The good the bad and the ugly. That is how I would basically describe most rider training sessions that I see these days, both live and online. I am going to explain the difference between the three categories, you might be able to spot the three types yourself as you read through and it calls to mind your own experiences of coaching, instructing or teaching riders in general.
This month I am focusing on riding instruction, as the covid problems continue it is more important than ever to keep yourself and your horses in good working order and nothing works better than riding your horses properly, for both horse and rider. I will make three key points for each category as I see it.
The good riding lesson. The holistic approach.
Number 1… lets start with the good session.
The riders position
A good riding learning session might focus on many aspects of riding, however, it is the job of the trainer to identify what, if anything, about the riders position needs to be corrected. All riders should be in balance and therefore it is essential for trainers to remind, and if necessary demonstrate, a good riding position that is balanced. So we have our first essential element of a good training session, positional correction, if necessary. If your trainer never corrects your position you are either perfect, which is uncommon or your trainer needs to do better. Therefore essentially a good training session will focus on BOTH the rider AND the horse, not just one or the other, this catches a lot of ordinary trainers out as they just cannot do it. All trainers should always be prepared to get on the horse too and demonstrate teaching points if possible. I see too many trainers not even carrying or wearing riding hats, they clearly have no intention of getting on the horse.
Safety and Time management, controlling the horse and rider fatigue.
In the initial phase of the session the trainer should weigh up what can be achieved and set about achieving it in the time available. Sessions should run to time, if they do not then the planning and preparation is poor. A good trainer will have a great working awareness of how long certain things will take and based upon that can set the plan for the session and take it along at a sensible and controlled pace for the rider. This will also ensure the horse or rider are not pushed to the point where fatigue can lead to mistakes and or accidents and injuries.
Every session must have clear aims, no matter how they are decided, ideally by the trainer, or the rider if they are knowledgable enough, or after a discussion between both. All riders should go into every session with a clear idea of what they are going to work on and should tell the trainer, however, all good trainers should ask too. This will give the trainer a clear understanding of how prepared the rider is for the session. Too many people make it up as they go along. So get some clear aims and your chances of success will rise considerably.
Now number 2… the bad session.
Pointless chit chat
A bad session will usually start with pointless chit chat, whilst a poor trainer wastes valuable time as they have not prepared properly, have no particular aims and just want to get through the session as quickly and as easily as possible. Of course courtesy is important and putting everybody at ease but there is no time to waste, especially if you are paying for it.
Important fundamental issues are not identified and improved.
No rider is perfect and there is always something to work on, so in a good session the things that can be developed and improved should be flagged up early in the session, if they are not then it is probably going to be a waste of time and money. Yes sessions can be enjoyable but good riding is not easy and if sessions are too cosy progress will be slow at best and non existent in most cases. A good trainer pushes their students and clients, no pain no gain as they say. So if you cruise through your sessions they are no good.
Rider and horse not matched
If a horse and rider combination is not right the session should be brought to a stop. A rider who is over horsed not just in terms of danger but also capability to achieve should not be expected to perform a miracle, therefore the sessions which become dangerous or upsetting if the rider cannot do what is being asked of them by the trainer or they feel unsafe. Riders should feel safe and that they can reach the goal set, even if it takes determination and effort, it is good to be stretched but bad to be overstretched, for both horse and rider.
Number 3…the ugly session.
Any session that does not cover the welfare of the horse is an ugly session in my book. This includes riders who are too heavy for the horse they are riding, as well as horses that are clearly unsound, it is the trainer’s responsibility to make sure the horse is presented in a sound condition, for all of the session aims. Hind leg lameness is being missed by a lot of riders and trainers these days, so make sure the horse is 100% sound.
Over use of gadgets
Gadget use is reaching epidemic proportions these days, particularly by young riders. Whilst in the right experienced hands they can be of value, at times, they are being over used by amateur trainers and riders and it is a sign of a very bad session in my opinion, which will lead to mistakes. You cannot cut corners with horses, so do not try to. Draw reins are one obvious example, amongst others. My old trainer said you can never make up for a riders incapability with the use of gadgets. I have seen riders at ALL levels failing in this department. A ‘win at all costs’ mentality is unacceptable these days. Gadgets which force horses into a certain shape are cruel, simple as that.
One of my pet hates is seeing a rider being conned and falsley complimented by a trainer when they are not actually doing well. Riders often fall for the flattery of poor trainers who tell them how wonderful they are going when they either cannot tell they are not or they are just taking the money and fooling people. A good trainer will explain why you have achieved not just flatter you with false praise, that’s plain ugly to me.