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My Zimbio

The BIG question: Is your trainer right for you and your horse?
Equine Training
Thursday 15th of April 2010 04:02 AM

 
Article Submission By: Samantha Harvey & The Equestrian Center, LLC
 
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About Me

Refining my level of awareness, assessment, sensitivity, and timing has allowed me to find within myself and to also offer to others the tools and aids to clearly communicate with their horse to build a quality partnership whose foundation is built on respect and trust.

As the horses begin to shed their winter coats with spring shining its sunny rays down on us, the warmth tends to give fellow horsemen the extra boost to get motivated for the upcoming riding season. I find myself inundated with “Ask the Trainer” questions, calls and emails from riders deciding to “finally” get back into the swing of things, and both horses and owners finding themselves having to think, communicate and learn the ongoing process of quality horsemanship.


Having come from the “mainstream” riding world many years ago- it is sometimes hard for me “keep it in perspective” of what the general public experiences in “regular lessons.” For me personally as an instructor I feel it is my job to assess where the horse and person/rider are HERE and NOW on this specific day, rather than assuming that we’ll “pick up” where we left off in the last session.


I’m always amazed as I hear stories of the services people actually pay for and the lack of manners and respect both them and their horse are treated with. And yet, if the student doesn’t know otherwise, they keep going back.


For me, I feel that my student must have a trust and respect for what I’m offering them in order for them to truly be mentally available and get the most out of what I’m trying to share. This is no different than how I see people working with horses, the same trust and clarity must be present so that “growth” is possible.


I overheard a few other “instructors” talking about how “draining” it can be to teach. For me, I find an excitement that comes from me having to assess, think and communicate in “real time” in order to offer the student prudent information. They then have to translate from their brain, to their body, to their horse in order to influence a desired change.


Most scenarios in today’s society allow for a delay, gap or lacking in quality in communication and clarity. With horses, my philosophy is to ride or “work with them” EVERY SINGLE STEP. And trust me; there are a lot “steps” (literally) in a ride.


Many students don’t even realize the “process” it takes for me to subtly create a working relationship with them in order for them to literally understand what it is that I’m saying. Just as with a horse, if the person is unwilling to hear and understand the concepts I am offering, then what is the point of teaching them?


I never have a predetermined “we must accomplish this” agenda before we begin a session. Wherever the student is mentally and emotionally on that give day will cause me to gauge how much information I can offer and how well they can digest and experiment with it and their horse.


My main goal is fun and safety. The more the student can participate, the more I can offer. Too many times though even the word “lesson” has a negative association because of the one-way communication between instructor and horse. I can’t recall how many occasions I’ve sat on the fence watching lesson after lesson with the instructor literally repeating the same five sayings, (“head up, heals down, more, push him, good, etc.”) and always responding AFTER the student performed.


The other part that I’m always shocked at is how much the horse is IGNORED during the session. I know that sounds funny but really, they tend to be when the instructor’s goals are so “set in stone” that there is no consideration that their lesson agenda may not be appropriate for that horse at that moment in time.


I think there is a lot of pressure that people feel from a society full of “instant gratification” and therefore feel that they must offer a gigantic change with each lesson. But really, if the goal of the rider/student is quality, what’s the rush? We spend a minimum of 12 years between elementary, middle and high school on just the basics of educating, never mind all of the time the parents at home are continuously teaching “real life” information. Why would we expect both us and our horses to “know it all” within a short period of time? The famous “X” days of training, starting a horse, etc. always makes me smile. I can’t imagine someone enrolling their child in school and being told that in “X” number of days, their child will know this, this and that. The fun and pleasure I get from working with both students and horses is the continual ongoing process and journey, not just the end result.


I truly believe more students would enjoy the “process” of educating themselves and their horse if they understand what, how and why they were doing what they were doing. But too many times they have become “handicapped” for relying (literally) on the instructor for every part of the ride and have lost all ability to think their way through a ride.


So the next time you are about to take a lesson, audit a clinic, read an article in a magazine or watch a “quick fix” DVD on horse training, take a moment to really assess the quality of the information being provided. Is it clear? Is it appropriate for where you and your horse are at in your learning process? Did you both come away with a warm “fuzzy feel” after the experience or was there a “blank” feeling of “never going to get it?”


