By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
Have you been taking lessons for a few months and do not seem to be making progress? Do you wonder if you lack the ability? Have you thought about buying another horse that seems better? Do you think your trainer is boring to listen to?
As riders we often give over control of our learning process to the instructor. Sometimes we say “Fix my riding problems” or “Get my horse to respond better to me.” We need to take control of our learning.
Let me repeat what I just wrote – WE NEED TO TAKE CONTROL OF OUR LEARNING. Now I am not saying argue with your trainer every minute of the lesson…that never turns out well. What I am saying is that if you want to improve as a rider – come prepared to learn.
1) Have goals… Monthly and quarterly goals. Share with your instructor the goals you want to achieve. He or she can then work to craft a learning plan with you that will help you achieve those goals. A good conversation with your instructor is the key to building a good learning environment. But remember – a good conversation needs both you and the instructor to listen and hear what each of you is saying.
2) Do your homework between lessons. I remember back to the days when I was learning to play the piano and guitar. Mr. O’Brien would give me homework and I would practice…the day before the next lesson. With a twinkle in his eye, Mr. O’Brien would ask me how often I had practiced. As a 12 year-old I tried the “I practiced lots” answer. He knew and the one and only time I tried that – I knew that I was dancing a line between truth and a lie.Instructors know immediately if you have practiced. So be honest to yourself and your horse and if you have made a commitment to learning – do your homework. If you have not done your homework – let your Instructor know. Good instructors can help you get motivated in your homework and learning – because good instructors are also good coaches, cheerleaders, motivators, and mentors who want to see you and your horse succeed.
3) Eat before the lesson…even just a snack. In the last-minute dash to get your horse loaded and to the lesson or get ready for the instructor to show up you decide to skip breakfast or lunch (or both). You will have a big dinner after your lesson or the clinic. BAD IDEA. When you are hungry you will not learn as well. (Note: the large fancy coffee drink before a lesson will give you that sugar high stamina…but not the energy you need to learn). Have some fruit or nuts or something that your stomach can work on during the lesson.One of the instructors I ride and co-teach with each year is Connie Sparks in Montana. Connie feeds the herd of horses and youth before each clinic. Eggs and French toast is often on the menu – you know why – because Connie is a good instructor who knows the value of getting food into young (and old) bodies so that learning can happen.
4) Keep a journal and lesson log. Write down your thoughts after each lesson or clinic. When you take the time to keep track of your progress it is much easier for you to see your successes. In the journal or lesson log you can write questions regarding your homework…then it helps you connect to doing your homework and know what you want to ask your trainer at the next lesson.
5) Recap after the lesson to make sure you know your homework. Sit down after the lesson or clinic and talk with your instructor. Plan so that you have five minutes of talk time to recap what you learned and what you need to do before the next lesson. In all of my clinics, after each day, we have a chat session. I always ask people “What did you learn that you will take home?” This is to help them recall things from the clinic or the lesson that they found particularly important for their improvement.
Taking a lesson or going to a clinic is all about learning so that you and your horse can improve as a team. Make sure that you are prepared to learn by following these five suggestions. Feel free to comment on this post with additional suggestions as to how people can improve their learning at clinics and lessons.
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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (www.coachscorral.com), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).