Friday, December 9, 2011

How to get the most out of your lessons.

I can only speak from my own experience, of course,  but this is how I get the most out of my lessons.  I can tell you I am not always never the best at something.  I rarely can ever get things right on the first try.  I have been known to get to the verge of break downs mid-lesson.  But one thing I think almost every trainer I have worked with has said to me in some way, how they appreciate that I give everything I've got in a lesson.  One has said, "I just love the look of determination that comes over your face when I tell you to do something" another has said, "WOW you really try to get the most for your money"   So I am not nor will I ever be the best at anything.  That to me is never a goal, though being competitive is one of my strongest personality traits.  I am not in competition to be the best but you better believe I am in competition to try the hardest.  I give every ounce of me and if every ounce of me is not enough then I do everything in my power to figure out how make myself better, stronger, more educated so that I will be enough.  I fail more often than I succeed but I know each failure is a step closer to getting it right.

1) Approach each lesson like it is the only one you will get.

When I make arrangements for a lesson/clinic I have no idea when the next time I will be able to get to a lesson.  It could be a month it could be 6 months, I just don't know.  So to me I better listen to every damn word.  And if a trainer tells me to do something I have to know exactly how, why and when do to it.  Because I know that I will have to recreate the same thing at home, alone.

2) Make sure you walk away from EVERY lesson feeling like you cannot ride your horse right.

This may be a very strange statement but I used to have the mindset going into a lesson that I wanted to walk away feeling good about me and my horse.  I mean I was paying the person the least they could do was give me a sense of approval.  I now know I only want a trainer who will yell at me and push me to my limit every single time.  But when you leave a lesson feeling good and having approval that you are a great rider and you are doing a fantastic job training your horse then what in the world will you go home and do in that 1-6 month period?  Bop around the ring with a grin on your face, and thinking to yourself how wonderful you are????  Now how productive is that?  Human nature is not to get better when things are smooth sailing but when we are at our breaking point to find a way to rise above it.  You know the saying, "when the going gets tough the tough get going".  I know no one tougher than horse women.  I have learned that when I leave a lesson feeling like I cannot nor will I ever probably get something right, my personality is such that if you tell me I cannot do something you better believe I will die trying to prove you wrong. So the crappier I feel the better. Ugh, this is really making me look forward to my next lesson knowing I am going to feel like utter crap when I am done.  Really though when you find the right trainer they are good at making you feel like crap but still give you a sense of hope.

3) Speak up!

If something doesn't feel right, or your horse is having a physical or mental block and you know it, or you are having a senior moment.  SPEAK UP!!  It is ok to feel like an idiot because you are sure you are asking the dumbest question on earth.  It is your responsibility to speak up on behalf of your horse if something just isn't right.  Even when you know it may be viewed as just a lame excuse.  The worst that can happen is that you end up feeling like a total idiot, bawling your eyes out because a world known trainer thinks you are a whining idiot and writes you off but you can know deep down that you did right by your horse and you both with be the better for it.  For me I know it won't be the first or last time I feel and look like a complete idiot so what the heck.  Now don't make excuses, work through pain and don't give up but don't be afraid to speak up.  Ask every question that pops in your mind and don't be afraid to say as my 6 six year old says to us often, "yeah, I just don't get it".  A good trainer will find another way to get it through your thick skull.

4) Be a cheapskate.

Most of us die hard horse lovers are horse rich and money poor so I know most of you know what it is like to get the most out of every penny.  Being a complete cheapskate makes me get the most for my money.  If I pay someone to tell me I suck, I am weak and I cannot do something right.  You better believe the next time I come I will have done everything in my power so that they don't tell me I suck at the same thing.  I can suck at something completely different, yes.  Because then it is worth the money but if I have to pay twice to be told the same thing then I don't feel I am trying hard enough on my own.  One way to get the most out of your money is to politely beg ask a poor unsuspecting bystander to video tape your entire lesson.  Then watch it over and over again.  I promise you will hear things on that tape that you never heard in the lesson and it will make your lesson all that much more worth it.