Even if you don’t have years of experience with horses, trust your gut. Take care of you and your horse- he’s relying on you to make the best decisions for the BOTH of you! It’s okay to try different instructors, ideas or philosophies to experiment with. Your top priority is to do what is best for you and your horse, even if it means stepping away from that “world class trainer” or proven Olympian- trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve done it, and my horses are better for having had the ability to say “no.”


Good luck, Sam


Response 1
Friday 16th of April 2010 06:41:12 AM
Submitted by: Geoffrey Pannell from: Inman Valley Australia
Well said Sam!! I too, wonder how these coaches stay in the business when they treat their pupils sub-humanly. My philosophy is a mirror image of what you have so eloquently written here. Cheers Geoffrey http://www.lanyonridingcentre.com/
 
Response 2
Saturday 17th of April 2010 09:00:25 AM
Submitted by: slc2's
There is no one answer and there is no one right solution. A lot of times, in my experience, riders don't like 'the truth'. A top trainer tells them flat out the truth, and they don't want to hear it - that to reach the goals they've stated, even just to improve their performance at the level they're at, they've got to work harder, and expect more of themselves and their horse - a quicker response to the aids, more consistent obedience, better fitness and self control of their body, their emotions... Advanced competitive trainers with legitimate knowledge and experience bringing horses and students up the levels, have a great deal to offer. Watching one of them bring a horse along in dressage is a very, very different thing. Their timing and clarity in teaching more advanced work simply is better than less experienced riders/trainers. Many of them are very sensible and practical. They may have worked with some of the top masters in the history of the sport, or even many of them. They learn an economical, efficient way to advance horses, a way that minimizes miles, detours and mistakes and drilling. They can learn to adjust their methods to different types of horses, and to be very sensible about what horses are selected to move up the levels and which should not be required to do so. Some top riders simply aren't good instructors or trainers. They've ridden trained upper level horses that they have purchased trained to Grand Prix. It is wrong to look down on that and say it takes no skill - it is phenomenally difficult and takes a great deal of skill, a very specialized skill. But it is a very different skill from bringing students along on less perfect, less trained horses. Other trainer/riders simply aren't good with people. Horses are far easier to train than people, and some riders simply aren't good at communicating with and teaching people. Some are just a little greedy and dishonest. You may find yourself buying a horse their friend in the next county 'churned' to them for a quick sale...or you may find your horse winds up being a vehicle for the trainer to publicize himself. You may find your horse doesn't actually get ridden when you're not watching, but are paying for it to be ridden, or that it is ridden by a student when you're paying for full time training. Sure, there are all sorts of things that MAY happen. SOME upper level riders don't make good trainers or instructors. SOME are in too much of a rush and push horses too hard and too fast. Some trainer/riders simply don't have the experience, the seasoning, the mileage. They may have won some very prestigious medals, but that still doesn't mean they have the seasoning, the mileage, to always know what is best for you to do. A trainer with experience at the top levels of sport, with the physical ability and feel and experience and knowledge, the ability to make good recommendations for the right reasons, think about the horse first always, and communicate honestly and in a straightforward way, to say 'I'm sorry' when they make a mistake(because even the best make a mistake...)....this is a very rare and special person and a gem.
 
Response 3
Monday 3rd of May 2010 07:48:38 AM
Submitted by: Meghan Namaste
Bravo! I am "trainerless" at the moment because the only trainer in the area that I trust cannot come to my chosen boarding stable. I tried out another trainer who didn't listen to anything I told her about my horse; she just went on with her agenda without paying attention to what my horse was telling us. She pressured me into doing what I knew was wrong for my horse, and it not only set our training back, it contributed to my mare having a major arthritis flare-up. I actually think working on my own has made me a better rider and trainer. I may not fit into someone else's definition of perfection, but ultimately I'm training my horse for me, and I know the way that works best for both of us. Another plus is that I can put the money I could be spending on lessons into more important things, like supplements and chiropractic adjustments for my high-maintenence horse!

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