Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone: Taking a Lesson with a New/ Different Clinician or Trainer

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By Patty Weston

This article won the 2018 GMO Newsletter Award in general-interest for GMOs with 75-174 members. It first appeared in the February 2018 “The LVDA CenterLine” Newsletter

If you’re a new rider or one who doesn’t normally take lessons with anyone except your local trainer, participating in a clinic with someone new or (gasp!) a Big Name Trainer can be a nerve wracking experience – but it doesn’t have to be!  There are several things you can do and think about to prepare yourself and to ensure you have the best experience possible.

  1. Talk to other riders who have ridden with this person previously.  Be smart, pick riders of similar ability and riding styles to yours so that you can get applicable feedback!
  2. Audit the first time; this way you can watch lots of different riders and get a feel of the instructors teaching style.
  3. Read up! Chances are, depending on who the instructor is, there’s information out there about them – either people who have ridden with them or articles about them or perhaps articles they have written themselves. You can never learn too much.
  4. Youtube!!! That’s right – chances are,there’s a video out there of someone taking a lesson with this person, or a seminar or the person riding themselves.
  5. Talk to your trainer!  He/she will know if you are ready to spread your wings if you haven’t already. They might even be able to give you some insight to the instructor.  If your trainer is familiar with the clinician, you and your trainer can decide together if this is something that would benefit you.

Once you’ve decided to take the leap, there are a few things you need to remember and think about as you ride to get the best result.

  1. Be HONEST about your riding ability and what you are doing at home.  Remember, just because you can do a leg yield doesn’t mean you’re competing at 1st level, and a horse that can do flying changes doesn’t mean he’s going 3rd level, either. When you tell a clinician you and your horse are doing “blank” level, remember that you should already be SCHOOLING the next level and proficient at the highest test of the level at which you are competing.  If you are NOT doing so, try to explain “I am currently showing at “blank level” and schooling some “blank” movements.  Then go on to tell them some things that you would like to work on.
  2. Get there EARLY on the day of the clinic if at all possible.  This way you can WATCH a couple of lessons before your turn. You can observe some of what this instructor focuses on and gets    particular about (they all have their things) before your ride so you don’t waste time going over something you could have avoided had you known and/or should have/shouldn’t have done. The Lendon Gray clinic was an example of one particular instance I remember. I watched 4 lessons  before mine and watched her get more and more irritated as the lessons went on. Every rider “nattered” at their horses in the beginning of their lesson while they were supposed to be standing still and talking to her.  You can bet when it was my turn I DROPPED my reins to the buckle and sat very relaxed while I chatted with her.  My horse didn’t move a muscle (Well, it WAS Pablo so naturally he was posing for photographs…LOL).  Seriously though – I avoided the 10 minute lecture the others received because I paid attention and learned something that was really easy to fix. It saved me a few precious moments of time so I could work on something FUN!
  3. Do not be surprised when/if the instructor tells you to do something completely different or opposite of what your trainer tells you. You’re here for different ways to get to the perfect trot, aren’t you??? That’s what you are here for, isn’t it???  NEVER say “but my trainer says…..”  That never goes well and it’s rude!  I always try to keep saying in my head “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Lots of times, if you open yourself up to new things, you get more/different/better tools than you thought you could. Remember, sometimes your trainer can miss things because they “know” you so well and it’s so easy to “accept” something or stop seeing it. This instructor sees you and your horse in the moment – – and they might be all over something that comes out of left field for you. EMBRACE IT!
  4. Do NOT be offended if you never see or get to work on what you wanted.  Sometimes it doesn’t work that way. If you wanted to work on canter departs and the clinician sees a problem with your hands or your horse is bent the wrong way or unbalanced – that will need to be addressed first and you may never get to those canter departs you so desperately wanted to work on.
  5. Ask Questions!!!  If you need clarification on an exercise you’re supposed to be doing or something they have said confuses you, it’s better to stop and have a conversation then to fall into the trap of getting frustrated and losing focus on your riding because you don’t understand something. 
  6. Remember, just because things didn’t go as you planned does NOT mean you didn’t have a good experience.   You are there to LEARN and struggling with a new movement or getting your horse to go correctly is part of the process, That’s the whole purpose of taking a lesson with someone new – to get a different perspective and to find different ways to get things done.

Have a great clinic and a wonderful season!

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