When I was younger, I had two riding instructors that were like day and night.
One was nicknamed “The Whip,” and she liked to bark and yell at me constantly.
She would shout at me from across the arena, where she’d stand sipping her coffee, nitpicking every little thing I did or didn’t do.
I always felt like I was walking on eggshells when I rode with her.
I had ended up in her class because when I moved from ponies to horses at around 12 years old, so that I could be in the more advanced adult classes and learn more.
At first, I thought she would push me harder and make me a better rider. The adults in the class didn’t seem to mind her, and generally liked her way of communicating.
But soon, I was dreading my lessons with her.
I felt like I was never doing anything right, and her constant yelling made me nervous and scared.
My other instructor was more quiet and empathetic.
She took the time to explain things to me and spoke about what my strengths were.
She gave me ideas for how to work on my weaknesses and always made me feel like I was capable of achieving my goals.
She was patient with me and took the time to help me understand the mechanics of riding.
She never raised her voice or made me feel small.
She gave me a lot of agency and helped place a lot of the responsibility of my own improvement on my shoulders.
Eventually, I made the decision to stop riding with The Whip and solely ride with the quieter instructor.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I found that I was enjoying riding more, and I was progressing faster than I ever had before.
I was no longer scared to make mistakes, and I felt like I was really improving my skills.
And it was because of the recommendations of the better instructor that I eventually became a groom and got my own horse to care for.
It’s so important to find an instructor or coach who is a good fit for you.
Someone who motivates you and pushes you, but also someone who is patient and empathetic.
Riding is a sport that requires a lot of trust and teamwork between the rider and the horse, and having an instructor who can foster that relationship is crucial.
Not to mention that the horses felt a lot more relaxed with my preferred instructor.
Do you think that your horse knows the difference between your instructor yelling at you or yelling at the horse?
Most likely not because it’s hard to distinguish between things like that when your prefrontal cortex isn’t designed for the kind of language humans use.
Even if your horse is aware of the distinction of the instructor yelling at you and not the horse, the way that feedback and coaching is affecting you and your body, your cognitive state, has a direct affect on your horse.
Because chances are, if someone’s yelling at you, you’re not relaxed, focused or making the best decisions.
You’re more likely to be stiff and tense, terse in your communication.
Your brain knows that you’re in a threatening situation and will flood your system with adrenaline and cortisol.
Is that how you want your riding lessons to be? Is that how you want your horse to experience you?
Riding is not just about getting on a horse and riding around.
It’s a complex sport that requires a lot of skill, knowledge, and technique.
Having an experienced instructor or coach who can guide you through the learning process can help you improve your riding and achieve your goals.
Having right coach makes all the difference in your performance and enjoyment.
Here are some of the ways that having the right instructor or coach can help you improve your performance:
- Technical expertise: Riding requires a lot of technical skills, such as balance, control, and coordination. A good instructor or coach will have a deep understanding of these skills and will be able to teach you the proper techniques to improve your riding.
- Safety: Riding can be a dangerous sport, and having an experienced instructor or coach can help ensure your safety. They will be able to teach you how to ride safely and provide guidance on how to handle difficult situations. This includes teaching you how to be open and relaxed, attentive to your horse and your surroundings, not closed off and focused solely on escape (aggressive instructors can easily trigger your fight-or-flight mechanism).
- Goal setting: Setting goals is important for any athlete, and horse riding is no exception. A good instructor or coach will be able to help you set realistic goals and work with you to achieve them – even if they’re small, personal goals.
- Motivation: Riding can be challenging, and it is important to stay motivated to keep improving. A good instructor or coach will be able to provide the motivation you need to keep going and push yourself to achieve your goals.
- Feedback: Getting feedback on your riding is essential for improvement. A good instructor or coach will be able to provide constructive feedback on your riding and help you identify areas for improvement.
- Knowledge of horses: Riding is not just about the rider, it’s also about the horse. A good instructor or coach will have a deep understanding of horses and their behaviour, and will be able to teach you how to work with and communicate more clearly with your horse to achieve deeper collaboration.
If you are serious about improving your riding, finding the right instructor or coach is essential.
Trying out different teachers from time to time, such as joining weekend clinics, is an excellent way to also challenge yourself as a learner and rider, find instruction under people with different teaching styles, and allow you and your horse new experiences for growth.
So, take the time to research and find someone who can help you achieve your goals and become a better rider.