Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tough Cookies

I'm not ranter.  It's not my style.  But some things just annoy me, and I hope you'll forgive me this rant.


Here's a funny picture to make it worth your while.


In my years of riding, I have had the good fortune to ride with many different trainers, coaches, and instructors.  Some were good, some were meh, some were awful.  But I learned from them all.

The best ones were the tough ones.  The ones who didn't gloss over anything.  The ones who told me straight up that I was riding like shit and was going to ruin my horse if I didn't fix it.  They weren't always super effective in telling me what I needed to do to to fix it, but at least they weren't blowing smoke up my ass.

The worst trainers were the ones who coddled me.  They wanted paying clients, so they told me I was doing wonderfully.  And then, when I went out and rode like a drunken monkey in a show and got a deservedly low score, they'd tell me the judge was "biased" against me.  Ha!

But those coddling trainers always have a flock of followers, and I hear the word "biased" thrown around more and more.  I see the tough trainers, the ones who tell you the truth, bashed in forums all over the internet.  I hear them bashed in conversation with my peers in every day conversation.

Nobody wants to hear that they suck.  I get that.  But, sometimes you need to hear it.  It's not just you out there.  You're sitting on a living, feeling, thinking animal and if you're riding like a drunken monkey, that's not fair to your horse.  How do you think your horse feels when you're yanking his face off, slamming into his back, or riding him for an hour with his hocks trailing into the next zip code?

Suck it up, Buttercup!  Your ego has no place in the saddle.  Now, I'm not saying that you should put up with actual abuse.  But, if somebody tells you that your riding is bad or detrimental to your horse, you should probably give that some thought.  Don't just blindly say "Nuh-uh!  You're a big 'ole meanie!"

I'm not saying you should blindly follow their instructions, either.  Go out and get a second or third opinion.  But, please remember, if your second opinion tells you that you're riding perfectly and the only reason you're not doing well is because of a vast conspiracy against "correct riding" or "XYZ breed" or "XYZ riders", they may be blowing smoke up your ass.






24 comments:

  1. I'm with you. The lessons/clinic rides I remember the most are the ones with tough instructors. I remember one, in particular, who told me that if I wanted to ride my Friesian well I had to either get into full time training or get another partner. He was too difficult for me to train on my own. It was hard to hear but I knew it was truth and it started me on the path to finding him a home, in a full time barn, where he could excel. And put me on a more realistic path to find a good partner for me. Yeah, it stung hearing I wasn't effective with that horse but it was truth and it wasn't said with malice. I think, too, it personality type and goals play a part. I have a pretty thick skin and my goal is to ride well, to always improve, to score well at shows. Not everyone has the same goal -- some people just want to enjoy their horses where they are at -- and that is okay too.

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    1. Dressage is a partnership, and finding the right partner is so important! Both the human and the horse have their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses and if those traits conflict with each other you're both going to be miserable. It's so important for everyone to be realistic about these things. It's not a sign of failure, or a sign that you don't "really love" your horse. I've heard that gem thrown around, too: "Oh Noes! You got rid of your horse because he wasn't working out? You're the worst owner ever!!! You should have done XYZ to fix it!!!" Please, if you and the horse aren't a good fit, it's best to go your separate ways. You'll both be happier. Good for you for listening and moving on.

      Thick skin is a "must" for working with horses. Even if you manage to escape the trainers unscathed, horses have a real talent for adding insult to injury.

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  2. Agree so much with you, my trainer is tough on me, but that toughness has resorted in a better riding me. I seek out the tough clinicians because they know so much and I can learn so much. Having ridden with a tough instructor for most of my life when I rode with George Morris he didn't eviscerate me. He was tough and honest but he didn't work me up and down like he did others.

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    1. You have to be tough to ride. I've listened to trainers go on for 45 minutes in a gentle, "supportive" tone and nothing changes in the rider. But the trainers that yell and get a whip out get results, even if it comes at the expense of the "feelings" of the rider!

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  3. I also agree with this, I prefer an instructor where there are few times that 'good' is said. I want to know that if my instructor says that something is good or great, that it is time to celebrate. I don't want things glossed over.

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    1. My trainer is also an FEI judge. He yells scores at me as I'm riding. It's quite motivating!

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  4. I agree with you, but I know that I am a rider who needs a trainer that will boost my confidence. It's hard to find the right balance of boosting one's confidence while giving adequate instruction.

