I have had the urge lately to blog about teaching style. This is not to say that any one way is right or wrong, certainly there are many effective ways but there are some giant pet peeves of mine and I thought I would get them out there. (maybe start a conversation on my blog? Fancy that!)
For starters, it has always been my belief that there is no single way to train a horse or rider. Granted, there are the greats like George Morris and his students, and other disciplines “greats” (I’m not good with names so screw name dropping) and their methods seem to work for everyone. That’s all well and good, however, there wouldn’t be such a wide array of successful trainers and horse people in this world if only one way worked. Every horse and every rider is different and therefore not one style or method works for them all. So with that, here are my fundamental DONTS (and some DO’s) at least for me.
For starters, riding should be a learning experience for horse and rider. It should be about building confidence and not breaking it. My first peeve is when trainers are YELLING and SCREAMING and being downright terrible to their riders. Now before I get to far into this, when I’m severely screwing up and know what I need to get done, sometimes yelling is the only way to break through my mental barrier to get the job done, Michael Page and I had a field day with this: “Nice horse, shitty ride!” every day, every lesson… and “SIT UP SIT UP!! DON’T LEAN!! DON’T JUMP AHEAD, DO YOU WANT TO DIE?!” also common, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be doing these things but mentally, I couldn’t figure it all out and to this day, I will still say I never rode better than my days in Michael Page’s barn.
But the thing here is, I messed up, I had been doing it right and then regressed, mentally, something went wrong. He didn’t approach me with my first trip over a crossrail with screaming and yelling or rude statements. He saw what I needed and got through to me. At the end, there was nothing better than hearing "good riding today." The trainers that are constantly yelling bother me. Maybe not so much the yelling, but the tone. I am paying you to teach me, not just to tell me what I’m doing wrong. If I knew all of this already, I wouldn’t have paid you the money to help me.
Second peeve: “Don’t do this, don’t do that” “you did this, and that is wrong” OK well I get that, again, I don’t know what is happening. I know it’s not supposed to happen and really I’m not trying to get the wrong lead there, or fall in or chip a distance. Trust me, it’s not my first thought when I’m cantering to a fence “I’m gonna screw this distance cuz I want to” NO! What I want to know is how to FIX what is going wrong, not that something is WRONG!
Granted, when you’re learning these things have to be pointed out, but not so much “YOU’RE WRONG” and onto the next thing, but, “Did you feel that? What is happening?” or “It could be better” or "why didn't that work?" and then THIS is what you did, and THIS is what you need to do to fix it. You can’t learn unless you fully understand the theory behind what is happening and THEN can apply it to what you are doing.
Which brings me to the next thing: Lessons need to be a conversation. Nothing bothers me more than an instructor standing in the middle of the arena, barking things (especially non-constructive things!) at students who are tight as a clam and not saying two words. When I teach (and when some other pretty great instructors, both accomplished/established and up-and-coming, teach) it’s a conversation: what do you want to work on? What is going wrong? What are the cues you are using and why do you think they aren’t working? What do you think could work? Most importantly, why did you do that? All of these are questions I use to get riders thinking on their own instead of just doing what they are told. When a rider walks into the show arena, they are on their own, they need to be able to troubleshoot and figure out what to do on their own.
As this is getting mildly long, I will cut to the last peeve I have: repetitive screaming. This goes back to telling you only what is going wrong. “more leg, more leg, more leg, more leg, etc. etc. etc.!!!!!!!!!!!”
I get I need to use my leg to turn, I heard you the first time, all of your screaming isn’t going to improve my leg, make it stronger, make the horse turn for me, or make the situation any better. I like to hear your shrill voice screaming over and over, so I think I’m going to screw my course and implement bad training for my horse so I can hear it over and over. NO. Not actually. You’re not being helpful.
Well there’s my rant.
Now, people need to talk!