This is numbero uno, muy importante!  Though my last point but the most important one.  I am the ignorant of the ignorant, I am NOT the sharpest tool in the shed, the brightest crayon in the box, the...ok, ok I get the point you don't have to be so harsh. I am sure you poor people who suffer through my grammatical and spelling errors can attest to that fact.  You don't have to be the smartest but you can use every last braincell you have left that was not killed off in your rebellious youth or last weekends post show drinking fest get together.  Have you ever been driving and arrive at your destination and think, "I have no idea how I got here"?  It is usually a place you have driven to a hundred times and at some point in the trip you kind of go into lala land and don't come out until you realize you have arrived.  When you are in a lesson DON'T do that, EVER.  If there is activity at the barn, block it out.  If you are mad at your boss, block it out.  If your butt itches, block it out, or wash it before you go.  But don't let anything get into your head.  Stay in the moment.  Ask questions.  If you can't do something, try again, if you still can't do it ask how you can figure out how to do it.  If you frustrate the trainer, good, but don't let it be because you are distracted.  Think about the, how.  But more importantly think about the, why.  Analyze everything, and take no information for granted because you do not have a trainer, or even a more experienced rider at home to refer to.  It is pretty much do or die so you better pay attention.  You don't need to walk away from a lesson feeling like you have the answer.  But you better listen to every word of the trainer so that you can figure out the answer eventually.

5) The lesson doesn't stop when your hour is up.

That is just the beginning.  Now take that feeling of "I suck at this and I will never be a good rider and I am sure that I am completely ruining this magnificent animal" and figure out how to make it turn into "I never thought I could do this on my own and looky here, WE DID IT!!!".  That, my friends, is how confidence is built.  It may have taken us 3 months on the same exact thing to figure it out but I did it!!!  Read, practice, read, practice, practice, practice.  If you need to be stronger then get stronger, if you need get balanced, find balance. Whatever it is, just do it and don't give up.  We all have pity parties.  We all get into a funk.  We all feel like quiting, putting a sign on the side of the road saying "free horse" (or maybe that is just me).  But I am pretty sure more often Steady wishes he could put a sign on the road saying "free owner".  So you work and you work until you can find that harmony.  If you get frustrated, walk away, take a break, change the scenery or do something else until you can come back to it with a clear head but don't just "let it go".  You can take 3 months with the same goal in mind but that does not mean drill that one thing for 3 months straight.  Sometimes it means, try it, fail, don't ride for 2 weeks, try it again, have a little progress and keep at it, go trail riding for a couple weeks, come back to it and feel like you have lost ground, work at it again, get frustrated, take a week off of riding read anything you can on the subject, ask yourself why your horse is struggling, get into his head, go back out and try it again, have a break through(remember we are like 2 months into it already), a light bulb moment for the horse and yourself, then practice, practice, do something different, practice and then just maybe then you will feel like you have made a clear and confident step forward.

You don't have to be the best, smartest, prettiest, have the nicest stuff because the coolest thing about horses is that if you just give them your all, they return the favor and that kind of a relationship is the stuff we horse gals live for!

I know a couple of my blogger friends are in those low moments and struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Wondering when they will feel that moment of a clear step of forward progress or if they will ever find the confidence they lack.  But it will come, and for every ounce of sweat, sore muscles, tears, break downs and stress it will only make the success that much sweeter!!


  1. I was just thinking "I need to schedule a lesson for after holidays because... " My list is long but I can tell you it's all right side stuff.

    I am of the same boat - I can only afford 2 or 3 lessons a year and clinics are completely off my radar unless it's free to audit and those are rare here.

    I love my instructor\trainer. She respects my goal to train Rosie myself, does the "spot" checks when I ask. She is always positive and quick to point out what is better since last time, tweeks the 'better' things just a bit so they are great. Let's you ride that great until it's muscle memory.

    She's put up with me stoping mid-ride and saying "What the hell do you want me do?" I've even jumped off and said "Show me!"

    The other wonderful thing she does for us more "advanced" folks is we get to critique her! I find it wonderfully different to tell someone "roll your shoulders down and back and open your chest" and watch as the horse comes down into contact and reaches with each stride. She recently was in a very bad horse accident that resulted in busted clavical, busted ribs, punctured lung and concussion (she was leading horse from ground - horse bolted and double barrel kicked her). She's called me to help "spot" her, tell her when she's collapsing her right shoulder in, etc. While its not a riding lesson for me, it's still a lesson!

  2. This is fabulous, especially #2 and #4. Thanks for a great post!


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