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    1. It is a hard balance to find, which is why I highly recommend shopping around and auditing. Many trainers are brilliant horseman, but stink as instructors or coaches. It's so important to find someone who speaks to you, but doesn't tolerate your BS! ;)

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  5. Haha. I love this. I always find it maddening when people (usually on the internet, but also IRL) talk about the evils of modern dressage and how we have to get back to classical riding---as they slam around on hopelessly lame horses that would be jabbed in the mouth if not for their bitless rig and ill fitting saddle.

    I'm not saying modern dressage is perfect, but HELLOO have the seen some of the shit people used to put on horses?

    Oh well. Always entertaining.

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    1. Haha! I own some of the things people used to put on horses! I have a collection of Spanish spade bits that are absolutely barbaric. The idea was that you weren't supposed to touch the reins, but I still wouldn't put them in a horse's mouth!

      I have friends who are old enough to have ridden with some of the "classical gurus", it wasn't all lightness and harmony. What the classical masters wrote about was the ideal, not the reality. Many of those "Masters" would have been considered quite evil by the modern DQ's standards...

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  6. (I'd love to have the link to whatever was the final straw that led to this excellent rant! ;D)

    My ego can take one for the team - no problem. My former trainer and the one bnt I've worked with weren't prone to sparing feelings. The horse always comes first.

    I'm at least as interested in how a trainer teaches, as what they teach. And I don't mean niceness, I mean effective teaching. A trainer needs to be equally as good at conveying information and assessing learning styles as they are in the saddle. It's a rare combo.

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    1. If only you were my neighbor.... We could sit around, drink cheap champagne and talk smack on everybody...

      Sadly, the catalyst for this rant was not an online discussion, but several real life ones over the course of many years. (Those online weirdos have to come from somewhere, right? I guess they come from Jersey)

      The effective teacher/trainer/coach combo is the trifecta. If you find one, sink your claws in and do not them go. (I find alcohol and food to be an effective bait for them. Feed them, give them good booze, and they are yours!)

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    2. LOVE mixing drinks and smack talk. I will get in touch when I make it further north than MD in the future!

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  7. The tough and fair trainer is good. I've ridden with many like that, so I've been fortunate. I've also run into a few "nasty" ones. Instead of disparaging my horse or me for lack of talent, teach me to be better. I'll never own a true Grand Prix champion, so I have to make do with the horse I have. A good instructor will always find a way to improve even the mediocre. He/she will find a way to teach within the limits of the student, push the student to that limit, and get results.

    It's fine to be honest about just how much talent a horse has or tell a rider a horse is not suitable for the rider's ambition, but not everyone can go out to buy a champion. An unsafe horse is another story, but otherwise, a really good trainer can teach valuable skills and help both horse and rider improve, regardless.

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    1. That was the best response I could come up with, and I thought about it for half an hour. But Jean said it all.

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  8. *applause* I agree 100% with everything you just said.

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  9. Ha, a friend and I just had this discussion. Our trainer is pretty blunt in her assessment of how your are riding (or sucking), but when you hear a 'good job' you know you earned it. That's how it should be. I hate hearing a trainer tell everyone how awesome they are, without at least some constructive criticism, even kids can handle it. I am tired of the even 8th place is a winner mentality...

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    1. To some extent, I think that if you get your ass out there and do it, then you're a winner. With all my limitations, every time I ride down centerline I've won. I've won the battle of just being able to get out there and do it. But, I also accept the criticism. And I try to work on it for next time. So, 8th place can be a winner... but only if you earned it!

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  10. I think one must be very careful in choosing a trainer. Hand-holders are not effective, but neither are tough nuts who lack the skill set and class to be educators. Some how people seem to think they can work from attitude alone, but this is no compensation for experience and compassion. My original trainer was VERY tough, rode with professionals and trained her horses beyond fourth level (although not always with happy partners). I only kept from her teachings what meshes with my own philosophy. My experience and knowledge now allows me to look back and see where her effectiveness was book-ended with unkindness (at times for me and at times for the horse). I would never go back to a teacher like that even if I were promised the Grand Prix level. Maybe that is the limit of my desire to progress, but really I think that life is just too short.

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  11. I'm just going through trying to get caught up on your blog and had to tell you how much I love this post! I don't think that people realize they won't get better with a trainer that kisses their ass. I agree that no one needs to put up with abuse, but I would take (and have taken) abuse over never improving.

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Thanks for your comments! I love them, even though I'm really bad at replying. (Sorry! I always say I'm going to work on that, but then I get distracted...... Hey is that a squirrel?)

I've turned off the word verification because it's hard to read and annoying. But, I'm also too lazy to approve comments, so now it's a free for all. Please note: If you spam my blog, I will spam you back. Literally. I will hunt you down and pelt you with canned meat until you beg for mercy. So, please, no spam!

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