PiccoloPony brought up something interesting, which ties in with thoughts I’ve been having about mentorship, learning, and training lately.
How does your current (or past) trainer manage the partnership/relationship between you and your horse(s)?
B has been my only serious riding trainer, though I’ve had many mentors, coaches, and teachers in my life. I’ve been her student on a lesson horse, a 4-day-a-week lease, and Murray (who was a care-lease-to-ownership situation, if you’re not all caught up on that). And I’ve been treated differently on the different horses.
On Mighty, my lessons were great, but limited by my skill. I will admit I don’t remember a ton about these lessons. I know we did a lot of coursing but no terribly challenging questions, and didn’t really jump above 2’6″. B didn’t focus on my position overmuch, though obviously I got a lot more comments on it than I do now because I was a lot more green. She was always pleasant and encouraging. Mighty challenged me a lot but he was a really well known challenge for B. She knew his tricks inside and out, and had assessed me as a rider pretty quickly so could tell exactly what I needed to do.
When I moved to leasing Quincy four days a week, with at least a lesson each week, my relationship with B changed. This was at least in part because Quincy was her step-daughter’s horse, so there was a stronger tie there. Quincy was also a particular dressage challenge because he was very upside down and had a lot of muscles that said he wouldn’t go that way. He wasn’t the best horse for me to learn dressage on, but she didn’t have any dressage schoolmasters at the time (moved facilities, downsized the herd, etc.). But with that came a LOT of personal encouragement and demonstrations to help me understand concepts I did not understand. And I continued to not understand them, but not for lack of trying on B’s part. I was simply too green to horses still.
I wrote a lot of words that didn’t really answer the main question here. But in essence, both of these horses were reasonable, steady guys and when something was going wrong it was very, very, very apparent that I was the one making the mistake(s)(s)(s). B was always kind and reasonable telling me about these mistakes, and I think she appreciated my ability to make fun of myself and realize that I still wasn’t sitting the fuck up even after she’d been yelling it at me all the way to a fence.
at least I kinda got my leg under myself in that time
Enter Murray stage left.
From the beginning B warned me that Murray would be a) slow, b) frustrating, and c) potentially really fun. She always emphasized how important it was to keep a good attitude with him and end things on a positive note. She’s come running across the arena when I’ve been clearly having an absolutely terrible ride, to calm me down and do what needed to be done to either get me back in the saddle or diffuse the situation. I can always trust B to encourage me back towards a middle-ground with Murray: if I’m being overly harsh and crazy, she’ll point me back towards gentle. If I’m being too soft, she’ll remind me to buck up.
Murray also has a special place in B’s heart since she found him and took a chance on him when he was 2 and basically still a foal on big horse legs. I know that helps her see through the ridiculousness. I also think/know that as a pair we make her laugh during lessons (especially jump lessons), which I know as a teacher is WAY more fun than lessons where you don’t laugh.
It sounds a little odd, and sappier that I’m used to being, but I can tell that B wants to train me and Murray to be better together. (In part, because she knows she’d have a hell of a time selling him for me if I got sick of him! hah!) It’s not just about getting this movement down or that exercise completed, but actually improving the way the two of us communicate. She reminds me a lot of where we came from and how much progress we’ve made, even if Murray is still secretly a lazy, naughty, Thellwell pony in disguise.