Confessions of a Struggling Dressage Rider had a post recently about losing her cool during a lesson which sent me off thinking about the relationship between rider and trainer. I have definitely been in the situation where I have lost my cool. It is amazing how the act of being coached can sometimes set back your mind set. I sometimes feel almost childlike. This is a good thing when my inner child is full of curiosity and wonder at the new things I am learning, it is not so fun when my inner child is scared or worse indignant!
My first riding instructor when I was a child was a very gruff "old school" type. The best you would ever hear from her was "that wasn't Horrible..." Her criticism was not very constructive either. I would often hear her yelling over the wind in my ears "DON'T FALL OFF" Needless to say she made a lot of young pupils cry. I do not remember especially losing it in front of her though I do remember coming home in a rage about her and my mom saying "you could just quit riding?"
That was never an option!
Honestly though I remember feeling mostly apathetic towards her, and her yelling. I never learned much from her, only from her horses, but she did not really get to me like she go to some of the others.
My next trainer(s) was another story. They were a pair of dressage rider twin sisters. My father worked with one of them and they saw my picture on the wall and asked if I wanted lessons... for free. My father jumped on the chance to get me free riding time and I jumped on the chance to learn something new.
They were quite different. They took the zen-master approach. No yelling but no praise just constant criticisms and corrections. They took my stirrups away and locked them in their truck for months. When I eventually got my stirrups back they tied my reins on the neck and I had to learn how to ride in a circle without reins before I would get my next lesson. I practiced in a large pasture so I spent a good deal of time in the woods before I managed to ride my circle. This brings me to my point about the extreme behavior that trainers can bring out of a person. They did not yell though they were brutally honest and still pretty gruff. I found my self filled with emotions sometimes during lessons and I was bewildered about where they came from and why? I didn't have that problem with the other trainer. Was it that these women were actually criticizing not just yelling, was it because I was growing up???
I was at a show and about to go in the ring for an over fences class. I had been warming up off and on and watching the competition. One of the twin trainers comes up and tells me to go warm up over fences. Instead of telling her I already had warmed up I go to pop my mare over the small vertical in the warm up arena just to appease. She chastises me harshly for being so careless to start to jump with out a warm up and I burst into tears. Both of us just sit there in stunned silence. I could not believe I was crying and she could not either! We never really recovered after that. I still don't know why that happened, or what it means. I was 14 at the time so still young but even now I can feel pretty overwhelmed during instruction. Why is that?
My current trainer is amazing. She really breaks things down and explains why things work. Two things I need in order to learn. She is also very positive. Quick to tell me when I do things right and open minded about my positive reinforcement training. I would consider us friends as well. We talk on the phone, and go out for coffee. We have still had a few humorous moments.
One time in particular that really sticks out was a lesson early on when Bodhi was very green, during one of our first dozen rides with the bit and out of the round pen. He was having a bad day. Being very fussy and nervous and I was getting frustrated. That was when Bodhi started stopping and standing there refusing to move. I figured he had to poop. As a baby it sometimes took him a while to actually get his business going. Also when Bodhi gets afraid or nervous he poops a lot. (Does this happen to anyone else by the way???
)My trainer tells me to get after him for his stubbornness and I tell her "No, he has to go!" She retorts that I am making excuses for him and that I need to be more firm.
"No he really has to go!"
"NO he is being difficult. Kick him. He has your number."
"No, I don't think so..." I can tell she is getting frustrated with me and she thinks I am being difficult. I feel horrible.
"Molly trust me on this one, he is being a brat. It should not take this long!"
"No I think your wrong, his back feels funny.. he has to go!" I kick him anyways and he takes a few tentative steps and then stops again. Before my trainer can say anything else he finally does his business. The tension is so high between us that we both start laughing hysterically.
It is amazing what lessons bring out of us. Trainers have a very special place in peoples psyche I think. Is it because they are telling us what to do? Is is because we are so used to having the relationship between just the two of us that adding a third party is weird? Is it just because of the fact they are challenging us and putting us out of our comfort zones? I think there is this special balance between trust and discipline without giving away your individual problem solving skills and integrity when riding with an instructor and maintaining that balance can get a little hairy.
So tell me folks what are your experiences with riding lessons? Have you lost your cool? Have you had some really bad trainers? Good ones? How are your relationships with them?