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Discussion on Picking out an Instructor

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Username: silly

Post Number: 26
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 - 1:51 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello all. I could use some advice in picking out an instructor. A little background: I shared a TB with a friend for about 2 years, boarded him at a local barn, took dressage lessons with a SUPER tough trainer -got to the point where I wasn't enjoying myself anymore so started hacking trails for fun. After retiring TB, was turned on to Morgans and I started saddleseat and driving lessons. I LOVED my instructor (she's a very accomplished trainer/breeder)but she's too far to travel and saddleseat morgans are too exclusive in this area, they never show local. So 2 years and 1 baby later, I started training under a young lady, who is an awesome rider/jumper. I've been riding her school pony, whom I adore, but here's the catch: I just don't feel like I'm progressing at all with this trainer. I feel like she's keeping me at a lower level just to maintain some kind of hierarchy. Her attitude is "My way is right and everyone elses is wrong." Is there a right and a wrong way?
There are several hunter jumper barns that I can try but I'm not confident that the instruction there will be any better. How can I tell if it's good instruction or whether they are trying to keep me "in their pocket"?
I do plan on horses in my future, I have 14 acres that I'm going to build on over the next 5 years. In the mean time, it is absolutely essential that I learn as much as I possibly can, both in and out of the saddle, so that I can maintain the health of my horses in the future.
Sorry if this has been long-winded, and thanks in advance for any advice!
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Fran C
Username: canter

Post Number: 1749
Registered: 1-2000
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 - 2:57 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

A couple of ideas:

~Go to those hunter/jumper barns and simply observe a few lessons. Are the trainers open to questions and suggestions from their student? Do the horses look happy and healthy? What are the accomplishments of the students (and I don't just mean in the show ring. For example, has a fearful adult had her confidence built up to, for example, canter). Does the barn host clinics with outside experts or encourage students to participate in outside clinics? Is the instructor beating up on students or offering quiet encouragement? Does the instructor shout instructions that a student doesn't understand and that the instructor is incapable of explaining? (I remember starting out and getting HALF HALT! shouted at me many times, but no one could explain exactly what is was, why I should do it and how it should be done!)

~Ask about the instructors qualifications. Are they members of any groups? Are they certified by any organizations? Has the instructor competed successfully at a particular level?

~Does the instructor have a "game plan" for each they actually follow the plan (while being flexible) and chart progress?

~Can you volunteer/work at each barn for a time to get the feel for the atmosphere there and to learn more about horse care? Are they truly "horsepeople" or simply trying to get winning rounds in a showring without regards to the students or horses needs?

~Is there an open atmosphere of give and take? Any trainer that claims "their way is right and everyone else is wrong" is clearly not good trainer or horse person. There are many, many ways to accomplish one's riding goals.

Hope this helps and good luck!
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Terrie Douglas
Username: terrido

Post Number: 118
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 - 4:29 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I agree with much of this actually. The first point especially.

You should interview your prospective trainer/instructor! haha But before then you should go watch a bunch of lessons, and speak with students. Ask a bzillion questions.

In your observations, absolutely pay attention the the overall style. Is this person's teaching style one you feel you can work with and learn with?? If it feels off at all, walk, no run away quickly. LOL I don't know about you but anyone that yells, belittles or insults is not someone I want to work with.

Everyone has their own preferences for what they think they may want from lessons, a trainer. if you haven't thought about this, it may be a good beginning. Doesn't have to be much of a "list", but you should have something to use a a bit of a guide as you research local trainers. May be as basic as what you'd like to get from instruction, and then whether you feel this person would be able to help you attain that.

If unsure ride a few lessons and then make up your mind.

Personally, and this is very personal when making this kind of choice, but I prefer a trainer that will be positive in the work. I want to see horses that want to e with the trainer, I want to see huge smiles on the student faces at the end of the lesson. I want to hear explanation of theory behind everything asked, I want to hear things explained (how to do it) when the rider isn't sure, and I certainly want to hear interaction between trainer and student during the lesson. I want to hear the trainer ask questions and the student answer.

I do not want to hear yelling, insults, etc. I don't want to hear the same words or phrases over and over without further explanation or any attempt to say it differently so the student can better understand.

There are trainers that can ride themselves extremely well, but cannot teach worth a hill of beans! haha I would much rather work with someone that is capable of teaching even if they may not be a GP or champion rider themselves. Personally showing isn't a goal for me, so I could care less what their show record may be, I care more about heir style of teaching, their delivery; how much they really care about what they are doing and the importance of the info being shared.

