Ride WIth Confidence: Part 9 - Finding the Right Support

For most of us riding is easier if we have a coach or instructor to support and help us. It is always good to have another set of eyes on the ground and someone to offer encouragement to help us get over the emotional bumps.

There are a great many good riders in the equestrian world who teach. Being a good rider though does not always make someone a good teacher. Riding and teaching are two completely different skill sets. The ability to get on an athletic, energetic horse and win competitions does not necessarily make someone empathetic to a nervous beginner rider.

I have found from my own riding experience and from teaching adult riders that most of us bring company along with us when we ride. I am never alone in the saddle; I bring my children, my husband, my clients, my business and anyone or anything who has had a recent impact on my life. It is almost impossible some days to leave the stress of our lives at the arena door. That stress can have a huge impact on our confidence.

We need an instructor who can understand when we are having a bad day. When I come into a lesson with my shoulders already up around my ears it is not a good day to push the limits really hard. I remember the last formal lesson I had two years ago. I came in tense and stressed about something that had happened at work. My horse immediately picked up on that tension and reacted to it but my coach insisted that we try to work through our issues. It was such a terrible experience that I didn't get on my horse again for several months.

I am not saying that we shouldn't stretch beyond our comfort zone. That is where learning and progress occur - out on that edge. A good coach encourages you to reach beyond your perceived limits without scaring the daylights out of you. They understand when you are having good days and bad days. They respect you and your knowledge of yourself. They give you real and practical tools and techniques to help you improve. They break down the skills into small achievable steps. They can and will answer all your questions. They understand that the teacher and student must share ideas, set goals and problem solve together as partners. They listen instead of dictating and support instead of browbeating.

Choosing a coach is a process. It is important to remember that you are the client and that your prospective coach is providing a service. You are not auditioning for them. Schedule some time for a discussion with them to discuss your goals and issues. Watch them teach some lessons. Take a trial lesson. Trust your instincts. If you don't feel comfortable, if you can't trust that they will listen to you and support you, then they are not the coach for you.

I have compiled a somewhat "tongue in cheek" list of completely ridiculous and useless advice I have been given over the years in my riding lessons:

Relax - you will be fine
There is no reason for you to be nervous
Don't think about it - just do it
You need to calm down
Just take charge of your horse
Just do as I say and it will all work out
You really just need to get over this

If any of these statements pop up as your are auditioning a new instructor or you are hearing them in your current lessons then maybe it is time to move on!

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