Choosing the Right Trainer – My Top Tips
What Are Your Expectations?
What are you trying to achieve – is it about your horse’s way of going, improving bend, suppleness, etc.? Or are you trying to improve at Prelim to move up to Novice . . . stuck at Medium and dreaming about that pretty tail coat?
Where Do You Start?
Word of Mouth is very important . . . but make sure your recommendations come from people who are already on their way to achieving the same aspirations as you. Don’t be afraid to approach good riders and ask them who they train with, wherever they are (competition venues, friends’ yards, forums, FB clips, YouTube, blogs, etc.) – they will take it as a compliment.
Do Some Groundwork
Ring them, have a conversation – find out about their journey – are there things in their history you can relate to and build on or that interest you. Be open and honest with them about what it is you are trying to achieve. This is about all three of you. Is there a relationship worth building?. If there’s an instant connection – go with it, book a lesson. If you’re still unsure, ask if you can come and watch them ride at home – in short, find ways to observe them in their training environment so you can decide if you are going to make a good team.
I would recommend giving a trainer at least three sessions to decide if they are for you or not. How many dates would you give a man? The first session will purely be a chance for the three of you to assess each other. The second session will be the first proper opportunity all three of you have to begin to work as a team and develop a training plan. By lesson three you should be on a path to incremental improvement – Rome wasn’t built in a day. If, however, after three lessons there’s no chemistry and little improvement, it might be time to have a grown-up discussion about moving on. Your trainer will thank you for being honest.
There are some incredible riders and trainers out there - you will find the right match for you and your horse – remember, it’s a three way relationship that must work for all.
Maximizing Your lessons – Top Tips
Shut Up And Listen!
Harsh maybe but true – if you’re babbling away about how your week has been, the weather, something you saw on FB (blah, blah, blah) half your lesson time will already be taken up and your trainer has less opportunity to give you important feedback to help you train and learn.
I know I said you should listen, but if it doesn’t make sense or you don’t understand the terminology or the way something has been phrased, ask. No trainer worth their salt will mind you asking for clarification – we all have blonde moments! It’s very easy to tune out when your focusing really hard. If you don’t know how to do something, or you don’t understand what your trainer is talking about, just say – it’s much easier for your trainer to
help you progress if they have a realistic understanding of your knowledge and ability. If you allow your trainer to clarify or explain, your riding will move forward far quicker than if you (for instance) blag the aids to shoulder in.
Tell your trainer what is working for all three of you and what isn’t, especially in the early days of your partnership. This will ensure your relationship builds on the right foundations.
Maximize the Investment
It is far better to have one lesson a week or every 2 weeks with someone who can build a relationship with you and your horse and help you progress than splurge all your training money on one clinic lesson with a famous professional. Monthly clinics only work if you are extremely disciplined about doing your homework, and you have access to additional support when things go wrong/you get stuck when practising at home.
Give every lesson 100% of your attention – from warm-up to the very end.
Make the best use of your warm up – whether your trainer is present or not, a properly warmed up horse will perform
much better – remember this is your horse’s lesson too, not just yours
Make sure you have no distractions – leave your phone on the yard
Try and secure exclusive use of the arena so it is just you, your horse and your trainer
This is precious time for all of you. Make the most of it!
Training Between Lessons – Top Three Tips
Do Your Homework
Most trainers will give you homework and things to be mindful of until your next lesson. To get the most out of the investment you all (you, your horse and your trainer) make during your lessons, take yourself back to your school days and prioritize your homework or else you will have to give yourself detention! In all seriousness, if you don’t practice, you won’t improve – sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people expect the “better riding fairy” to pay a visit between lessons without actually putting in the work.
Stick to the Plan
Don’t try and teach your horse something spectacular to try and impress your trainer or your yard buddies– missing a building block will only come back to bite you later. Your trainer will be far more impressed teaching and guiding you whilst building the foundations to develop a strong and talented combination.
Mix It Up
Although homework is important, it’s also important to keep your schooling varied. Have some down time, hack, do some ground work – don’t pile the pressure on yourself and drill away at the same things between lessons – this just makes for a stale combination and zaps all the fun out of training.
Most top international riders vary the work they do with their horses throughout the week to keep things interesting and fun, including hacking, lunging, schooling at other venues, in hand work, jumping, long reining, etc.
After all, if it’s not fun or rewarding – you’re not doing it right.