

    1. I agree with you completely! Riding is too involved to take casually. It seems that many parents these days want kids in lots of different activities but it doesn’t allow them to excel at any one. I think it’s also important for people to be aware when lessoning how involved owning a horse is, as I see a lot of surprised faces when first time horse owners (the ones that haven’t been properly indoctrinated!) suddenly realize the time and money committment involved. 🙂

      1. Absolutely – riding has to take precedence over everything else the child is doing or it simply doesn’t make any sense. Every day, at the barn, at the same time, to tack up the pony and ride. PLEASE! And you have to allow them time to cool it out – it will NOT do to have a groom do it so that you can rush to the next class. The number of riding students in honors and AP classes really ought to be proof enough of the incredible value children get from this immersion and level of responsibility, I think.

      2. That is a great point!! I never thought of that but my most dedicated student riders are all top students!! A few of them have also taken care of their own horses full time at their own barn or in partial board situations! You guys are better commenters than I am a blogger! Thanks! 🙂

  2. I miss Samson- he was a GREAT instructor!!! I think you are dead on as far as trusting your instructor, as I’ve always told my students
    “If you think you can, or you think you can’t…. you’re right”

  3. A great riding teacher is worth every penny in my opinion!!! I’ve often thought that a riding teacher, barn and horse can teach a child what no one else in the world could. Paying for them is not easy, but I’m sure it’s one of the great learning experiences in life.

  4. I audited a number of upper level clinics and was astonished to find that I did not know how to be a good student. I thought I was: I listened, I did exactly as directed, I asked questions, I listened some more.

    You bring up a very key point: when the trainer gives an instruction, they mean NOW, not in a few strides. I hadn’t realized I was dropping part of the instruction, the NOW part, in an effort to do it all *correctly*.

    I was determined to show up at my next lesson and respond immediately, and we’d fix anything that got lost on the way to “immediate” later. It was a turning point in my riding. When I was told to pick up the canter and I immediately picked up the canter, I began to gradually fine tune my ability to process the aids without thinking, and acquired ‘body memory’.

    My trainer felt more respected (I had no idea!) and that I was more committed. I had been completely committed, but it didn’t come across without the NOW. We figured all this out later. 😉 She learned to say to her students “NOW, not when you feel like it!” (nicely) and I learned to react quickly and cleanly.

    1. You are exactly right- especially at the upper levels, much of a trainers job is to observe the riding as if riding the horse, and to verbalize (usually suggest) the aids that might be appropriate “at that moment” for whatever state of balance, or imbalance the horse is in. If the student stops to think about it, the moment is lost and the balance changes. I am with you in that I would rather have someone try immediately to get a response, and refine the process once the feel is obtained. Thank you for the input- your story will help me better explain the “reasoning” for immediate response, both for the upper levels and the need to develop it in the lower levels.

  5. I think the “now” issue has to be balanced, however. We have a duty to our horses to educate ourselves about them. Otherwise, a well meaning rider who responds “now” to an incompetent trainer may find him/herself in a much worse situation than they ever were before.

    So, I agree, as long as the trainer is trustworthy. That said, if I was uncertain as to whether or not I trusted a trainer, I’d audit a lesson or clinic before signing up for instruction.

    1. oh boy are you right on that one IMO. It took me awhile to find a trainer I was willing to trust with my life, because that is what pushing my limits felt like: I’m over my head and everything she’s saying is my body says is WRONG.

      You make an excellent point. You have to have the right trainer for you, a safe, solid trainer who can work with where you are, not where they want you to be, and still help you move forward.

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