Most trainers will claim it's their way or the highway. :-) It depends on the overall attitude with it. Those that aren't open to learning, yes run away from. But those that say upfront they would like you to work exclusively with them and follow their way only because.... with an explanation, then go for it. ;] Often when beginning it's best to just follow one path until that path is well understood, then branch out to another path. It helps to stay focused, I think.

If however you find that rare trainer that when you mention another way of doing something they give you rational theory, a good thorough explanation of why it may not be the best way... stay with that person for a while. A trainer that fully understands and focuses on how a horse moves, the biomechanics, and helps you achieve the best possible movement for that horse's conformation, will be one that can help you progress the best most likely. Anyway my point is that there are ways to say "my way is more correct than most everyone else's" and can back it up with correct and sound theory, and put it into practice, then.... well then it's not so bad. Again it's the overall attitude carried with the delivery I think. :-) I say this because it's exactly how my trainer is, his way he feels is the best way which is why he does it! But he can look at another horse and rider and point out the differences between his way and another method; he is more than willing when asked about something that's not his way to help you do it that way on the horse and then have you do his way so you can feel and notice the differences. While doing so he explains the biomechanics involved and theory behind his method. This is why I adore working with him, everything you are asked to do is thoroughly explained so you understand the WHY behind it. He is also a rare one that is really able to teach a rider what it feels like when it's correct, whatever it is. Well for me anyway, and most of his students have said the same thing. This is one of the things we all like most about working with him. The three min things, first his ability to teach what it's supposed to feel like when it is correct; second that every lesson ends on positive progress for THAT day; third that we always have a huge smile and a huge feeling of accomplishment at the end of every lesson. I can say that after 8 years of riding lessons with him, I am a newbie student of his too!
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Username: shanson

Post Number: 139
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 - 5:45 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Good advice in this article from Dressage Today:

- /

- There was a really good article on this subject by Walter Zettl in the Sept. 2008 issue of Dressage Today.

Once I've found an instructor that interests me, I usually do one lesson to see how we get along. I can usually tell within a lesson or two whether it's a good fit.

Have fun! ...sharon
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Diane E.
Username: scooter

Post Number: 3177
Registered: 9-2000
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 - 6:02 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Do you think sometimes trainers just "forget" what it was like to be starting their career in horses?

When I took lessons from a WONDERFUL trainer he was very good at telling me what to do...but I had no idea what he was talking about. He would try to explain to me and it just wouldn't sink in.

One day I asked him why he talks over everybodys head (we were friends also) and talked forever about horses. Anyway he said what do you mean. I told him the truth and said he comes off as an arrogant know it all and many of his students had commented to me about that. They were having a hard time "understanding" his instruction.

The look that came over his face was priceless.
He answered my question truthfully, he said I have to be arrogant it is the only thing that makes me ride some of these I can see that! He did ride some nut cases.
Finally he said I understand now, he said he had always wanted to fly a plane and one of our boarders was a pilot. One Sun. afternoon the pilot took him flying in his plane.

Mike(the pilot) let him take the wheel so to speak and was telling him what to terms he didn't understand! He said he was getting frustrated because Mike had been a pilot for so long he just assumed everyone new "pilot" lingo.

He had a light bulb moment then and said that's what I'm doing without even realizing it in my lessons!

I said YUP, and he got so much better at giving lessons it was a true turn around.....He did remain arrogant, but that's OK because he needed that! and had earned it to a degree.

So maybe you need to approach your instructor and tell her your frustrations....Can't hurt...might help.
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Username: silly

Post Number: 27
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 - 7:22 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

That is a GREAT article. Your suggestions and personal experiences have really put things in perspective for me.
When I'm at the current barn, I'm there for several hours to watch the other lessons, but ofcourse there are her Blackberry interruptions and conversations with others during her lessons and the know-it-all attitude. That alone should have sent me packing. It's just not an educated/enjoyable experience for me anymore. Most of her students are children/teens, only a couple of adults (I'm 36). Maybe I need to find a trainer who is geared more towards adults.
So, my plan will be to visit a few barns, sit in on their lessons, and watch how they handle their students and horses. I love the idea of creating a plan and charting progress!
I might also try to talk to her, but I have a feeling I know how that will go.
Your input has helped tremendously, I can't thank you enough.
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