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The Role of the Student and the Trainer

(From LinkedIn via GRS -- gotta love social networks! :)

So I found a thread on LinkedIn that interested me enough to post a response and I thought I'd repost here. As always, comments very welcome.

The questions raised were:

If you are Client of an Equestrian establishment, do you tell your instructor what you want to achieve, develop a plan to deliver those goals and then work with constant two way communication?

If you provide an equine/rider training establishment, do you teach only what you know or are you flexible to you clients wishes? How do you cope with someone wanting to ride in a "Classical" manner when this may be outside of your current knowledge?

And my response:

I think the discussion has shifted somewhat from the original question, with Denise's point starting to bring it back on track. The first question regards the role of a client. A novice client, as Julie mentioned, often has no idea what they really want, so the question is not entirely applicable. However, an intermediate or advanced client absolutely should work with the coach to develop a plan for their goals; and as Denise mentioned it's part of the coach's responsibility to say if those goals are unrealistic. My coach is certainly aware of my goals, both short, middle and long term. Ie, my short term goal is for my current horse to jump quietly and confidently around a PT/Novice level horse trial. She will never be an upper level prospect, but my middle goal is for her to be a strong T/P level packer one day that can help bring students along. And my long term goal is for the horse I hope one day to own who may help me get to the upper levels. We are both aware that my skills and my current horse are appropriate for the current short and middle goals, and neither of us are ready for the later one. My coach's job is to help me get there. My job is to let him help me by diligently working on the skills he feels need work and by seriously considering his advice -- even when it's something I don't want to hear. That doesn't mean follow in blind faith; there are always second opinions for anything serious. But when it comes down to it, he's a pro whom I've hired for his knowledge and experience and if I'm not going to take it, I'm wasting my money and his time.

From the coaching/training aspect I have an issue with this question: "do you teach only what you know or are you flexible to your client's wishes?" as these are two different issues. I firmly believe you should teach only what you know. I'm an event coach. I teach strong basics for anybody and then intermediate skills for each of the three phases of eventing. That being said, when I have a student who decides they would rather be a hunter rider, I find them a good hunter coach. It is not my area and I won't be able to give them everything they need to succeed (up to and including support at the shows, since they conflict with the HTs). Likewise a student who wants to go into straight jumper or dressage -- I can take them a little farther, but eventually they'll need a coach that specializes in those disciplines. Usually in that case I refer them to my coaches since I tend to ride with a different coach for each phase. This to me is different from being "flexible to your client's wishes". If a student wants to try a new sport within the same basic skill set (which for eventing is pretty broad) I will absolutely do everything I can to help them do that at the low levels. This can and has included things like hunter, fox hunting, trail riding, endurance riding, jumper, dressage, vaulting, pony club and gaming. If they try it and decide that's what they want to do seriously, then we're back to finding them a coach qualified to take them as far as they want to go. But if they just want to play around and have some fun, absolutely I'll teach them what they need to know and support them at their outtings. And as often as not I'll get other students to give it a try too, since cross-training is beneficial to everybody and learning new things is usually more fun in a group.

So overall - the responsibility of the student (at any level) is to educate themselves (read, watch the pros, visit local horse shows, and most importantly THINK and ask questions!) and through that start planning goals (and "to ride safely and have fun" is a completely valid goal! Not everybody wants to go to the Olympics). The responsibility of the trainer is to provide the best means of helping the student achieve these goals -- even if at some point that means referring them to another trainer.


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